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Root of the matter: Weeds worsen erosion


Protect stream banks and home gardens alike from erosion

by: COURTESY PHOTO: JENNIFER NELSON - At B Street Farm in Forest Grove, gardeners use mulch and permaculture in the garden to protect soil health and stop erosion.Most people think of the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District’s work as mainly involving the planting of native trees and large shrubs to cool water, trap sediment, filter runoff and provide other benefits. Just like home gardeners across the state, however, work this time of the year revolves around one chore in particular — weeding.

It is true that some ground cover is usually better than no groundcover in stopping erosion because all plants help to reduce the powerful impact of raindrops that loosen soil particles.

However, many of the fast growing, fast spreading ground covers that have been imported over the years for use in the home garden can be problematic.

Weeds like English ivy, Reed canary grass and Japanese knotweed cause more trouble than just displacing the food and shelter native wildlife depend on. These plants often invest little of their energy in deep, complex root systems. When they take over an area, excluding other plants, the resulting monoculture does a poorer job of holding onto soils than a diverse mixture of plants, especially native plants.

For those living on highly sloped areas or near streams, this probably comes as no surprise. Stream banks in these areas can be more susceptible to eroding over time if there is little or no vegetation where weeds have taken over.

Consider the following to prevent erosion and protect soil health in home gardens. by: COURTESY PHOTO: JENNIFER NELSON - This rain barrel at Forest Groves B Street Farm slows water running from the roof and helps prevent erosion.

n Want to keep soil where it belongs? Borrow a practice from farmers and try to keep bare garden spaces covered during the growing season. Vegetable gardeners can take advantage of mulching or compost on the soil’s surface to not only slow down powerful raindrops but also supplement nutrients and organic matter as well as help hold moisture to the soil.

n Got bald patches on the lawn? Maintaining a monoculture of grasses can be a difficult challenge requiring a lot of time, money, chemicals and water. Many perennial plants make good substitutions in stubborn patches of lawn and can help add height and texture to spaces.

n Facing erosion in a stream-side area? Sometimes adding more plant material to the land along the side of the stream can really help stabilize the banks. Those facing erosion problems along stream banks here in Washington County can attend a free workshop on the causes and potential solutions April 26 at the Clean Water Services building on Hillsboro Highway.

Contact Jen Nelson at the Tualatin SWCD offices for more details and to register at 503-648-3174, Ext. 121, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or register online at swcd.net/streambank-erosion-control-workshop.

Jennifer Nelson is the outreach coordinator for the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District.