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Thursday - September 27, 2012

From: Clinton, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grasses for Erosion control in Iowa
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

We have a sloping yard in the midwest that gets 2-4 hours of sun during the warm weather. When we have large rainfalls, the water just pours down the slope causing a lot of erosion to the surrounding area. We are looking for a ground cover (perhaps a grass) that only grows to 3-5 inches tall that would not be damaged if mowed a few times a year on a high setting. The plants would need to grow deep roots to help slow down our erosion problem. Thank you for any help you can provide.

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants agrees with your request for plants that form deep roots to address an erosion problem.  Our standard advice is that the best plants to stabilize a slope and prevent erosion are plants like grasses that have fibrous root systems and shrubs and perennials that spread with runners to form thickets.  Here is advice towards a similar issue in a very wet situation with erosion in Illinois.

Our general approach to find and recommend plants for your individual situation is to start with the list of recommended species for Iowa.  Then you can narrow this list of plants for specific characteristics that you desire.  For instance, when I  searched for grasses that tolerate shade or partial shade, there were ten species that fit these characteristics.  Four of these were relatively short and I expect either turf forming grasses or bunch grasses can achieve reasonable erosion control.  Consider these recommendations:

Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted hairgrass)
Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)
Pascopyrum smithii (Western wheatgrass)

Thinking you may like a little color – Mr Smarty plants also searched for groundcover herbs that are both short and tolerate shady conditions.  If this is of interest, check it out yourself, or consider these:

Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup)
Viola sororia (Missouri violet)

 

From the Image Gallery


Tufted hairgrass
Deschampsia cespitosa

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Winecup
Callirhoe involucrata

Western wheatgrass
Pascopyrum smithii

Missouri violet
Viola sororia

More Erosion Control Questions

Plants to prevent riverbank erosion in NY
October 03, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm doing research into riverbank erosion in Broome County, NY, and I was wondering if you had some sort of resource that would be able to tell me which species of grasses...
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Controlling erosion in Leburn KY
July 21, 2009 - 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. ...
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Searching for nursery with yellow nutsedge in NC
January 27, 2014 - I'd like to plant yellow nut sedge as a cover to stop erosion in a lot. Where can I buy yellow nut sedge plants near Kinston, North Carolina? Thank you.
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Stabilizing a shale slope in Virginia
April 08, 2009 - I have family members who recently built a new home in Virginia. The site required extensive excavation resulting in a large 30 foot, nearly vertical, shale wall behind the house. They now want to r...
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Clay hill with erosion problems in Reedsport OR
July 10, 2009 - We have a very steep 35-40' clay hill subject to erosion in the Oregon rainy season. How or what do we do to get some kind of vegetation/grass, etc to grow without washing away? We have had mudslides...
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