Five Effective Ground Cover Solutions to Control Erosion

Mar 26, 2024 | The Tree Wisdom Blog

Erosion is a natural process, but when left unchecked, it can cause significant damage to soil, landscapes, and infrastructure.  In particular, tree roots can be very negatively impacted by erosion, which can expose tree roots and weaken the tree against wind and difficult weather.

Fortunately, there are several methods available to mitigate erosion, one of the most effective being the use of ground cover. Ground cover refers to vegetation or other materials that protect the soil surface from the erosive forces of wind and water. Here are five ways to harness the power of ground cover to control erosion effectively:

  1. Grasses and Legumes: Planting grasses and legumes is one of the simplest and most cost-effective methods of erosion control. These plants have extensive root systems that bind soil particles together, preventing them from being washed or blown away. Grasses such as fescue, ryegrass, and buffalo grass, along with legumes like clover and alfalfa, are particularly effective at stabilizing slopes and preventing soil erosion. Additionally, these plants add organic matter to the soil, improving its structure and fertility over time.
  2. Ground Cover Plants: Ground cover plants, also known as creeping or spreading plants, grow low to the ground and spread quickly, forming a dense mat that protects the soil surface. Examples of ground cover plants include creeping juniper, creeping thyme, and English ivy. These plants not only reduce erosion but also enhance the aesthetic appeal of landscapes and provide habitat for beneficial insects and wildlife.
  3. Mulch: Applying mulch to bare soil is an excellent way to control erosion, especially on steep slopes or in areas prone to runoff. Organic mulches such as wood chips, straw, and shredded leaves help retain moisture, reduce surface runoff, and prevent soil erosion by shielding the soil from raindrops and wind. In addition to erosion control, mulch also suppresses weed growth and improves soil fertility as it decomposes.
  4. Cover Crops: Cover crops are grown primarily to protect and improve the soil rather than for harvest. They are typically planted during fallow periods or between cash crops to provide ground cover and prevent erosion. Cover crops like winter rye, buckwheat, and hairy vetch help hold soil in place with their dense foliage and extensive root systems. Moreover, cover crops add organic matter to the soil, increase soil biodiversity, and suppress weeds, reducing the need for herbicides.
  5. Geo-textiles and Erosion Control Mats: In areas where vegetation alone may not provide sufficient erosion control, geo-textiles and erosion control mats can be used to reinforce the soil surface. These materials are placed over the soil and anchored in place to prevent erosion caused by water runoff and wind. Erosion control mats are often made from biodegradable materials such as coir or jute, which eventually decompose, leaving behind a stabilized soil surface.

Whether through the planting of grasses and legumes, the use of ground cover plants, mulching, cover cropping, or the application of erosion control mats, there are numerous options available to suit different landscapes and erosion challenges. By harnessing the power of nature through ground cover, we can protect soils, trees, and landscapes.

If you’re experiencing erosion on your property and need help with mitigation, get in touch with us!