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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.


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