Utilizing Native Seeds to Control Erosion and Protect Ecosystems

Planting to Control Erosion and Protect Ecosystems

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The soil beneath our feet is the foundation of all life. We rely on healthy, fertile soil for everything from growing our food to supporting our largest buildings. Considering the role soil health plays in everyday life, it’s an environmental issue that is often overlooked.

After centuries of land development across the globe, erosion has skyrocketed. Scientists estimate we’ve lost 50 percent of the Earth’s topsoil since 1850, resulting in a decline in soil health and an increase in groundwater pollution. 

When it is necessary to disturb the land, appropriate vegetation is needed to stabilize the disturbed areas. Native plants are a great tool for reclaiming disturbed sites.

Germination of a steep slope seed mix during the first growing season for erosion control.

Benefits of Using Native Species for Erosion Control

One of the most effective ways to fight erosion and water run-off is to plant native seed mixes appropriate to the site. Native seed mixes have a combination of species with deep and fibrous roots. These roots help to stabilize the soil by anchoring and knitting it together. The foliage of native plants intercepts rainfall to minimize the force of droplet impact on the soil. All of this works together to reduce erosion and facilitates rainwater infiltration into the soil.

By planting native species, you can reduce erosion while providing natural habitat for native pollinators and wildlife.

  • Reduced run-off and sedimentation  –  Native plants evolved with the soil conditions and weather specific to the local environment. The roots systems of native plants provide long term soil stabilization by anchoring and knitting together the soil particles. The foliage provides cover for the soil, buffering it against erosion caused by droplet impact. This decreases runoff and sedimentation via improved groundwater filtration.
  • Stabilized landscaping –Improved habitats for pollinators and other wildlife – When soil is strong and healthy, the entire ecosystem benefits. Native plants provide the food and shelter needed to support wildlife.
Seedlings from a steep slope mix poking through an erosion control blanket.
ERNMX-181 Native Steep Slope mix with Annual Ryegrass in Morgantown, West Virginia

Additional Considerations When Planting for Erosion Control

  • Carefully review the herbicides you are using – Some herbicides have residues that can persist in the soil, preventing your seed from germinating.
  • The need for continued maintenance – For best performance your site should be trimmed to eight inches whenever it reaches two feet during the first full growing season. Spot control of invasive or problem weeds on an annual basis will ensure the best aesthetics for the site.
  • Slope of the site – If the slope is steeper than 3:1, then you will need a steep slope mix such as ERNMX-181, ERNMX-181-1 or ERNMX-181-2. If the steep slope has a seep, Ernst can create a wet meadow mix for it. If the slope is in partial shade, we can create a partially shade tolerant mix for it.
  • Position of the slope – If the slope ends at a sidewalk, it is appropriate to plant a strip of lawn twice the width of a lawn mower at the base of the slope. This lawn buffer will prevent the taller species in the meadow mix from leaning into the sidewalk and creating a trip hazard.

For best aesthetics, these sites benefit from maintenance identical to those of our standard upland meadow mixes.

Control Erosion and Revegetate with Native Seeds

If you want to stabilize the local environment while boosting pollinator populations, take the first step by finding the right native seed mixes for your area. Our Erosion Control & Revegetation seed mixes are designed to increase soil health while providing food and cover for local wildlife. Find the mix best for your site by using our Seed Finder Tool.

For greatest success with your plantings, visit our online resource center where you will find our establishment guides and seedling gallery. Our establishment guides contain tips on site preparation, planting, and maintenance. To help you confirm that your meadow is growing, see our seedling gallery.

Erosion Control and Revegetation Seeds

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Contact us with your questions about using seed to control erosion and protect ecosystems, and don’t forget to check out our Seed Finder Tool.

Please complete the form at the bottom of the page or call us at 800-873-3321.

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