How to slow winter runoff, erosion and pollution in your yard

Last Updated: 
February 19, 2003

Gail Glick Andrews, water quality education specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service, offers some hints on ways home gardeners can help protect streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater during the wet part of the year.

Check your property during or after heavy rains for runoff. Do you see soil being carried way in little rivulets of surface runoff? Avoid leaving bare soil over the winter. Either plant grass or another ground cover or mulch your bare ground with straw, leaves or compost.

In addition to the problem of soil erosion, surface and ground water can be contaminated with excess nitrogen from fertilizers and manures. If you can't cover your garden beds with a cover crop or a mulch, try covering your raised beds with plastic to prevent excess leaching in the winter. A plastic mulch may also allow you to work the soil earlier in the spring because it will help prevent the soil from becoming saturated with rain or snow melt.

Use straw bales to trap soil at the base of steep slopes.

Watch for areas where water puddles up. If you have a septic system, make sure that water is not collecting in the drain field area. Do not have gutter down spouts empty in this area.

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Gail Glick Andrews