Erosion control for washed out stepping stones

Solving erosion problems step by step-directions and pictures

 I was asked to fix a set of washed out stepping stones that had been installed down a hill beside the house. When this happens, I always remember the lady who told me long ago, “In every landscaping job, water is the boss.” Here’s a picture of the eroded stepping stones:

washed out stepping stones need fixing. First find out where the water comes from

washed out stepping stones need fixing. First find out where the water comes from

I knew that if all we did was to re set the stepping stones, they would just wash out again, so I started looking around to figure out a way to fix the problem in a sustainable manner. I walked around and studied the project to figure out where the water was coming from. The first thing I noticed was a catch basin that had been poorly installed so that the water went around instead of through the system:

Catch basin is poorly installed and doesn't catch anything

Catch basin is poorly installed and doesn’t catch anything

A bit of a way up the driveway, I saw an extension on a downspout that was pouring water into the problem area. This would have to be dealt with:

Downspout pouring water into the situation

Downspout pouring water into the situation

I looked up the hill at the road and saw that a lot of water was coming from that area. I then studied the grassy area to see if the water could be re directed. I decided that a berm (a modified hill) would be an effective way to change the water flow to an ivy covered area in a natural area. I painted lines on the grass following the hillside to get a picture of where the berm should be in order to direct the water to a desired location.

A berm will be established within the painted lines to redirect the water flow

I now had a plan. I have developed what I call “Johntheplantman’s  3 principles of erosion control”

1. Capture and/or redirect the water

2. Repair the eroded surface

3. Provide protection for the repaired surface to prevent further erosion.

We started working on the project by changing the water flow one step at the time. The first and easiest step was to change the downspout so that the water would go under the eroded steps. This proved to be even easier than I thought because the pipe from the poorly installed catch basin was already in the ground. I took the extension off of the downspout, added a vertical extension and an elbow, and then ran the pipe. The pipes would be connected with a four inch black wye.

four inch solid drain pipe used to control water from downspouts

four inch solid drain pipe used to control water from downspouts

We removed the existing catch basin and installed a three foot drain at the edge of the drive. This drain was connected to the existing pipe from the removed catch basin. The drain has been carefully cemented in so that water will flow straight to it. We mortared in a back border of rocks to stop any water that might jump the drain.

A three foot drain correctly installed with rock border

A three foot drain correctly installed with rock border

The stepping stones were raised and reset using cement. We decided to keep them level instead of sloping down the hill and they came out more like steps then a pathway. I found the look rather pleasing.

Stepping stones raised and leveled with a cement base

Stepping stones raised and leveled with a cement base

We dumped about six cubic yards of compost to form a small hill (berm) inside the orange line that I had painted. In case you look at the picture and wonder, I had decided to modify the orange line. We will open up the rock border of the bed below, using the rocks to line the edge of the berm. The water will be diverted down through a dry river bed to the ivy below.

compost has been dumped inside the painted lines for the berm

compost has been dumped inside the painted lines for the berm

We next raked out the berm, moved some rocks around and filled in the pathway to the stepping stones with shredded cypress mulch.

A cypress mulch pathway with rock borders leads to the stepping stones

A cypress mulch pathway with rock borders leads to the stepping stones

We tied in the downspouts to the pipe running under the stepping stones. Downspouts put out a lot of water and should always be taken into consideration.

The water is run from the downspout and drain under the walkway and stepping stones

The water is run from the downspout and drain under the walkway and stepping stones

We used cypress mulch to finish off the sides of the stepping stones both for aesthetic reasons and to stop any erosion that might be caused from direct rain. I have found that cypress mulch is much better than bark in these situations because it tangles with itself and doesn’t wash out.

Cypress mulch used to fill in between the steppingg stones and the rock border

Cypress mulch used to fill in between the steppingg stones and the rock border

The berm is raked out and only needs a rock border. My client on this job, Ann, is an accomplished gardener and wishes to lay the rock and the dry river bed (dry creek bed? Which is best?) on her own. She also has ideas about plants for the berm which I am waiting to see. The planted berm will add a much needed foliar anchor to that side of the house. I think berms are way cool and fun to work with.

This berm, when lined with rocks, will direct the water away from the stepping stones

This berm, when lined with rocks, will direct the water away from the stepping stones

I am going to suggest that vinca minor should be planted down the sides of the stepping stones. This is a rather tame vining plant that will grow in and help to prevent further water damage.

Vinca minor is a wonderful ground cover for erosion control in a shady area

Vinca minor is a wonderful ground cover for erosion control in a shady area

There are many ways to deal with water. A couple of articles that you may wish to see would deal with retaining walls or with dry river beds. Try them out. There’s also an article about using mondo grass for erosion control

Do you have a problem that needs solving? Leave a comment

******

If you would like to have a consultation with John Schulz in your yard in the North Georgia area, email me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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