Topsoil has many important jobs. We rely on topsoil to grow 95% of our food. Soil also filters water, removing impurities and preventing distillates from getting into our groundwater.
Sadly, due to factors like climate change, poor land management practices, and excessive tillage, we lose 24 billion tons of loose soil every year.
This constant erosion doesn’t only affect farmers. When soil is lost, it can end up as a bald spot on a lawn or cause a clog in the drain of a swimming pool. More pests in a garden can also be a sign that soil erosion is occurring.
While plenty of topsoil erosion occurs on flat ground, when positioned on a hill, soil erosion can be rapidly sped up. The effects of this can be devastating to an ecosystem. Preventing soil erosion on a slope or hill is an important aspect of soil quality preservation and goes beyond pure aesthetics.
Why is Hillside Erosion Prevention Important?
Soil erosion occurs naturally when topsoil is exposed to elements like rain and wind. A rainstorm that leads to runoff causes the topsoil to degrade. The flowing mud can also clog important channels. When pulled down by gravity, topsoil erosion is sped up and the effects are made worse.
For properties placed on slopes or hills, the erosion issue affects more than the immediate area. Eventually, the problems can extend outward to other properties nearby.
Common Problems Caused by Topsoil Erosion on a Hillside
Loss of Nutrients: The soil runoff during a rainstorm causes the soil to lose vital nutrients which can be bad for the life of lawns and gardens.
Increased Flooding: Clogged waterways can flood driveways, streets, and swimming pools in residential areas.
Poorer Air Quality: All those exposed soils can lead to a degradation of the local air.
Buildup: In residential areas, it’s common for soil erosion to cause silt buildup at the bottom of driveways.
Blocked Waterways: Loose soil can block creeks and streams, which can harm local marine life and lead to offspring mortality.
There are steps you can take to prevent hillside erosion. The method you choose depends on the quality of the soil on your property, the topography of the land, and your personal preference.
How to Prevent Erosion on a Hillside
Soil erosion can involve degradation (the loss of soil quality), and soil particle loss. Runoff during the rainy months are not the only times we have to worry about erosion. Wind any time of year can send soil particles careening down a slope. For hills that get lots of sun, evaporation can add to the quality, worsening the soil quality. These five tips can help to slow the erosion of your topsoil.
Block Runoff with Sandbags
When a heavy downpour causes excess runoff, sandbags can block the flow. Place your bags in a stair stepper formation, overlapped, and staggered between rows. Fill the bags half with sand, though local soil will also do.
Heavy sandbags are a temporary solution since you are merely diverting the flow of water. The bags will also deteriorate after several months. However, for sloped properties in hilly areas, sandbags can be a terrific additional resource to use in your battle against soil erosion.
A retaining wall is an aesthetically pleasing way to protect against soil runoff. The walls give you the ability to create slope area zones to give your property a terraced appearance. This creates a series of mini garden areas that add depth to your sloped property. You can convert the deviated plots into flower or plant beds while also holding back eroding soil.
Terracing your slope using natural and homegrown materials can also give you a series of smaller areas you are free to get creative with. Terraces can be created with logs, wooden stakes, and brush, or any other sustainable materials. The terraces keep runoff from flowing straight downhill while the smaller areas can be used as smaller gardens for cover crops intended to enrich the soil while holding it in place.
Perennial fruit trees, herbs, and berry bushes take to soil well. So do trees and bushes. The latter have roots that will dig deep into the soil while their leafy canopies break up the heavy rainfall, giving adequate protection to the soil underneath. Other ideas include grasses, groundcover, broadleaf plant species, and legumes.
As long as the plantings you use are appropriate for your growing zone, the vegetative growth will give the soil the weight it needs to remain firmly in place. These crops also add nitrogen to the topsoil, which contributes to soil quality and health.
These cover crops have other benefits. Once sprouted, cover vegetation protects your property from wind and water erosion. They allow water flow through their root systems and increase your levels of water infiltration.
Once fully grown, your plantings will provide a lush hillside backdrop with enough to withstand the rain with little effort on your part.
Geotextiles or Erosion Control Mats
If your property has an underlying layer of rock beneath the soil that won’t support vegetation, there are steps you can take to change that. It may take a few seasons but building up the thin topsoil can support vegetation on your slope. Geotextiles and erosion control mats can help.
Erosion control technology forces soil to stay put on a steep hill. Geotextiles and erosion control mats are created using biodegradable synthetic materials that protect your soil from erosion. The mats are specially created to allow seeds to breathe and take root. Over time, the erosion control geotextiles and mats break down, adding to the nutrient content of the soil.
These methods can stop erosion from running off your hillside. All of these methods are safe for your property and wildlife. They will provide you with much-needed stability with less chances of runoff altogether. Speak with a Flexamat representative to discuss erosion control technology and what it can do for your property.