Preventing Soil Erosion on Slopes

Several terraces can be built to prevent water from eroding the soil as it flows downhill.
  • 1-2 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Flags or stakes
Retaining wall materials
Shovel and/or spade
Synthetic, semi-permeable ground cover fabric
Various plants/seeds of your choice

Soil erosion on a slope or a hill is a natural phenomenon caused by the pressure of water draining down the slope and pushing against the soil. Trying to stop it may seem like trying to hold back the sea, but it actually can be done effectively. You can't hold back erosion forever, but you can certainly hold it off for a long time.

There are several methods you can use, either together or separately. Some are a little more labor intensive than others, but if you do it in stages, you won't be overwhelmed.

Step 1 - Divert the Flow

It is possible to divert the flow of water drainage away from your slope. You can do this by digging channels to carry the water flow, or you can use pipes to direct the water. First, you must observe the path of the water during the rainy season. By knowing the way the water naturally flows, it will be easier to divert it. Mark the path the water takes so it will be easy to find when the time comes; don't trust your memory. You can use stakes or flags to mark the path.

Step 2 - Build Terraces

Another method for stopping slope erosion is to build terraces on the slope. By building terraces, you create level areas of ground down the slope with the use of retaining walls. The terrace will have the appearance of large steps going up the slope. You can use a variety of materials for the retaining walls, including stones, bricks, landscaping timbers, and concrete. Because building terraces is labor intensive, it may be better to spread the project over several years or hire a professional.

Step 3 - Use Strip Landscaping

Strip landscaping is similar to terracing, but instead of building walls, you simply plant level rows of vegetation around the slope. An effective practice is to alternate rows of beds and rows of grass. If you do plant grass, make sure it is accessible by a lawnmower or it could get out of hand. Also, make the rows as level as possible, as this will have the greatest effect on stabilizing the slope.

Step 4 - Use Ground Cover

One of the easiest ways to limit erosion and stabilize the soil on the slope is by planting vegetation on the slope. Almost anything will help. You can plant trees, shrubs, grass, and ground cover plants. The roots of the plants help to hold the soil in place, so that when it does rain, not as much is washed down the slope.

Step 5- Use a Synthetic Ground Cover Fabric

You can lay down a synthetic, semipermeable ground cover fabric onto the slope to add stability. It will slow the water and allow it to be absorbed by the soil, as well as keeping the water from washing soil away. You can make holes in the fabric to plant shrubs, trees, and flowers. The fabric should be laid at an angle to the slope, and can be anchored with pegs at regular intervals.