Soil erosion occurs when wind or water washes away the topsoil from an area of land. Some erosion is natural, but it quickly becomes problematic when people begin cultivating the land. It's important to prevent soil erosion, because land that has been stripped of its topsoil will not support any kind of plant life.
Read and implement the following ways to prevent soil erosion to maximize the plant growth you are trying to achieve.
- When the topsoil on your land washes away, it takes with it nutrients that your plants need to grow well. It can cause gullies in your garden or field, which makes it harder to create a level planting area. The soil that is left will crust over more easily, which makes it hard for seeds to break through, and hard for rainwater to be absorbed. Soil erosion can also be damaging to marine life. When excess soil is washed into rivers and streams, it can disturb the delicate balance that is needed for the aquatic ecosystem to thrive. The soil may also contain herbicides and pesticides, which can be very harmful to fish and animals that may drink out of the stream.
- The amount of soil erosion that occurs in an area depends upon two factors: the speed with which water and wind travel across it, and the abundance of plant life that is growing there. Since you have no control over the speed of the wind, how heavily it rains, or the currents of the river, you need to concentrate on the factor you can control--plant life.
- Plant life protects your topsoil in many ways, allowing for soil conservation. It prevents heavy rains from beating down on your land and knocking the topsoil loose. It prevents the soil from drying out as quickly, thereby protecting it from being blown away by strong winds. The roots of the plants hold the soil in place, so it's not washed away as easily.
- There are several methods used by farmers to limit soil erosion. Most of these can be adapted for use by home gardeners, too. The first method is conservation tillage. This simply means to leave a portion of vegetation in the ground, instead of stripping everything away. In a garden, it could mean leaving a band of grass around your garden, so that the soil stays within the boundaries you've set.
- Contour farming is another method that's useful in controlling soil erosion by water runoff. It's done by planting along the slope of a hill, following the natural contours of the land, instead of straight up and down or across.
- You could plant a cover crop when your land is not in use. Besides providing protection for your land, many cover crops are nitrogen-fixers, which means they absorb nitrogen from the air and deliver it back to the land.
- If you have a problem with wind erosion, try planting a windbreak. A windbreak can be a row of trees, bushes or even a plastic snow fence. Anything that will keep high winds from sweeping across your land can help prevent wind erosion.
- Keeping your soil healthy is a very important step to take in preventing soil erosion. Soil that is rich in organic matter has better structure and is less susceptible to being washed or blown away. To keep your soil healthy, add plenty of compost each year and don't over-till when you are planting.
Once an area of land has been eroded, it's sometimes impossible to correct it. By following these steps for stopping soil erosion, you can do your part in maintaining and preserving our environment.