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Does Mulch Prevent Erosion? (Plus Tips for the Best Results)

Does Mulch Prevent Erosion? (Plus Tips for the Best Results)

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Soil erosion is a frequently occurring problem, especially in low-lying gardens or areas that lack sufficient vegetation.

There are several techniques in combating this problem, like planting cover crops and layering crushed stones.

Mulching is also a popular go-to choice. But how does mulch prevent erosion, and why is it widely used?

One reason is cost-effectiveness, not to mention that they’re readily available. It serves as a protective barrier that prevents elements from penetrating the soil underneath.

Learn the practical techniques to incorporate mulch on soil and which variants best enhance soil stability.

What Are the Signs and Effects of Soil Erosion?

When your space is often exposed to elements like wind and water, it’s most likely prone to erosion.

Some examples are gardens or landscapes situated on steep slopes and bare soils with no vegetation to hold them in place.

Here are some telltale signs that your space or landscape needs immediate action:

  • Landscape changes: Based on experience, I noticed sudden changes in the shape or contour of my landscape. The edges of my garden or lawn are uneven too.
  • Soil deposition: The presence of sediment deposits or small rocks in certain areas (low-lying spots) indicates that erosion occurs in one location and is transported by elements.
  • Loss of topsoil: If the topmost layer of the soil has bare patches, is thinning, or is decreasing in depth, it needs immediate action.
  • Formation of gullies or small channels: The gullies or channels around the garden indicate that water flows rapidly over the surface and carries away the soil particles.
  • Exposed plant roots: Elements expose the plants’ root system as they gradually chip away the soil layers, making them vulnerable to drying out.

Not only do these imperfections disrupt the aesthetic appeal of your landscape, but they are also detrimental to the plant’s health.

The Negative Effects of Erosion on Plant Health

Addressing erosion problems as early as possible is crucial in maintaining the structural integrity of the soil and nearby outdoor structures like patio, shed, and home’s foundation.

Apart from that, controlling soil erosion is also vital in preserving your plants’ health and long-term survival. Here are reasons why taking early action is essential:

Nutrient Depletion

Did you know that the topmost layer of the soil is where most nutrients lie? As elements carry the topsoil away, they also take important nutrients and organic matter that aid plant growth.

With less fertile soil, plants become stunted, impairing their capacity to flower or produce fruits.

Susceptibility to Diseases and Moisture Imbalance

Without soil protection, the exposed plant roots are prone to pests and rots. It disrupts levels of moisture that result in heat stress, not to mention that their capacity to absorb nutrients is impaired, too.

Exposed roots, especially those from sturdy trees, also pose physical hazards.

Will Mulch Stop Erosion?

Yes, for someone who doesn’t like expensive and complicated solutions, I find mulching a cheap but accessible remedy for soil erosion management. Here’s how mulching combats soil erosion:

How Does Mulching Prevent Soil Erosion?

Erosion occurs due to a lack of sufficient ground cover to support the soil; that’s why layering with mulch to serve as a physical barrier effectively reduces its exposure to elements.

With mulch to reduce water’s surface runoff, it seeps into the soil and benefits the plant.

At the same time, the organic matter in mulches is beneficial in strengthening the soil structure, preventing it from crusting.

Further, establishing mulch alongside vegetation, like perennial plants, works better. That way, the soil anchors in place with additional support from the plant’s roots that control water flow.

However, Oklahoma State University emphasizes that mulching is only temporary erosion management.

What Are the Best Types of Mulch to Consider?

Some considerations to be mindful of prior to selecting the most suitable mulch are the steepness of the slope, soil conditions, the size of the area, and the type of vegetation present.

Here are the most inexpensive and organic mulch options that are highly effective in controlling soil erosion:

1 – Straw

This material is readily available and one of the least expensive ones. Ideally, one to two tons of straw can cover an acre of soil but work well with low slopes of less than 2:1.

Straw from wheat or small grains are most preferred.

2 – Compost Blanket

Animal manure and crop residue are some excellent compost mulches you can use. Applying up to two inches thick of compost is ideal, but double it for sleeper areas.

For me, compost blankets work best when I layer them on top of seeds and fertilizers.

3 – Wood Chips

Shredded tree bark free from molds, sawdust, and manufactured/treated wood makes excellent mulches.

However, it’s not recommended to layer them on areas with vegetation that aren’t fully established yet since they won’t grow through the woody material.

What Are the Tips and Precautions for Applying Mulch for Erosion Control?

Here are quick tips and best practices in embedding mulch to prevent erosion:

  1. Avoid using organic mulches that may contain competing weeds, which can affect the health of surrounding vegetation.
  2. Don’t use decomposing wood chips that may interfere with supplying nitrogen and nutrients to the soil.
  3. Anchoring mulch (especially straw mulches) to the soil using netting or tackifiers is best to resist displacement.

Since straw is lightweight, tackifiers like emulsified asphalt serve as a glue that holds the strands together and binds them to the soil surface.

  1. Mulch must cover at least 85% of the soil surface to control water runoff and support germination.
  2. Regularly inspect areas for loose or reduced mulch.

Final Thoughts

Mulch serves as a temporary barrier that prevents elements from washing the soil away, ruining landscapes, and impairing plant growth as a result.

Some inexpensive but effective mulch options are compost blankets, wood chips, and straws.

Incorporating vegetation or using netting and tackifiers is vital in increasing the adherence of mulch to the soil.


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