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Tuesday - August 11, 2009

From: Santaquin, UT
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Seeds and Seeding, Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Erosion control in Santaquin UT
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a hill in my backyard; it is about 40 ft tall and about 80 ft wide. It is probably a 1.5 to 1 slope ratio. I am going to be landscaping my back yard and have top soil put on the hill as well. So I need to know what kind of plants and/or grass seed I should put down over the top soil that will germinate quickly and root to hold back the top soil on the hill. I have read something on erosion blankets, so I was wondering about them as well. The native ground or dirt in my back yard is really rocky too, I don't know if that matters or not, but thought I would let you know, thinking it might give a better idea what I am dealing with.


We recommend grasses for controlling erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems that serve to hold the soil in place.  However, seeding grass is not the whole process.  The seeds need moisture to germinate.  If the moisture comes in the form of rain, it is likely to wash the seeds down the bank  before that have a chance to germinate and take root.  There are two possible solutions—an erosion control blanket or pneumatic compost/seed application.  The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can also insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem.  Many nurseries carry this erosion control fabric. 

The compost/seed application may be a bit more complicated and expensive than you had in mind since it does require a pneumatic blower, or some mechanical means, to spread the compost/seed mix. The US Composting Council offers information about suppliers of compost and compost technology, but I don't really know if this could be a do-it-yourself project.  You might check with a landscaping or environmental consulting company in your area who might have the machinery to do this to learn about the feasability and expense of applying the compost/seed mixture this way. You can find the names of Landscape Professionals and Environmental Consultants in your area that specialize in native plants by searching in our National Suppliers Directory.

We will go to our Native Plant Database and find grasses and perhaps some spreading shrubs native to Utah that should help with your erosion. These are not lawn-type mowable grasses, but more decorative prairie grasses that, being native to Utah, will be able to cope with soil and climatic conditions. Follow each plant link to the page on the individual plant for information on expected size and sun requirements.

Grasses for erosion native to Utah

Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass)

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Aristida purpurea (purple threeawn)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss)

Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama)

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (silver beardgrass)

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint)

Deschampsia cespitosa

Hordeum jubatum (foxtail barley)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Woody plants to control erosion in Utah

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow)

Arctostaphylos patula (greenleaf manzanita)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Mahonia repens (creeping barberry)

Achnatherum hymenoides

Andropogon gerardii

Aristida purpurea

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

Calamagrostis canadensis

Deschampsia cespitosa

Hordeum jubatum

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Chilopsis linearis

Arctostaphylos patula

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Mahonia repens






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