Erosion has been shaping the planet earth since it was first created. Weather sculpts land with wind and rain. But rain can be a particular problem when it erodes in our landscaped. Slopes are particularly vulnerable to damage as water finds its way downhill, taking away rich topsoil and forming gullies. Not only can erosion look ugly, it can undermine the safety of structures and topple trees. How you design and install your landscape can not only make your property attractive, but can stop erosion and the damage it causes.
The first and best way to deal with erosion is to keep it from beginning. Often we cause ourselves problems when we strip land bare to build. If you protect exposed soil from rain or irrigation wash-out, you will not have to fix erosion problems.
Start by wandering your property and taking note of barren or sloping areas. Vulnerable surfaces can be stabilized in a number of ways. Planting them is one of the most obvious and natural ways to hold soil in place. Roots will weave themselves into the dirt as plants become established creating a barrier to erosion and slippage. Plantings can be low ground cover, flowers, shrubs, trees or a mixture. If you are working on a slope you may have to anchor your soil and new plants in place with sisal netting or mulch to keep things stable until roots become established.
Other ways to discourage erosion are to terrace slopes into steps, to build in water channels like dry riverbeds, or to install drainage pipes to carry water. Excess water will always create run-off. If you create paths for that water to go, it won’t choose its own, undesirable pathways.
If you already see erosion damage in your property, hunt down the source. Find where it is building up and if there is a leak somewhere, repair it. Existing gulleys will delineate the path excess water is already taking. Use that knowledge to create catch basins or to design in your own drainage routes as part of your landscape design.
Flat, solid surfaces often wash water away in rivulets. Replace solid patios and driveways with permeable paving — porous materials that will allow water to penetrate rather than wash off — like gravel, block, stone or pavers set on sand rather than cemented into a solid, impervious surface.
Streams or rivers that can swell too high in rains can have their edges built up. Bales of hay can form a temporary protection for rising levels in small streams. There are a number of erosion products on the market to help create attractive edgings that will discourage overflow.
Other ways to channel water can be to build a cement V ditch, construct a French drain or lay underground pipes to carry off water. Channels can be artistically fashioned as straight lines, curving paths or natural looking flows and made of any material that will enhance the look of your overall landscape. You can make them utilitarian, but you might just as well integrate the drainage with your overall design to turn it into an asset. One example might be to carve an interesting geometric pattern into a contemporary garden that would channel away excess water. Another might be to use a flowing stream of river rock in a Japanese or Zen themed garden. Or you might fashion rocks and boulders into a natural landscape that works as a water conduit.
Finally, you need to be sure you conduct your water to a safe place. Draining excess water where it will wash out your neighbor’s property or flood your own driveway are not good choices. Make sure your drains end where unwanted water can safely flow away without creating erosion problems elsewhere.
Check with an expert if you are not sure how to address your erosion problems if you are building your own diy landscape project. A contractor, engineer or a landscape designer who is experienced in drainage can help you come up with solutions that can turn your erosion problem into a useful and attractive part of your landscape.
Don’t ignore drainage and erosion issues. These should be addressed as the first part of any landscape job. Erosion can become expensive and destructive if not stopped in time.