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Critical Area Planting

Critical Area Planting

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

How it works

Permanent vegetation is established in small areas of excessive erosion and on sites that limit use of other practices. The vegetation provides surface cover to stabilize the area and decrease erosion by wind and water. The practice restores degraded sites not stabilized by other methods.

How it helps

  • Reduces soil erosion
  • Protects water quality by reducing sediment, nutrient and chemical runoff
  • Protects areas such as dams, terrace backslopes, or gullied areas when vegetation may be difficult to establish (protection benefits may occur offsite)
  • Provides small areas of nesting cover for birds and small animals

Planning ahead

  • Can the area be stabilized with other conservation methods?
  • Will protection provided by the planting be adequate?
  • Does selected vegetation provide cover at the right time?
  • Are proper soil conservation practices installed above the area?
  • Do you want wildlife cover?

Technical notes

  • Use recommended species and follow proper seeding rates and timing.
  • Follow seedbed preparation and mulching guidelines.
  • If gullies are present, treat them to allow equipment operation and to ensure seedbed preparation.
  • Apply lime and fertilizer, if needed, to the top three inches of soil before planting.
  • Protect the area from erosion with annual grasses until permanent cover is established.
  • Severely eroded areas may need a nurse crop like oats seeded at the same time to protect the young planting as it becomes established. Mow high to avoid clipping the permanent seeding.


  • 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.