Anyone who has ever seen pictures of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl understands how destructive erosion can be to plant life. Erosion control in gardens, lawns, and other landscaped environments can prove difficult, but it's absolutely necessary if you want the bounty of your green thumb to survive. Here are three common ways erosion can threaten your flora -- along with strategies for fighting back.
1. Excess Water
When too much water from rainfall or irrigation collects in one spot, some degree of erosion is likely to result. A downspout dumping the contents of a roof gutter onto a patch of unprotected ground, with no runoff system in place, is a good example. The concentration of water carries particles of soil away until channels form. Those channels can eventually turn into gullies, which over time can break into the supply of groundwater and drain the water table. It's literally a case of "Water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink," as far as your plants are concerned.
You can limit this type of erosion by redirecting water so that it gets distributed more evenly. A grass-lined or stone-lined ditch called a swale, for instance, can accept large amounts of water that might otherwise flood your garden or carve gullies in your soil. You might also position rain buckets underneath your downspouts, collecting the rainfall for future watering.
Entire crops have been wiped out due to wind erosion. Given enough time, wind can remove soil (and the essential nutrients contained within it) from your landscape just as surely as water can. As the wind continues to blast away at dry soil, your plants will become malnourished, dehydrated, and vulnerable to disease. Channels may form in the soil and drain any remaining groundwater.
You can't stop the wind from blowing, but you can keep your soil from blowing away with it. Your biggest weapon against wind erosion is irrigation. Watering the garden, lawn, or field regularly will protect the soil by keeping it intact and making it simply too heavy to be scattered by wind. You can also protect the soil by growing permanent vegetation on it instead of strictly seasonal plant life. The more cover and root infiltration the soil has, the less vulnerable it will be to the effects of wind.
Hillsides and other steeply sloping areas present a special challenge for landscapers concerned about erosion. Gravity works against you by accelerating and amplifying the effects of runoff on your soil. It only makes sense, then, to fight back by altering the slope to some extent. Construct walled terraces so you can plant your greenery on relatively flat ground. Add a drainpipe along the slope if necessary. You can also reduce the effects of erosion of sloped terrain by selecting plants with particularly deep roots. The networks of roots formed by these plants help to lock the soil into position more firmly.
As you can see, you're far from powerless when it comes to erosion control in your landscape. Try these techniques for yourself, and watch that green thumb get even greener!