Wherever sloping ground and rainfall occur together, soil erosion poses a threat, both in natural landscapes and in yard and garden settings. A key factor in soil erosion is the degree of slope; steeper slopes are at greater risk for erosion. A number of erosion control measures are available to offer problem-specific solutions for soil erosion problems.
Creating Water Diversions
Under the force of gravity, water takes the path of least resistance. If flowing water is causing erosion, diverting it around the problem areas is a viable solution. In many cases, hand tools will be adequate for the job of making a berm or ditch to steer the water away.
Installing Silt Fencing
Silt fencing is a fabric the user installs in vertical sheets by driving stakes into the ground. Stakes are stapled to the fabric at intervals. The fabric lets water through, but traps most soil particles, although some of the finer particles can still get through. It is essential to bury the bottom edge of the fabric, or the soil-laden water will push its way directly under the fence.
An alternative to silt fencing, and one that might be more effective on steeper slopes, is the wattle. Wattles resemble rolled-up rugs and are made of fibrous material, like coconut for example, and are held together by netting or mesh. Just as with silt fencing, the bottom sides of wattles must be set into the ground a few inches below the surface and staked in place. Since they are made of biodegradable materials, or in the case of some forms of plastic netting that are degraded by sunlight, they can be left in place to decompose.
Seeding and Mulching
If rainfall and water flow are intense enough, even vegetated areas can be subject to erosion. In general, though, vegetation and debris form an effective soil erosion barrier. Where freshly-spread loam or otherwise bare soil is the concern, seeding with grass seed and then applying hay or straw mulch provides a solution. The mulch serves to both retain moisture and soften the impact of rain while the roots are becoming established, eventually holding the soil in place.
Lay out a Tarpaulin
It may be more of a stopgap measure in an emergency than a long-term answer, but covering soil with a tarpaulin can certainly be a soil erosion solution. Since an intact tarp is virtually impervious to water, it will not only soften the impact of rain but practically stop it entirely. Tarps come in various sizes, including some that are quite large. They can also be pieced together to cover larger areas and weighted down with rocks or bricks.
Since tarps block all light and water from reaching the soil, and will become hot in direct sun, they should not be left on a surface where you're trying to establish ground cover.
Geotextiles are fabrics that can be made of either woven synthetic materials or natural fibers, like jute. They go down as matting, similar to the way you might lay out tarps, but geotextiles are intended to remain in place and are permeable to water. You can put them down by themselves or use them as underlayment beneath a mulch. Some, like the jute geotextiles, are biodegradable.
Regrading and Terracing
With some planning and effort, a landscape can be regraded to reduce or break up sloped areas. If the problematic grade is slight, a simple regrading with hand tools might solve the problem. More extreme slopes can be terraced and held in place with rock or railroad tie retaining walls.