Seeding Successfully on Highly Erodible Sites

Although prairiegrasses and wildflowers are low maintenance, they are not no maintenance! As your stand matures and fills in, it becomes more competitive to weeds, but care must be given to eliminate undesirable plants from new and old seedings.

Prairiegrasses and wildflowers are great plants for erosion control because of their deep root systems. However, erodible sites offer a greater challenge to successful establishment.

Fall-tilled sites should be prepared early enough to plant a cover crop (annual rye, oats, wheat, rye, etc.) to help reduce erosion over the winter months. Oats and annual rye will normally winter kill, but wheat and rye will go dormant and continue growth in early spring. This provides additional erosion control during early spring rains. As these two cover crops will be too competitive for spring-planted WSGs, they should be sprayed with Round-up prior to planting.

Seed can then be planted directly (no till) into the residue without working the soil and risking further erosion. Always plant perpendicular to direction of slope.

If soil has to be worked in spring, plant a quick-germinating cover crop with seed to help protect from washing. Adding a CSG, such as Virginia or Canada Wildrye, western wheatgrass or sheep fescue will also give rapid protection through faster emergence. A light mulching or an erosion control blanket may also help.

On very steep slopes, where mechanical equipment is not feasible, hydro-seeding may be the answer. Seeding rates should be doubled when using this method. Best results come with an application of seed and water, covered sparingly with mulch.