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Protect Your Topsoil From Washing Away

June 30 2010

Homeowners in rainy and hilly areas know how aggravating it is to keep top soil from draining from their gardens. Replacing topsoil can be expensive and time consuming, so here are some suggestions for keeping precious topsoil where it belongs and doing what it’s supposed to do – giving your plants nutrients.

Soil is the medium in your landscape that is composed of silt, clay, sand, organic matter and mixed percentages of water and air, explains Dawn Pettinelli, Manager of the Soil Nutrient Analysis lab at the University of Connecticut. Topsoil is the nutritiously rich, darker soil above the soil; it should contain more organic matter than the soil beneath it.

Topsoil contains the nutritious properties that you really want to keep it in your garden because it provides consistent nourishment to your plants. 

So how do you keep it from eroding or washing away?

Top soil should have a certain percentage of air within it, so packing it down won’t help; instead there are four easy ways to keep the dirt where you want it.

The first method is to build terraces that step down the incline of your yard. This method works if your home is in a hillier area where inclines are steeper, it is here that both gravity and rainfall work against you. Learn2grow.com recommends terraced gardens for three reasons; it will it make gardening those areas easier to get to, prevent soil runoff, and increase your total gardening square feet to squeeze in more plants. 

Retaining walls are an integral part of method one, but terraces don’t really work on flatter land. You can use all sorts of materials to build a retaining wall; rocks and bricks, wood, plastic, or whatever you choose. This method allows for a lot of creativity and can add a lot of character to your yard.

The third method is planting more ground cover. The root systems of ground cover plants work well for gripping top soil and not letting go especially on inclines steeper than 20 degrees, says rusticgirls.com.  Grasses work well as a ground cover provided there is plenty of sun. You can also experiment with other types of ground covers like herbs which can both help other plants grow well and help season your food. Think sage, thyme, rosemary, etc.

Last, you can simply keep your garden well watered. Moist soil helps the organic material retain a relative amount of stickiness so that it won’t wash away. If you’re having a tough time keeping your ground moist, try adding more compost.

Using these steps will help you to fortify your yard, keeping it better looking. If you need to replace lost topsoil, consult a local nursery or garden center for more specific information on what type works best in your area and for your plants.