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Thursday - September 10, 2015

From: Arlington, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Recommendations for a steep slope in Arlington, VA
Answered by: Joe Marcus


I have a side yard area about 35' long and 10' wide. It is very steep and get full sun. I recently I removed all the weeds down to dirt. I want to do low maintenance plants with mulch.


The area you describe is difficult.  A steep slope with no vegetation to hold it in heavy rains will surely soon be badly eroded.  Mulch will do nothing to stop the erosion.  In fact, most mulch -- even gravel -- will simply wash down the hill with your soil.  

So your first action should be to stabilize the soil there.  Short of paving the area, there are three workable approaches to acheive that end: terracing, planting soil-stabilizing vegetation or a combination of both.

Terracing involves installing a series of berms or walls down the slope in a stairstep fashion.  Soil is backfilled between each of the barriers.  You may then plant whatever you like on those flat areas  If soil berms are used, you will need to sow grass on them to hold their soil in place.

If you chose not to terrace, the most effective soil stabilizing vegetation you can plant is grass.  The fine roots of grasses hold soil on slopes much more effectively than any other type of plants.  Once grass is established, you can then plant shrubs or trees in that area as you see fit.

Finally, whatever you decide to do, we recommend employing a landscape professional who can give you specific advice about how to stabilize your slope and about what species to plant there.


More Erosion Control Questions

Erosion control near creek in Kansas City, MO
July 26, 2008 - I'm looking for something to plant to help stop erosion on my property. The spot I have in mind is on a slight natural grade heading toward the creek at the back of my property. Any ideas on what t...
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Native plants for eroding hillside in Kansas
May 08, 2009 - We have a creek running thru our property and the hill running down to it is about 30 feet tall, in some places almost straight down, some sloping. Some is in shade, some full sun. We would like som...
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Solution for erosion on steep slope in California
April 14, 2011 - Dear Mr.Smarty Plants, I have a serious hillside problem in Santa Cruz County resulting from the recent deluge of rain. Steep to sheer now with no plants left on it after the hill slide washed to th...
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Plants for steep lakeside bank in Minnesota
January 17, 2012 - I am new to MN and would like to plant some pretty plants on my steep lakeside bank. What type plants and flowers should I plant to prevent erosion, but not block the lake view?
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Groundcover for foot traffic in dry shade from Prineville OR
May 12, 2013 - I live in central Oregon. I have an area under a large elm tree that slopes on all sides and has lots of foot traffic and no sun. (my kids have a swing in the tree and play around it a lot.) It's a v...
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