Leaf Ninjas has grown over the past decade into an erosion control and slope stability company specializing in plant supply and installation for bioengineering projects. 

live stakes     Bioengineering

Soil bioengineering is the term used to describe the use of plant material to arrest and prevent slope and streambank failure and erosion. The roots and stems serve as structural and mechanical elements in a slope protection system. Live cuttings and rooted plants are embedded in the ground in various arrays to serve as soil reinforcements, hydraulic drains, and barriers to earth movement. Once established, this living material effectively controls a number of stabilization and erosion control problems by binding the soil with its root system and creating a natural vegetative cover. Bioengineered sites are self-repairing and have the advantage of blending with natural surroundings.

Leaf Ninjas bioengineering services

  • Harvesting dormant live stakes
  • Cold storage and soaking services
  • Full installation services as well as working with contractos in house machine operators.
  • Live staking
  • Brush layering, bursh mattress and soil wraps
  • Live pole drains and contour fascine
  • Rip rap gap planting, plug planting and other bioengineering installation methods.

Common live stake species

  • Salix exigua ssp. Interior (Sandbar willow)
  • Salix lutea (Yellow twig willow)
  • Salix bebbiana (Diamond willow)
  • Salix petiolaris (Meadow willow)
  • Salix lucida (Shining willow)
  • Salix discolour (Pussy willow)
  • Cornus sericea (C. stolonifera) (Red Osier Dogwood)
  • Populus balsamifera (Balsam poplar)
  • Sizes range from 0.5m-3m in length, 10mm-30mm in diameter 

Common restoration applications

  • Erosion and Sediment control
  • Riparian restoration
  • Prairie Wave Erosion (erosion on ponds caused by wind)
  • Waterfront erosion
  • Slope stabilization
  • Stormwater outflow protection
  • Industrial and mining restoration
  • Vegetated sound barriers for roadways
  • Agricultural windrows
  • Tall rooted stakes for “off season” bio-engineering projects

Project Gallery

Installation and harvesting best practices

  • Live cuttings that are to be installed in any way must be harvested in dormancy, which leaves harvesting timeline between October 1st – March 31st.
  • Harvest live stakes with arboriculture and forestry grade tools. Felco pruners and silky hand saws or equivalent. Make flat cuts at least 6” above ground.
  • Live cuttings must be kept in cold storage until planted. They should be stored in temperatures of 0-degree Celsius with high humidity and completely protected from UV. The best solution for storage is a reefer truck or storage unit.  
  • Soaking and hydration of live stakes will greatly increase your success and growth rates. Fall time soaking – 3-5 days in freshwater. Springtime soaking 1-2 weeks in freshwater.
  • Plant live cuttings with buds facing up.
  • Ensure live cuttings are thoroughly watered in during planting so no air pockets remain around the live cutting.
  • Avoid using heavy machinery around planting areas to reduce compaction.
  • Plant 7/8th of the live stake underground.
  • Create a shaded area to store live stakes onsite during installation protected from UV light.
  • All plant material should be free from disease and defects.
  • Do not peel or damage the bark.
  • Painting the tips with a 50/50 latex paint mixed with water and sand to prevent desiccation, moisture loss, disease entry and herbivory deterrent.

Live Stakes

Live stakes are dormant, live woody cuttings of an Alberta selected species with the branches removed. Live staking performs an important function in creating a fast-growing root mass that stabilizes the soil by reinforcing and binding soil and roots together. Live stake vegetation also improves aesthetics and provides fish habitat and for other wildlife. Live stakes can be used independently to secure other bioengineering materials and as an anchor for erosion control and geo-fabrics. Stakes and poles can also be used in pocket planting for riprap material and other constructed structures. Live staking is Leaf Ninjas most efficient and innovative installation and vegetation methods.

Offseason solution for live staking

If your project is delayed and installation can only be completed in the summer after June 10th or before October 1st, an alternative to complete a project with live stakes is using our tall rooted stake product (TRS)

Brush (Branch) Layers

Brush layers are a row of live cuttings placed on a terrace with stems criss-crossing or overlapping between layers of soil with tips protruding beyond the face of a hill.

Installation notes

Brush layers are placed on terraced benches with two-thirds of the basal material facing into the slope. Live cuttings will be criss-crossed or overlapped and covered with soil. Branches should protrude beyond the face of the terrace. Geo-fabrics can be installed in the terraces before live cuttings and soil are added. Machines will be required for this installation. Cutting density for the first layer is between 20-50 stems per linear meter. Additional rows can have 5-10 stems per linear meter. Live cuttings are to be installed during dormancy. Rodent protection should be considered during installation.

Prairie Wave Erosion

Prairie wave erosion is a soil erosion issue caused by winds blowing water in ponds, lakes and stormwater management systems damaging shorelines on private and public lands. There are several different methods to use to protect from damaging waves, stabilize further erosion, rebuild, create habitat and revegetate the ShoreBank.

Fascine Bundles

Fascines are live cuttings bound together in long cylinder bundles. When the fascine bundle is installed, it is placed into a trench on contour to act as a growing and living sediment trap. Alternatively, you can angle the bundles to act as a drain. This method provides fast-acting bank support even prior to root development. Once established, this live material grows into a living fence-like root and shoot erosion and sediment barrier.

Installation notes

This technique is effective and can be installed with hand tools. The material is placed in wide trenches on banks or slopes parallel to the stream contour. The fascine bundle is buried ¾ underground. Wedge-like dead stakes secure fascines in place at 2’-3’ intervals. Multiple bundles can be installed together by interweaving the basel and tip ends. Live stakes can also be used to secure the fascine bundles to your slope. Ensure the newly installed bundles are watered, this will allow the soil to settle in-between live cuttings of the bundles eliminating air pockets which could be damaging to root growth. Straw mulching the site after installation retains moisture and reduces surface erosion. Irrigating after installation is necessary if the soil is dry.

Fascine bundles for streambank restoration project in Edmonton, AB

Live Pole Drain

Live pole drains systems consist of cylindrical live cutting bundles used to guide the flow of water in large areas that are wet with drainage issues. The live pole drains rapidly vegetate the damaged area, create sediment traps and channel the flow of water to the desired location.

Installation notes

Similar to fascine bundles, live pole drains are buried at least ¾ underground. The bundles are typically installed in a chevron pattern navigating drainage of water into a centralized channel. It is immediately effective after installation before live cuttings develop vegetation and roots.  

Riprap/ gap planting planting

Gap planting and rip rap planting is a technique used to disguise stone used to reinforce the river bank. The gap planting also provides habitat and holds the soil between the stone. It involves installation of live stakes in between the riprap.


To make your project as easy and successful as possible, contact us to start a discussion