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Mr. Smarty Plants - Erosion control for shady slope in Kentucky backyard

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Wednesday - August 28, 2013

From: Florence, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant
Title: Erosion control for shady slope in Kentucky backyard
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in northern Kentucky (near Cincinnati). I have an area in my backyard that has slope. It is next to an ash tree and is very shady. Water erosion has washed away the top soil and pretty much nothing will grow there. I have tried planting periwinkle and ferns but they haven't done well, I think because the soil is too nutrient deficient. I have tried composting with dead leaves and grass clippings but when it rains, the water washes that away too. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

The best solution may be erosion control blankets to stabilize the erosion area. The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can also insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem.  You could add your dead leaves, grass clippings and, perhaps, some topsoil underneath the blanket.  These blankets are available at some larger nurseries and "big box" stores.  Search on the internet for locations near you.  Now, here are some recommendations for native shade-loving plants to try for the area.  These all can be found occurring in Boone County or in adjacent areas.

 

GRASS/GRASS-LIKE (Grasses and sedges have fibrous root systems that help hold soil in place.)

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex plantaginea (Plantainleaf sedge)

Danthonia spicata (Poverty oatgrass) will grow in the shade and poor soil.  Here are photos and more information from Illinois Wildflowers.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

 

PERENNIAL SHRUBS

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea) has massive, deep roots to help prevent erosion.

Heuchera americana (American alumroot) tolerates poor soil.

Gaylussacia baccata (Black huckleberry)

 

FERNS (There are other possibilities for ferns, but these two are good choices.)

Dryopteris marginalis (Marginal woodfern)

 Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Plantainleaf sedge
Carex plantaginea

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

American alumroot
Heuchera americana

Black huckleberry
Gaylussacia baccata

Marginal woodfern
Dryopteris marginalis

Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides

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