Bare, eroding stream banks are a problem that many of us face in Southern PA. They pollute streams with tons of sediment and cause many people to lose property. But restoring stream banks is often an expensive procedure that many of us cannot afford to do. So how do we solve this problem?
Live staking is a great solution to stream bank erosion, and it can be done just for the cost of time. Live stakes are stems of wet tolerant trees and shrubs that are stuck directly into an eroding stream bank. The stakes are harvested while the plants are still dormant. Though live stakes can be purchased, they can also be cut directly from existing shrubs on your property. Black willow and red osier dogwood are the two species that are best for live staking. Stems can be cut from these shrubs and then cut into smaller lengths, about 2 or 3 feet long. The stems must then be inserted directly into an eroding stream bank at a 90 degree angle to the bank. It is best to plant them right after they have been cut at intervals of about 3 feet apart since not all of them are expected to survive. Once the plants come out of dormancy their energy will be redirected to establishing roots, so they may not produce any leaves during the first growing season.
Live staking provides a network of healthy, deep roots, which will stabilize your stream bank and reduce erosion.
More information can be found on the Penn State Extension’s website: http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/water/watershed-education/watershed-publications/live-staking