Our yard is nothing but clay soil and rocks and it's sloped. So when it rains, what doesn't wash away turns into a muddy mess. I would like to add plants on the biggest slope to stop the erosion. There are ruts where the soil has washed away, the largest is at least a foot wide and a foot deep. I've been googling trying to find the best way to stop erosion and everything says to rototill it and add organic matter/compost. That's great for level land, but I'm afraid that if I do that on a slope, all that hard work will wash away before any plants get well established. I've thought about putting up a retaining wall, but the bottom of the slope is on the neighbor's property which is up for sale and has been vacant for 2 years, so I don't know who to talk to to get the ok to build it.
Is it possible that I can just plant directly in the clay without amending the soil?
If I do rototill and amend it, what can I do to keep it from washing away while the plants become established?
Are there any other alternatives that I can try?
Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live.
What are you trying to plant? Do you just want anything that will keep the erosion down, or do you want to plant a veggie garden?
It looks like you're in Alabama? If you just want plants there to keep the mud and erosion down. you should look into native plants. They'll have adapted to your clay soil, and will grow well there.
If you want to veggie garden, you might want to consider building terraces. Building them is a lot of work, but once they are in place, you won't have to worry about your garden soil washing away. If you don't want to build terraces, you might consider focusing on perennial vegetables, fruits and herbs, especially ones that don't require digging to harvest, so they keep the soil anchored.
i just wanted to add that you may want to investigate diverting some of the water that is going down the hill, if you have somewhere to divert it to. if you have ruts that large it sounds like maybe water is coming to the hill from somewhere else - maybe a downspout on your house or a neighbor's house?
junipers have done well on our hill, which is pretty much solid clay, the topsoil having washed away years ago. if your slope is shaded, ivy may work well, too - a lot of people in my neighborhood have ivy-covered hills - although your non-existent neighbors may hate you someday. ;)
It's a lot of work, but this is what we did with our slope:
Were I to do it again I would tweak the design a bit. We did this without any expertise but with a bunch of research, across a couple weekends with a lot of friends help. The terraced raised beds have been wonderful for out veggie growing. Not sure if that's what you're going for though.
wow, rosiel, that looks awesome! can i ask: do you find that the water creates any problems by going around the sides of the beds?
Or people that live in your house after you... The previous owners of our house planted ivy on the sloping front yard. We have been trying for 6 years to get rid of it. It's impossible!
Mindy - We don't have problems with water going around. It still pools at the bottom of the slope, well past the beds area. We were originally concerned that building the beds would force water toward the house, but a general contractor friend told us the the slope would be more than enough to keep the water going down the hill, not toward our foundation. We brought in two truckloads of compost and tilled it in really deep, so all water that falls inside the beds is absorbed nicely. Water falling outside the beds gets partially absorbed by the grass (in front) and mulch (against the house), but probably mostly runs to the bottom of the hill.