How to Stop Soil Erosion in your Yard

Kate Mitchell

December 7, 2023

When it rains in Florida, you really know it's raining. Our afternoon downpours tend to be short but very heavy, and they can have quite an impact on the landscape. The combination of heavy rain with loose, sandy soil can result in soil erosion, where the soil is washed away along with rainwater runoff.

Erosion can also occur where there is a lot of foot traffic in a particular part of your yard. Sloping areas are at particular risk of erosion, as are any bare patches of soil.

Nobody wants their soil or, worse, much cared-for plants to be washed away, so here are some steps you can take to prevent soil erosion in your own yard.

Protective Layer

A seedling growing through a layer of wood chip mulch

One of the simplest and most effective erosion control methods for gardeners is to cover soil in affected areas with a protective layer. If parts of your garden beds are being eroded, mulch can be a good solution.

Mulch is a layer of material - for example, bark chips, straw or hardwood chips - that is placed on top of soil to help keep it in place. Mulch can protect soil from some of the effects of a downpour. It's also useful for retaining moisture and ensuring that soil remains rich in nutrients. This in turn can help establish plants in the area, which will also help to control erosion.

Footpaths

A paved garden path surrounded by beautiful plants

Footpaths and other areas that see high foot traffic are subject to erosion not only from excess water during heavy rainfall but also from the effects of people's feet continually stepping in the same place. It can be a good idea to cover bare soil footpaths with a layer of gravel to help control this. Alternatively, you could consider hardscaping such as stepping stones or a paved path. Check out our suggestions on hardscaping here!

Native Plants

Bright green leaves and yellow flowers covering the ground

Another very effective and environmentally friendly way to keep erosion under control is to consider carefully which plants you place in areas of your yard affected by heavy water flow. Even a simple turf lawn will aid in erosion control. The grass roots will help to keep soil in place and have the additional benefit of soaking up excess rainwater runoff.

Another great option is to use native plants with fibrous root systems as ground cover. A plant like perennial peanut, with its rhizomatic roots that spread beneath the ground, may be even better than grass for erosion control. The root system of this plant will help to keep soil in place even during heavy, direct rainfall.

Don't hesitate to contact your local landscaping company for help starting a lawn from grass seed or replacing existing turf or bare soil with a suitable native plant.

Erosion Control Blankets

To help combat erosion along slopes, many landscapers recommend the use of erosion control blankets. These open-weave, biodegradable blankets can also be used in flat areas. They encourage water to run off without taking soil, seeds and small plants along with it!

Erosion control blankets are particularly useful in areas where you want to establish new plantings. They are open enough to allow seedlings to grow up through the gaps, while still giving enough protection to prevent excessive soil runoff.

Choose one that is made of biodegradable materials and you won't even need to remove it; it will slowly become part of the soil as your deep-rooted plants establish themselves. Once established, a well-designed combination of native plants will be able to combat erosion without the need for the blanket.

Rain Gardens

Lots of bright yellow flowers with a bee
Goldenrod

A rain garden is an area of low-lying land planted with native plants that have a high water tolerance. In Florida, you will need to pick plants that can survive dry spells but are still able to soak up excess water during our stormy season.

An example of a good flowering plant for your rain garden would be goldenrod. This tall plant, with bright yellow flowers, grows happily near the edges of lakes and other bodies of water. It grows above the waterline but can tolerate flooding.

UF Gardening Solutions has more information and suggestions if you want to create a rain garden to help deal with the effects of soil erosion in your outdoor area.

Control Runoff

A rain barrel beside purple flowers

Another option when it comes to erosion control measures is to find ways to control rainwater runoff before the flow of water gets to your soil to wash it away.

For example, you could install a rain barrel to collect rainwater runoff before it even hits the ground. As well as preventing soil loss, this has the additional benefit of collecting water and retaining it. You can use this rainwater to water your garden when the weather turns dry again.

Alternatively, a swale or a French drain could be used to redirect water flow. These drainage options carry runoff to a suitable outlet. If you have created a rain garden, you could use one of these options to direct excess rainwater to the right location.

If you would like help selecting suitable native plants or installing hardscaping to help with erosion control, LawnMore Gainesville would be happy to get involved! Contact us today for a quote.

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