Erosion is a problem that many homeowners experience. Perhaps your home sits atop a hill and due to rain and wear, the dirt is beginning to slope away from the house or maybe you have a beautiful backyard but it begins to slope, causing a real problem when it comes time to mow. Slopes have advantages in that they can create a barrier between homes, providing a greater level of privacy but if the slope is causing problems, it will need to be corrected.
The slope erosion process is very subtle, occurring over time. The signs of erosion would include exposed roots or gutted out areas in the ground. While slope erosion is not attractive, the main problem is that it can be potentially dangerous. What happens is that the topsoil, which is where the microorganisms and nutrients are found are washed away. Instead, you want the top soil to remain in tact. Okay, so what are the solutions?
Obviously, you need to stabilize the soil. Remember, since the top soil has washed away, that means all the needed microorganisms and nutrients are gone so all you have left is hard, compacted dirt. To get started, you might use a barrier or baffle to divert or slow down the flow of the water. This might be as simple as partially burying stones or railroad timber parallel to the slope to help with the water.
Another option is to use what is called a riprap. This loose stone is rough and averages between six and eight inches wide. Typically, these stones are made from granite and are imbedded into the slope. They work to slow down and divert the water flow so the erosion is reduced or eliminated. If you want to make the riprap solution look nice, you can plant a nice ground cover on the slope, which will also help with the erosion problem.
Creating a terrace is another great option although you will need to invest some money in this process. The way a terrace works is that it allows the water to soak into the leveled off area rather than flow downward. You want to create the slope with a 2% grade and if you like, you can place plants or ground covering on the various levels. Just be sure the area behind each wall is filled with some type of crushed rock, which will help with drainage.
Plants can also help with slope erosion in that the roots actually serve as an anchor within the soil. Since planting seed and mulch will only be washed away, you will need to choose other options. For example, you can always plant wildflowers, which grow no matter what. Another option would be planting ornamental grass, which looks great and because it has a clump-type form, it is an excellent choice. Even perennials that are native to your region would be a good choice.
If you have a serious problem that needs a quick but temporary remedy, you could put down a sheet of plastic, a silt fence, mulch, bales of straw, or mesh. Each of these will change the water from running down on the actual dirt, thus giving you a solution, although only temporary.
Finally, if the slope is minor, you might consider using turf grass. Something like rye grass grows very quickly and because it will help stabilize the soil, the runoff problem will be greatly reduced. Although you could purchase rolls of sod, a less expensive option is seed. The key is getting the seed to stay in place while it grows. This can be done by covering the seed with straw to help secure the seed while it grows.