Prevent Erosion in Your Yard

The exposed roots of an overturned tree.
What You'll Need
Biodegradable mats
Stones or railroad ties
Loose stones
Landscaping stones
Pressure-treated wood or masonry
Tape measure
Soil tamper
Stabilizing spikes
Safety glasses

Is your yard on a slope? Then topsoil erosion is likely a huge problem. Ground deterioration can be caused by rainfall, ice melting, and wind all traveling down the incline in your yard. Signs of erosion include exposed roots, gutted out areas on the lawn, or puddles or swampy sections. Fortunately, there are several methods to prevent this from happening. Make sure to assess the problem carefully before deciding on the solution. Prevention begins with control methods that are determined by the depth and severity of the issue. By using one or several prevention methods, you will keep your yard healthy while offering plants and trees a place to grow and flourish.

Tip: If you live near an eroding stream, don't use fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides within at least 10 feet of the stream. They can be carried downstream and will pollute bodies of water. Also, create a “buffer bed” along the stream using plenty of native species of plants and wildflowers. Do not mow this bed as it will act as a natural buffer against erosion along the stream.

Plant Vegetation

The most common, and possibly the easiest, way to battle an eroding yard is to plant flowers or trees in the area affected. These plants act as a shield, lessening the impact of rainfall, over-watering, ice, and wind that wear away at the soil. Plants and trees also help stabilize the dirt by putting in roots that anchor it and soak up excess water. Wild flowers work well to blanket an area prone to soil erosion, as do herbs or a line of shrubbery. Keep in mind that creeping, crawling cover plants are better than ones that simply grow upwards. Plants are especially beneficial in preventing erosion on slopes or shorelines.

If you choose to plant flowers, trees, or shrubs, choosing species native to your area can be more beneficial. Their root structures are suited to your environment and can stabilize topsoil more securely.


A shovel full of mulch

Adding a layer of mulch can be beneficial for both soil and plants when applied. Consider a layer of fertilizer as well, as both will help the ground absorb water—lessening any impact rainfall may have on the area. Mulch and fertilizer contribute to higher PH levels and help the health of the soil overall. Frequent mulching is also a good practice in order replace used mulch that may no longer be as effective controlling erosion as a fresh batch might be. There is no particular product that is best to use so you can choose whichever you feel is good for your plants.


Matting is one product available for preventing eroding dirt that can be applied on residential lawns. Essentially, matting is a thick mat that is laid down on the soil surface. Since it is comprised of wood, straw, or coconut fibers, it is very eco-friendly. Place it in the affected area, to soak up the elements. Plants can still to grow through matting as well and it can be cut into any size to suit your needs. Keep in mind that biodegradable mats need to be replaced periodically.

Tip: If you notice wet spots on your lawn, begin mowing your grass to two and a half to three inches high. Longer grass promotes healthy root growth which can anchor topsoil and absorb more water.

Edging and Terracing

Mud puddles or wet spots visible on your lawn are sure signs of soil erosion run

Mud puddles or wet spots visible on your lawn are sure signs of soil erosion runoff. These spots occur often where the ground cannot hold any more water so it’s pushed to the surface where it puddles. Often, planted areas where the soil has been disturbed can cause a water runoff that appears in other areas of the lawn. A simple solution is to build a retaining wall around flower beds and larger plants such as trees. Retaining walls are typically installed a few inches deep into the ground and they act as shields, preventing surface water runoff. Retaining walls will also keep water within the bed, allowing the plants to slowly soak it in.

If slope erosion is occurring, you can bury stones or railroad ties parallel to the slope to help stem the flow of water. Another option is to use what is called "riprap." Riprap are loose stones, usually granite, embedded into the slope to slow and divert the flow of water.

Terracing is a great option to prevent soil erosion on a slope as well. When you terrace a slope, you level off steep sections of the hill to make several flat areas. A terrace allows the water to be absorbed in the flat areas, where plants are usually growing, instead of flowing downwards. Terracing can be beneficial as well as beautiful, especially when planted with suitable shrubs and flowers. While it can be costly and time consuming, this is one of the best methods to fix problems with your soil wearing away.