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Mr. Smarty Plants - Erosion control in Ft. Wright KY

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Wednesday - June 02, 2010

From: Fort Wright, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Erosion control in Ft. Wright KY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My house sits on a hillside. On the back and behind a somewhat large concrete deck there is a retention wall that protects the deck, but after that there is this large area (at least 24X20 ft), that has a slope, which goes maybe up to 35 to 40 degrees. Right now, this area is covered with grass. However, the grass grows too much sometimes and it's hard to maintain. Therefore, I'd like to remove it and plant some ground covering, erosion preventing plant that won't require a lot of maintenance. I'd like something native to the area, so that it also survives frost, and uses all the water we get during the spring/summer. The area gets at least 8 hours of sunlight during the day. Something that doesn't grow over a foot tall would be great. Please advise. Thanks

ANSWER:

The thing is, the best erosion control is grasses, and there are a number of grasses native to northern Kentucky that would work well for your slope. Unfortunately, ease of maintenance is not guaranteed in any landscape situation, but you could certainly have attractive grasses there that did not require mowing. We would not recommend anything BUT native plants, as that is what we are all about at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We are a little concerned about your intention to remove and replace plantings on this slope. To begin with, even in Kentucky, we are entering the warm weather period when it is difficult to plant or transplant without killing or damaging a lot of the plants, not to mention the gardener. In the second place, that is a very big project; unless you were planning to hire a landscaping contractor to do the work, we are not sure it is a do-it-yourself possibility.

Our recommendation is to spend the hot months planning, and then get started with the actual clearing and planting in the early Fall.  Look at our How-To Article on Meadow Gardening, which involves mixing grasses and native wildflowers for a natural-looking area, with blooms part of the year, and grasses that hold their place and can be attractive year-round. We are going to give you a list of plants native in or around the Kenton Co. area in USDA Hardiness Zone 6a. The amount of sun you have is what we consider full sun (6 or more hours of sun daily), so we will select on that, too. You will also need to consider how dependable the water source for the garden is. If you have fairly predictable rains, that should suffice, but if not, you will need to arrange for irrigation, especially for the first few months the garden is established. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant in our Native Plant Database to find out when it blooms (if it blooms), how large it usually is and how to propagate the plant. Many of these plants have benefits for wildlife, attracting birds and butterflies, or providing nest materials or shelter, as well as food for the birds. There really is no selection of plants that would be suitable that get only about 1 ft. tall. To keep things at that height you would have to be constantly mowing and pruning, and that doesn't sound much like low mainenance.

Herbaceous Blooming Plants for a Slope in Kentucky:

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)

Aruncus dioicus (bride's feathers)

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower)

Grasses for a Slope in Kentucky:

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly)

Phalaris arundinacea (reed canarygrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Achillea millefolium

Aruncus dioicus

Asclepias incarnata

Conoclinium coelestinum

Echinacea purpurea

Lobelia cardinalis

Carex blanda

Elymus canadensis

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Phalaris arundinacea

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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