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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Thursday - March 31, 2011

From: Crestwood, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Wildflowers
Title: Stabilizing a steep slope in KY
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We are building a new home and have a very steep hill behind the home. Our highlift operator just cleared it off - I would say about 15 to 20 feet in height and at least 150 feet in length. What would you suggest that we put on the hill to stop erosion. I am not even sure that rip-rap would hold as the slope is so steep. Also, our whole yard - about 3-4 acres of very poor soil. Any suggestions as to how we can improve it just to get grass to grow - not to mention any plants.

ANSWER:

I am afraid that your situation is well beyond the scope of the advice Mr. Smarty Plants can offer.

It is very unfortunate that builders feel the need to strip all the vegetation from a perfectly good piece of land  before they start construction.  During the construction process they drive their construction vehicles all over it so that whatever soil doesn't disappear through wind or water erosion is compacted so severely that no earthworm, drop of rain nor the roots of a blade of grass can penetrate it.

You will learn a lot about bringing your land back to life if you visit the website Landscape for Life - based on the principles of the Sustainable Sites Initiative.  The Landscape for Life program is designed for home gardens and will give you plenty of inspiration as you embark on this daunting process.

You will need to consult with a landscaper about how to stabilize the slope behind your home.  In general grasses (native ornamental grasses, not turf grasses that need to be mowed) are best for stabilizing a slope because they have very fibrous root systems.  Many wildflowers native to the prairie do as well.  Shrubs that spread by runners are also good candidates for the job.

You can begin your search for plants by visiting our Native Plant Database. If you do a Combination Search selecting Kentucky and grasses as the plant type and then the soil and light conditions of your site it will generate a list of grasses native to Kentucky.  You can repeat the search for wildflowers (herbaceous plants) and shrubs.  Each plant name on the list is linked to a detailed information page.

You are not the first person who has been faced with this challenge.  You can read the answers to questions other people have submitted from other parts of the country by searching Mr. Smarty Plants previous answers.  You can search by region, topic or keyword (erosion, stabilize a slope, etc). 

 

 

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