Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - July 21, 2009

From: Leburn, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Seeds and Seeding, Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Controlling erosion in Leburn KY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I would really appreciate advice on controlling a serious erosion problem in eastern Kentucky. The slope is north facing, shady and moist with rich soil. Would prefer to use native Kentucky plants. It is too steep to walk upon and cannot be mowed. This very steep area is underneath a deck and adjacent to our house, therefore taller trees would not be suitable. Thanks very much!

ANSWER:

From an excellent previous answer on this subject from Mr. Smarty Plants:

We recommend grasses for controlling erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems that serve to hold the soil in place.  However, just throwing grass seeds over the side of your bank is not going to work very well.  The seeds need moisture to germinate.  If the moisture comes in the form of rain, it is likely to wash the seeds down the bank into the river before that have a chance to germinate and take root.  There are two possible solutions—an erosion control blanket or pneumatic compost/seed application.  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.  Many nurseries carry this erosion control fabric. 

The compost/seed application may be a bit more complicated and expensive than you had in mind since it does require a pneumatic blower, or some mechanical means, to spread the compost/seed mix. The US Composting Council offers information about suppliers of compost and compost technology, but I don't really know if this could be a do-it-yourself project.  You might check with a landscaping or environmental consulting company in your area who might have the machinery to do this to learn about the feasability and expense of applying the compost/seed mixture this way. You can find the names of Landscape Professionals and Environmental Consultants in your area that specialize in native plants by searching in our National Suppliers Directory.

Here are some grasses that should work on your bank.  However, since we don't know the specifics of how much sun/shade or the exact soil type you have there, you will need to compare those aspects of your site with the GROWING CONDITIONS given for each grass. We also selected some low-growing shrubs that might give you some coverage. 

Grasses native to Kentucky for erosion control

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) - 4 to 8 ft. tall, medium water use, sun or part shade

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - 2 to 3 ft. tall, perennial, warm season grass, medium water use, sun or part shade

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge) - 1 to 3 ft. tall, perennial, sun, part shade or shade

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) - to 1 ft. tall, perennial, medium water use, sun or part shade

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) -2 to 4 ft. tall, perennial, deciduous, med. water use, part shade or shade

Deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hairgrass) - 2 to 3 ft. tall, cool-season perennial, semi-evergreen, low water use, part shade

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill) - 1 to 2 ft. tall, perennial, moist soil, part shade or shade

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - 3 to 6 ft. tall, perennial, low water use, sun or part shade

Shrubs native to Kentucky for erosion control

Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern) - 2 to 4 ft. tall, perennial, low water use, part shade

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort) - to 3 ft. tall, perennial, deciduous, blooms yellow June to August, part shade or shade

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry) - 4 ft. tall, deciduous, blooms white, green April to July, medium water use, part shade or shade

Pictures of Kentucky native plants for erosion from our Native Plants Image Gallery:


Andropogon gerardii

Bouteloua curtipendula

Carex blanda

Carex texensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Deschampsia cespitosa

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Schizachyrium scoparium

Comptonia peregrina

Hypericum prolificum

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

 

 

 

 

 

More Seeds and Seeding Questions

Comment on poisonous sweet pea plant from Kalama WA
October 29, 2011 - No question, comment only. I am aware of the story of Christopher McCandless (Call of the Wild)and the belief that he was poisoned by ingesting part of the sweet pea plant; however I am curious what ...
view the full question and answer

Starting Melochia Pyramidata from Seed
November 06, 2014 - Last year some Melochia pyramidata popped up in my yard all on its own. I was able to gather some (really neat looking) seed pods once they had dried out. I'm moving pretty soon and I'd like to grow...
view the full question and answer

Few bluebonnets on MoPac in Austin
March 30, 2013 - The grass fields along Mopac from Lake Lady Bird to Southwest Parkway usually have a grand display of bluebonnets. This year I do not see any color at all. Can you help me understand what is happening...
view the full question and answer

Beans growing under artificial light from Vernon CT
May 04, 2012 - What bean plant will grow the best under a flourescent,spot gro light,green transparent light,or Natural light and why.What caused it to grow like it did?
view the full question and answer

Care for non-native Centipede grass
February 27, 2013 - My lawn is Centipede. I have created a new lawn area. Can and when should I seed/overseed my lawn? I have Rye in the new area.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.