Whether you obsess about the appearance of your lawn and garden or not, the one thing you should be worried about is erosion. Erosion occurs when topsoil is swept away by natural or man-made forces. An extreme example of erosion is the dust storms that ravaged the Midwest during the 1930’s. Thousands of acres were destroyed because farmers did not use proper agricultural methods when growing crops. This caused the destruction of topsoil, which was then blown away by heavy winds. The land’s destruction made it impossible to grow vegetation there, causing much of the population in the area to migrate to other regions of the country.
Of course, a person who lives in the suburbs of a big city and tends to their lawn and garden doesn’t have to worry about such a severe attack of erosion. However, minor erosion can be an issue in areas of the country that experience a lot of rain, ice and wind.
There are two major classifications of erosion –- man-made and geological. Man-made erosion occurs when people modify the land. A good example of this is a construction site. Geological erosion happens naturally, when the soil is disturbed due to soil formation or removal.
Erosion can become worse due to the change in soil characteristics, climate, rainfall intensity and duration, vegetation or surface cover and topography. The problem is exacerbated when people remove vegetation, disturb the soil, change the natural drainage patterns of runoff water or construct buildings and pavement on land.
Is Your Land Susceptible to Erosion?
There are ways you can determine how vulnerable your land is to erosion. Landscaping experts suggest you take inventory of your site before construction projects or cultivating land. Inspect vegetation, drainage and consider the climate to determine if erosion may be an issue.
Look for the signs of erosion. For example, inspect construction sites near your home where the land has been disturbed or areas that have experienced erosion due to natural occurrences that results in the washing away of soil. Locations to look include ducts, drains, and pipes that move water under a trail or road. The best time to do the examination is after a heavy rain, tornado, ice storm, or other extreme weather incident. Check land without vegetation. A hillside or slope where there are no trees or plants is ideal locations to study. Look for exposed plant roots. This could be a sign that water or wind is washing or blowing away soil-exposing roots that would commonly not be visible. Check to see if soil is retreating around rocks, if there are channels or gullies carved into the land due to water and wind activity, or areas of muddy or dirty water.
Do inspections during a rainstorm. This will give you an opportunity to see where channels are being formed and where topsoil is washed away. Watch the flow of the water and areas of land where there is no ground cover and where the rain is pounding the ground and washing away soil. Observe where the water is flowing and collecting. Standing puddles are good signs that water is not being absorbed properly and muddy streams indicate runoff.
Once you determine there is an erosion problem, there are steps you can take to limit or eliminate it.
(Next time: Methods to eliminate erosion of your property.)