Nice house you have there, it'd be a shame if it slid into the ditch
May 5, 2021 8:31 PM   Subscribe

Mr. Getawaysticks and I bought a brand new home NW of Fort Worth. We closed just after the winter disaster here, and everything was a scramble moving from across the country. The large sloped yard was graded, but tons of rain and wind caused what wasn't covered in sod to erode terribly. How can we stop this in a hurry?

Everything is red clay here. The yard was sodded, but only around the house, leaving roughly 3/4 of an acre not sodded and just bare dirt. We are on a corner lot that is in the low point, so we get drainage from behind and next to us.

After we moved in (March) and watched in horror as our elevation was disappearing, we called around for hydromulch and were told by multiple companies that we had to wait until May for hydromulch due to the cold spring weather. We knew we couldn't wait that long near the house, and we had a truckload of sod laid. We still have 1/2 acre not covered at all, and that is still washing away. Here's a picture after it rained for days last week.

[Not pictured: The side of the house that has a more drastic slope, but also has a drainage ditch.]

There's about a 10-15' elevation between the low point in our yard and the low point of the neighbor - spanning about 100 feet but mostly just in the last 50 feet or so. Our property ends just before their driveway - you can see their sod. They have had two sets of sod washed away, river rock washed away, and then got a French Drain installed. I am trying to avoid all of my expendable income for the next several years going to this problem.

Notes: 1) We do not care at all about having a lush green lawn. If it were all weeds (or rocks!), that would be fine. We just want to be done worrying about this.
2) We went out this evening to see if we can smooth the ground and lay grass seed, which I know is dicey. The ground is rock hard now that it hasn't rained for 48 hours, and there's a lot of (small) rocks. Probably from the neighbor's yard.
3) We could just get more sod, but it's ridiculously expensive.
4) We are not planning to dig up the part of the yard next to the neighbors that already is mostly intact with weeds. I was going to just plant some wildflowers there and let those go.
5) We might have to do a french drain or something later for the low point in our sod, but that's not the emergency we are focusing on now.

We have a little money we can throw at this problem. Nothing is in our Deed Restrictions that says we have to have grass, it just says landscaping has to be 'complete' within 90 days (but many other neighbors all have incomplete backyards like this).

What are our options given the tight time frame? Hydromulch - how much of a slam dunk is it? Can we just throw down pea gravel or something? Erosion Control Fabric? Riprap?

Thanks for any advice from a couple of landscaping noobs.
posted by getawaysticks to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Regardless of what works for the next 6 - 9 months, you’re going to want to fix the underlying drainage problem or else this will keep biting you in the ass year after year after year.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:10 PM on May 5, 2021 [8 favorites]

And completing that thought... since the drainage system goes underneath whatever erosion control measure you wind up using, it makes sense to think about drainage before you think about surface. You could do something that works right now, but eventually you’ll wind up spending money to dig it up again and put in drainage.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:14 PM on May 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

Hydro seeding is the way to go here, the polymer used to adhere the seed to the surface goes a long way in bridging the gap between the time the seed is laid and when the grass grows enough to anchor the slope. That being said, even though this area was graded prior to the last rain event, if you don’t re-grade it, compact it to an appropriate level, and install drainage, everything you do is a waste of time and money. If you’re able to provide more context for where water flows from/to during rain events I might be able to suggest additional/specific measures; feel free to send me a private message.

Source: former licensed erosion and sediment control professional who oversaw erosion control measures on a massive civil construction project built on 90 acres of clear cut forest in red clay (yes that job was as horrific as it sounds)
posted by sparringnarwhal at 9:22 PM on May 5, 2021 [12 favorites]

You need to both fix the drainage issue and stabilize the exposed soil. Hydroseeding is cheap and is probably your best short term bandaid but your success rate might be low without fixing the underlying issues. The solution is probably going to be a mix of intercepting the overland flows, rerouting drainage, stabilizing the soil, and possibly regrading, but that is just a guess -- you would need someone qualified to come out and look in person. If there is enough of a slope, erosion control blankets would help in key areas to keep things together long enough to get grass established, too, and they are also relatively cheap.

Basically, you need to do the same sorts of things that the state transportation department does when they have a project with slopes near the highway -- hydroseeding, matting, etc., all intended to keep things together while grass and shrubs get established.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:30 PM on May 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you don't need a "nice lawn" then this is. good argument for a diverse meadow lawn, using local native wilflowers and grasses. That way you can also get some cover started when normal lawn grasses won't germinate. I also use a range of farm plants for these sort of sites; some of the clovers, plantain,, lotus, anything low-growing (to about .5m high).

For instant cover I use a wool matting (this is an NZ example but will give you the right words to search on - don't buy coir mat or hemp matting as they break down to fast). These can be hydromulched over.

hydromulched mixes - most people think only grasses work but I have put tree seed in the mix. Also for US prairie mixes

There's also a coarse ground gypsum than can be lightly stirred/raked into first inch of soil and will help lock up unstable Banks. memail me if you want info as I'm travelling at moment, will be back in 4 days
posted by unearthed at 1:11 PM on May 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't have any specific advice, but if you decide to go the meadow lawn/pocket prairie route, check out Native American Seed. They're located in Junction, Texas, and are a great resource for land reclamation and seed and supply purchase. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin also has a great website with tons of information on native plants and grasses.
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 2:08 PM on May 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

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