Ground cover to avoid erosion


Hello, I live in Etobicoke North M9W 2B4. My backyard is on a ravine and has a steep Slope. Also I am a quadriplegic (paralyzed from neck down) I am looking for some ground covering and/or plants/shrubs to keep the slope stable. Also for flat areas of the backyard I am looking for no/very low maintenance ground covering. As I am disabled and cannot maintain regular sod. Thanks


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your inquiry.

When choosing a ground cover and shrubs there are many factors to consider. What is the soil like? Is there good drainage in the spot? How much sun is the area exposed to? Is it exposed to harsh winter conditions or sheltered? How much rain does the area receive? Without this information it is difficult to make a specific recommendation.

Another important factor to consider is the fact that you back onto a ravine. It is important to be aware that there are a few  groundcovers and shrubs on the Ontario invasive species list which unfortunately are still available in nurseries.

The following information is from of our recent posts on gorundcovers:

This City of Guelph website gives a very good overview of the kinds of plants available as lawn substitutes based on a variety of factors including foot traffic resilience and soil type.  All choices are winter hardy in our part of the province:!pane2

Two possibilities you may wish to consider for the flat area of your backyard are:

 Thymus species: Wooly thyme is a hardy herb perfect for sunny locations. Once established it tolerates dry conditions and spreads slowly, eventually creating a thick mat of foliage.

Scotch moss (Sagina subluata) is a very low growing perennial grows best is full sun/partial shade and prefers fertile mosit soil. Both Scotch moss and Thyme can handle moderate foot traffic. This link gives more information on these ground covers.

The following information is from one of our earlier posts Ground cover for a hill in bright sunlight :

Selecting plant material that will provide an effective groundcover in full sun and prevent the soil from eroding, while supporting the biodiversity of the area is important. By covering the ground with a carpet of vegetation it prevents the germination of weed seeds. Once established it protects the soil from erosion, acts as an insulating cover for the soil and provides habitats and cover for beneficial insects.

Bearberry contoneaster (Cotoneaster dammeri ) is a rapid growing, mounding cover with pinkish-white flowers in May and colourful berries from September through to December. They need full sun or partial shade, and thrive in fertile soils but tolerate any soil as long as it is well-drained. Full sun will give the heaviest fruit display According to Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs ” Cotoneaster tends to become ratty with time and requires pruning to maintain neatness”. It’s a good idea to apply a thick layer of mulch around ground cover types soon after planting to suppress weeds, until the plant grows in and covers the soil.

Bearberry, Kinnikinnick ( Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ): This attractive and hardy plant is native to most of Canada, found in all provinces and territories and at various elevations, from sea level to sub-alpine. It is is generally drought, wind, salt and heat resistant. Its older stems tend to be reddish-brown to grey, fairly smooth and peeling, whereas new stems can be redder and covered with smooth hair. Bearberry is a great wildlife plant. It provides nectar, which has been known to attract butterfly caterpillars, butterflies and hummingbirds. Unlike cotoneaster, this shrub grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 20 years. This plant grows  best in acidic ( p/H.<6.8 ) sandy or rocky conditions. According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation: ” If your soil isn’t acidic, you can increase its acidity by adding some pine and oak trees to the side of your property where you hope to one day add bearberry.”

You might also be interested in the booklet ‘Grow Me Instead’ from the Ontario Invasive Plants Council suggesting some native groundcovers and shrubs.  Click here.

April 9, 2021