Critical Area Planting

Planting grass or other vegetation to protect a badly eroding area from soil erosion.

How it works

Grass, legumes, trees or shrubs are established in small, isolated areas of excessive erosion. The vegetation provides surface cover to stop the raindrop splash and slow water flow.

How it helps

It reduces soil erosion.
A vegetated area improves water quality by reducing the amount of sediment, nutrients and chemicals running off farmland.
Protects areas such as dams, terrace backslopes or gullied areas when vegetation may be difficult to establish.
Vegetation can be planted to provide small areas of nesting cover for birds and small animals.

Planning ahead


Will protection provided by the critical area planting be adequate?

Are proper soil conservation practices installed above the planting area?

Will you want to provide wildlife cover?

Can the area be stabilized with conservation methods?

Tech notes

Protect the area from erosion with annual grasses until permanent cover is established.
Apply lime and fertilizer, if needed, in the top three inches of the soil before planting.
Use proper rates and recommended seeding dates.
Severely eroded areas may need a nurse crop like oats. Seed oats at a rate of 1 to 1 1/2 bushels per acre. Mow oats before they head out if
possible. Mow high to avoid clipping the permanent seeding. *
Areas disturbed during construction or barren slopes 4:1 or steeper should be mulched to provide temporary protection before seeding.
Mulches include grass, hay, grain straw and shredded cornstalks.


Allow no grazing the year after planting and prevent overgrazing after permanent cover is established. Fence if needed.
Permanently exclude livestock from extremely steep slopes.
Native or warm season grasses can benefit from periodic burning, which stimulates growth by reducing and removing competing plant growth.

* Check for local recommendations.