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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Search Results for: Slopes (Soil mechanics) | Catalog search for: Slopes (Soil mechanics)

PAL Questions: 3 - Garden Tools: 1

Keywords: Berberis, Vaccinium ovatum, Polystichum munitum, Amelanchier, Acer circinatum, Soil stabilization, Soil erosion, Slopes (Soil mechanics), Corylus, Alnus, Philadelphus lewisii

PAL Question:

Can I plant groundcovers, shrubs, and trees to stabilize a steep slope?


There are several resources which will help you in selecting plants to prevent erosion and mudslides on your slope.

Please note that these articles are merely suggestions and should not be construed as advice. We are librarians, not engineers!

None of our standard books on trees mentions the soil binding quality of tree roots. However, the Miller Library does have very good technical books and articles on slope stabilization. (For example, Slope Stabilization and Erosion Control: A Bioengineering Approach, edited by R.P.C. Morgan and R.J. Rickson, 1995.)

I do want to note one thing that many articles mention: no amount of established vegetation will hold a steep slope if other forces are present that would contribute to a landslide.

The Department of Ecology website has a list of appropriate plants.

Additionally, there are a number of books with information on the subject. Vegetative Contribution to Slope Stability at Magnolia Park (by Kathy Parker, 1996) recommends Oregon grape (Mahonia), which she suggests for gentle slopes.

Other smaller plants she lists are:
Polystichum munitum (native sword fern)
Vaccinium ovatum (evergreen huckleberry)
Symphoricarpos albus (snowberry)

Larger shrubs in her list:
Alnus rubra (red alder)
Philadelphus lewisii (mock orange)
Sambucus racemosa (red elderberry)

Small trees:
Acer circinatum (vine maple)
Amelanchier alnifolia (serviceberry)
Corylus cornuta (hazelnut)

For steeper slopes, Parker says that they may not be good candidates for vegetative rehabilitation unless you put in some kind of structure. She says that Jute mats can be used in conjunction with native seed, mulch, and shrubs, if carefully anchored. She also mentions a Weyerhaeuser product called Soil Guard.

Steep Slope Stabilization Using Woody Vegetation (by Leslie Hennelly, 1994) has a plant list, as well as a chart which indicates plants used to control erosion, the degree of the slopes, and the rate of success in resisting erosion.

Two titles which focus more on the garden design aspect of planting on a slope are Hillside Gardening : Evaluating the Site, Designing Views, Planting Slopes (by William Lake Douglas, 1987) and Hillside Landscaping (by Susan Lang and the editors of Sunset Books, 2002).

Season All Season
Date 2017-02-16
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Keywords: Soil stabilization, Soil erosion, Slopes (Soil mechanics), Tree identification, Populus

PAL Question:

When a cottonwood tree is cut down, does the stump die, or does it send out shoots that grow into more trees?

And, if a cottonwood tree located on a hillside is cut down, what is the risk of erosion?


As it turns out, some poplars and cottonwoods sucker from the roots and some do not. Determining what kind of cottonwood you have is the key to answering this question.

Identifying tree varieties can be tricky. The best way to get a positive ID is to take a sample to the Hyde Herbarium at the Center for Urban Horticulture (near the University of Washington). It is definitely worth a visit, as it is the only herbarium on the West Coast that serves the public.

Hours, driving directions, how to collect specimens, etc. are at http://depts.washington.edu/hydeherb.

As for your second question, here is what the Washington State Department of Ecology's Vegetation Management: A Guide for Puget Sound Bluff Property Owners has to say (p.25):
Given the importance of tree cover on potentially unstable slopes and the advisability of retaining them for erosion control purposes, a landowner should explore alternative options to tree removal or topping...[if a tree must be cut] stumps and root systems should be left undisturbed...[to reduce the risk of erosion].

The above document is available online at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/pubs/93-31/intro.html.

A companion website from the Washington State Dept. of Ecology contains a great list of groundcovers, shrubs and trees that will help keep your slope intact if you decide to remove the cottonwood. The website includes a Plant Selection guide.

Season All Season
Date 2016-08-19
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Keywords: Arborist, Hillside planting, Slopes (Soil mechanics), Conifers

PAL Question:

I live in a condo. The conifers on the site are beginning to obstruct the view of the neighbors. Our covenant with these neighbors says trees must not exceed a height of 25 feet. Last year several of the conifers were topped and others removed. Our concern now is that we may have to either top or remove more trees. We don't want to block the neighbors' view but we also don't want to destabilize the ground - we all live on a hillside. What can we do over the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years to decrease the number of conifers and replace them with other trees that will be neighbor-friendly and keep our hill stable?


The short answer is to plant shrubs and groundcovers.

The long answer is that slope stabilization is a serious concern and deserves expert advice. Get started in your research by reading the articles on the WA Dept. of Ecology site:
Controlling Erosion Using Vegetation.

Your condo association may want to hire a consulting arborist and/or a civil engineer ("To locate technical experts such as experienced registered engineers specializing in geotechnical and/or drainage projects, use local telephone directories or call the Seattle or Kitsap branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for membership references." from DOE site)

For an arborist referral try:
Plant Amnesty

The Pacific Northwest chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture has information about hiring an arborist.

The International Society of Arboriculture can also help to narrow the search to your area.

Season All Season
Date 2016-10-27
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Keywords: Soil erosion, Slopes (Soil mechanics)

Garden Tool:

The Washington State Department of Ecology has many publications to assist homeowners and others interested in learning about Washington state environmental regulations and resources. Of particular interest are the free publications on protecting slopes, bluffs and hillsides from erosion. All are available for downloading from the Department of Ecology's publications web page.

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March 22 2017 13:26:25