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Erosion prevention helps save the Chesapeake Bay
Combating erosion helps prevent pollution of waterways

 Bare spots in the yard, especially those on a slope, are prone to erosion that can carry pollutants into the waterways.
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Date published: 2/1/2013

OUR AREA is within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, so all of our creeks, streams and rivers empty into the bay. And what happens in our yards can impact the quality of water that flows away from it.

Areas of exposed soil, no matter how large or small, can erode and become a source of pollutant-carrying sediment that ends up in the bay. As homeowners, we can take steps to limit erosion.

Erosion occurs when soil particles are carried off by water or wind. These particles are often carried away by runoff, or water that does not soak into the ground. The soil in the runoff can take fertilizer and other pollutants along with it. Sediment is a waterway issue in itself, but the real problem is in the nitrogen, phosphates and pesticides that come along with it.

So by controlling erosion we can help control pollution. In a perfect world, water that runs off would instead soak through the soil to resupply our groundwater. But since houses, parking lots and roadways cover the ground, increasing runoff, it's important we do what we can to protect both our soils and our water supplies.

Erosion and runoff from the home landscape can also lead to mud and dust collecting on driveways and walkways that is then tracked into the house.


Exposed tree roots or stones and rocks

Small rills or gullies

Silt accumulation in low areas

Soil splashed on windows and outside walls

Widening or deepening of stream channels.

Erosion's destructive process can be controlled by reducing the quantity and velocity of runoff by using groundcovers, which include any plant material that protects the soil from the rain.

Turfgrass is just one effective type of groundcover. The fibrous roots of turf grasses firmly hold the surface soil and absorb water. Sod also benefits the soil by adding organic matter to improve soil structure and infiltration of water and air.

You can maintain good turfgrass by mowing frequently enough that you remove only one-third of the leaf area at any single mowing. Proper mowing height is 2 to 3 inches for cool-season grasses and 2 inches for warm-season grasses.

Many other low-growing plants and low shrubs serve the same purpose.


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John E. Howe is an agent in Virginia Cooperative Extension's Spotsylvania County office, specializing in animal science. Phone 540/507-7571; email jhowe@vt.edu.