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Monday - January 09, 2012

From: Brookfield, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: slope stabilization in Massachusetts
Answered by: Anne Ruggles


My family and I recently put in a 120 x 100 horseback riding ring. It had to be built up in the back and, as a result, there is a 10 foot slope which could use stabilization. What plants native to Massachusetts could we use to prevent erosion? The soil is a bit sandy. Thanks!


What you plant will depend on how shaded or sunny the location is, how much moisture it gets, and when, etc. How you will plant will be informed by how steep the site is and how clean of vegetation it is. Grasses are the best erosion-control plants because their fibrous root systems hold the soil so well.  But there are also quite a few suitable forbs and shrubs as well. You will want to select those that spread via underground runners. Your plant choices will ultimately be limited by what you find in the nurseries but you can create a wish list by visiting our Native Plant database. By performing a Combination Search for Massachusetts and selecting dry and sun to part shade (or whatever your conditions are), you can generate lists of grasses, forbs, and shrubs that will do the job for you. The lists are linked back to detailed information pages with images.

1.  Here are several answers to similar questions about sites in Massachusetts answered on Mr. SmartyPlants. These all have links to photos and information about suggested plants.

a sloping partial shade site

a steep sunny site

a steep shady site


2.  The Master Gardeners of Mass. web site contains guidance for planting native plants on a slope. Planting A Slope: Tips and Plant Suggestions


3.  The Univ of Mass Agricultural extension service has this publication “Right Plant, Right Place” - A Plant Selection Guide for Managed Landscapes available. It will help you determine the type of site you have and what plants might be successful.


4.  New England Wetland Plants, Inc. supplies native seed mixes appropriate for a variety of site conditions ranging from wetland/hydric soils to drier more upland sites.

New England Erosion Control/Restoration Mix for Dry Sites

The New England Erosion Control/Restoration Mix For Dry Sites provides an appropriate selection of native and naturalized grasses to ensure that dry and recently disturbed sites will be quickly revegetated and the soil surface stabilized. It is an appropriate seed mix for road cuts, pipelines, steeper slopes, and areas requiring quick cover during the ecological restoration process. The mix may be applied by hydro-seeding, by mechanical spreader, or on small sites it can be spread by hand. Lightly rake, or roll to ensure proper soil-seed contact. Best results are obtained with a Spring or late Summer seeding. Late Spring through Mid-Summer seeding will benefit from a light mulching of weed-free straw to conserve moisture. If conditions are drier than usual, watering will be required. Fertilization is not required unless the soils are particularly infertile. Preparation of a clean weed free seed bed is necessary for optimal results.

New England Roadside Matrix Upland Seed Mix

Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Creeping Red Fescue (Festuca rubra), Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)

Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis), Bush Clover (Lespedeza capitata), Purple Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Green Headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), Grass Leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), Early Goldenrod (Solidago juncea)

Grey Dogwood (Cornus racemosa), Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)


5.  The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) describes a variety of grasses and forbs that might be appropriate for your site. The plants highlighted are not limited to use only on the coast.  



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