En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Saturday - August 13, 2011

From: Sandy Hook, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Stabilizing a sand bank in VT
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We have a summer cottage in Burlington, Vt. and need to stabilize a mound of sand. The "bank" we are trying to stabilize has partial sun and faces south. It measures approx 4' high and is 30' long. What type of plants/materials (mulch etc.) would you recommend? Ideally we would like nothing over 4' high, and it is OK to plants these items this fall?? Many thanks,

ANSWER:

If you take your cues from Mother Nature you will see many miles of sand dunes along the beaches of the Northeast that are kept in place as a critical part of a dynamic, changing ecosystem with grasses.  Their fibrous root systems are adapted to keeping them in place and extracting the necessary water and nutrients that are present in the sand.

You can create a list of grasses native to Vermont by visiting our Native Plant Database and doing a Combination Search.  Select: Vermont, grasses and sunny conditions.  The list generated has links to detailed information pages with images.  You will find vey few that are as short as you are thinking you would like them to be but again, look at how nature does it.  There is very little that evokes the sense of the beach and summer better that tall grasses moving in the breeze with their flower heads highlighted by the sun.

Planting the plants in the fall is ideal ... the soil is warm and moist enough to promote root growth and the air is not so hot and dry as in high summer. So they will have a chance to get established before winter.  Because I am not certain of your exact conditions I am not sure what to recommend regarding mulch.  If you have a clean, bare sand dune where weeds are not a huge issue, I would say there is no need to mulch.  If it is really just a mound of sandy soil that is full of "weeds", pull them out, plant the grasses and mulch with a nice dark shredded bark mulch (nothing evokes the sense of a strip mall quite like orange mulch!).

Here are some grasses that would not only do the job for you but would be quite attractive when planted in drifts:

Ammophila breviligulata (American beach grass) (this plant can be very aggressive)

Calamagrostis canadensis (Bluejoint)

Hierochloe odorata (Sweetgrass)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

 

From the Image Gallery


American beach grass
Ammophila breviligulata

Bluejoint
Calamagrostis canadensis

Sweetgrass
Hierochloe odorata

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

More Erosion Control Questions

Plants for steep embankment on the Missouri River in Nebraska
July 01, 2009 - Hi, My embankment along the Northeast Nebraska shoreline of the Missouri River is eroding the land away. Do you have any suggestions for seed I could throw over the side of the bank that would grow...
view the full question and answer

Plants for erosion control along creek that often floods
May 26, 2010 - What would be good ground cover to plant along the bank of a storm creek and the river it runs into? Previous owner killed all the poison oak and garlic mustard all over the yard, but whatever he trie...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for erosion control in the state of Washington
December 16, 2010 - Which native grasses do you suggest for maximum erosion control in my area?
view the full question and answer

Need plants for steep slope in Knoxville, TN.
January 10, 2013 - I have several steep banks that have to be weed-eated each year every week. Do you know if there are any kinds of ground cover that would take over the weeds on these steep dangerous banks. I live in ...
view the full question and answer

Virginia creeper in trees
April 26, 2008 - Can Virginia creeper be allowed to climb on trees--specifically Texas ash and live oak--or will it damage them if allowed to attach itself? We are thinking of using it as erosion control in a greenbe...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center