How to Prevent Soil Erosion

Two Methods:Preventing Garden ErosionPreventing Farmland Erosion

Exposed topsoil erodes as wind and water wears it away, removing nutrients and clogging water systems. It may take years to rebuild a short layer of lost soil, so prevention is the name of the game.

Method 1
Preventing Garden Erosion

  1. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 1
    Plant grass and shrubs. Plant roots hold the soil together, while their leaves lessen damage caused by rain.[1] Turf, ornamental grass, and low, spreading shrubs work best, since they leave no areas of bare soil.
    • These have a good chance of controlling erosion by themselves, as long as the ground grade is less than 3:1 (3 units horizontal for each 1 unit rise).[2] For steeper slopes, see below for additional work.
  2. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 2
    Add mulch or rocks. Use these to cover any remaining patches of bare soil. Plant-matter mulch such as grass clippings or bark chips are especially effective.[3] These will also protect grass seeds and young plants from animals and water runoff, giving them time to grow.
    • Mulch deteriorates over time, but ideally the soil should no longer need protection by the time it does. You may want to reapply mulch anyway, if your plant varieties and climate require it.
  3. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 3
    Use mulch matting to hold vegetation on slopes. Fiber mulch mats or erosion control mats are a layer of mulch held together in a fiber mesh.[4] This structure holds them together in areas where normal mulch would be washed or blown away. After planting vegetation, lay these over sloped ground, with a grade between 3:1 and 2:1.
    • In areas with heavy wind or water, use liquid mulch binder to keep the mulch on the ground.
  4. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 4
    Build retaining walls or terraces for steep slopes. Eroding slopes with a 2:1 grade or steeper rarely support vegetation. Build a retaining wall to slow erosion while the vegetation takes hold. Give the wall a roughly 2% slope to direct water flow.[5] Tall hills can be transformed into terraces with several walls and soil grading.
    • You may build the wall from concrete blocks, rock, or wood. Only use wood treated with a preservative to prevent rot.[6]
    • Use retaining walls around flowerbeds and other raised soil areas as well.
    • You may need local government approval to build these structures.
  5. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 5
    Improve drainage. All buildings should have gutters or pipes that can drain water effectively out of your garden and into water collection systems. Without adequate drainage, heavy rain could potentially wash away a whole layer of topsoil.
  6. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 6
    Reduce watering if possible. Over-watering your garden can speed up erosion. Consider a less frequent watering schedule, or install a drip irrigation system to reduce the amount of water runoff.
  7. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 7
    Avoid soil compaction. Foot and vehicle traffic compresses soil, making it less porous and more vulnerable to water runoff. Take steps to minimize this effect:[7]
    • Establish permanent walkways with paving stones, stepping stones, or cleared paths. Encourage people to stay on the walkways.
    • Do not walk over wet soil, which compacts more easily.
    • Create a concrete driveway instead of driving over bare ground.
    • Add compost, rotted manure, or other organic matter to encourage earthworms that aerate soil.

Method 2
Preventing Farmland Erosion

  1. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 8
    Keep soil covered year-round. Bare soil is far more vulnerable to erosion than soil with ground cover. Aim for at least 30% ground cover on all grazing land, ideally 40% or more.[8] After harvesting crops, leave the residue on the soil as a mulch, or plant hardy winter crops.
  2. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 9
    Plant trees to prevent landslides. Tree roots are powerful tools when soil is too eroded or steep to plant. Plant native trees on steep slopes and riverbanks to reduce soil loss.[9]
    • Bare ground around the tress still needs to be covered in mulch or grass for best results.
  3. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 10
    Reduce tillage. Deep, frequent tillage creates a layer of compact soil vulnerable to water erosion, topped by loose soil easily removed by wind.[10][11] Consider a zero-tillage approach using a coulter or other deep planting device.[12] If this is not feasible, try a ridge-till or mulch-till system that leaves the lower soil levels untouched.[13]
    • These conservation tillage techniques also reduce the amount of vehicle traffic, and therefore soil compaction.
  4. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 11
    Protect weak crops with strip cropping. Crops with weak roots or that need to be sparsely planted are more vulnerable to erosion. Plant these in strips, alternating with strips of an erosion-resistant crop such as dense grass or legumes.[14]
    • Plant the crops so they contour the slope.
    • Plant these crops perpendicular to the prevailing wind if possible.
  5. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 12
    Practice wet season spelling. Grazing land cannot remain healthy and erosion-resistant if cattle are allowed to graze year-round. For best results, close off a paddock for the entire wet season to allow grasses to reestablish themselves.[15]
    • This may not be effective if the other paddocks cannot support the spelled cattle.
    • If possible, keep cattle away from riverbanks and heavily eroded soil at all times.[16]
  6. Image titled Prevent Soil Erosion Step 13
    Control downhill runoff with flumes. Runoff concentrated into a narrower area as it travels across lands. The points where the concentrated runoff reaches a slope are particularly vulnerable to erosion. Build a paved flume, or lined channel, to lead the water to a safe drainage system. Build these at gully heads as well.
    • Do not build flumes on slopes steeper than 1.5:1.[17]


  • Spread awareness in your community to help others fight soil erosion. Plant on bare pieces of public land.
  • Till vegetable rows across the slope, not up and down.[18]
  • In areas with heavy wind or sandstorms, build a fence around your property as a windbreaker.
  • If you are involved in a construction project, ask local government about laws and regulations related to soil erosion.
  • Be sure to avoid getting plastic waste in the soil.

Article Info

Categories: Compost Mulch and Soil Preparation