Issue: December 20, 2008

Controlling wind erosion in new New Mexico landscapes


I have an erosion problem going on in my back yard. What can I do to stop the wind from blowing away my dirt? I live in Rio Rancho, NM and want grass, trees and other plants. I also have to Labrador puppies that love dig and chew.

Irene M.


Winter is not a good time to plant grass in much of New Mexico, including Rio Rancho. Some people have tried using sod, but the grass is not growing and often doesn't develop a strong root system during the dormant season. Without roots, the grass will not survive. It is also not the best season for planting trees and shrubs, but they can survive if planted properly. Be sure that the roots of the newly planted trees and shrubs don't dry out. It is not too late to plant spring flowering bulbs if you have them. It would have been better if you had planted them one or two months ago, but we are now at the very end of the time when you can possibly succeed planting spring flowering bulbs.

To control the wind erosion of soil at this season, a mulch of straw or other organic material may be helpful. You will need to wet the straw and underlying soil and then roll it or otherwise press it into the soil to minimize the blowing of the straw. Rock mulch can also be applied in areas where it won't interfere with later planting.

You may also want to consider products called erosion control blankets. Dave Dreesen, agronomist/horticulturist with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Plant Material Center in Los Lunas works extensively with revegetation projects and has used these materials. He recommends the blankets made of biodegradable materials (straw and aspen excelsior). They may be bound together by a loose network of plastic or jute (the jute is biodegradable). With the jute materials, there are some that are densely made and others with gaps that allow planting into the gaps. He said these products are available in a variety of sources including some wholesale seed and nursery supply businesses and construction suppliers. These blankets of organic material will stay in place better than loose straw, but serve like straw to prevent erosion, conserve moisture, and protect any grass or other plant seeds under them.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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