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

Wildflowers for floodplain near Denton, TX
March 22, 2015 - Hello, I am a member of my HOA board and am researching the possibility of filling in our floodplains with wildflowers. Currently the floodplains are grass only and span a few acres. Our goal is to t...
view the full question and answer

Plants for slopes in South Texas
October 05, 2009 - Can you provide a list of plants for use on slopes in S. Texas?
view the full question and answer

Erosion Control with perennials for a shady Dallas bank
July 25, 2013 - Thank you for your help with turf or perennials on a shaded bank, 4000 sq ft, for the Dallas area that has good roots, grows in semi shade to shade, is on a steep bank so cannot mow, and flowers the l...
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep slope in Virginia
October 24, 2008 - Please help! Looking for landscaping ideas for a very large Steep hill. Features: slope is approximately 45-60 degrees, clay soil mixed with fill dirt, lots of deer, partial sun, seeking minimal maint...
view the full question and answer

Erosion tolerant plants for shade from Kerrville TX
August 06, 2013 - We have just cleared a lot of cedar out of a small draw and would like to know the best groundcovers, shrubs, etc. to plant to hold the soil. Deep shade most of the day.
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center