Leaf Ninjas has grown over the past decade into a biotechnology company specializing in plant supply and installation for large-scale bioengineering projects. 

              Prairie wave erosion – Southwinds Stormwater management pond for Mattamy homes


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.

We offer live poles and cuttings for live staking, brush layering, live soil wraps, timber crib walls, brush mattress, live pole drains, fascine bundles, pit planting, sonotubes, gap planting, plug planting and other bioengineering methods. All of our live stake willows are harvested locally and specific for projects needs. Leaf Ninjas offers post-harvest handling and storage in our onsite reefer truck. Painting of live cuttings with 50/50 latex, water, and sand. Leaf Ninjas also offers soaking services.  All methods to ensure optimum success and ease during installation and after planting maintenance. Leaf Ninjas are up to date with the latest information about harvesting and installation techniques for erosion control and bio-engineering from leading organizations and individuals.  We take all the steps to ensure optimum success for all projects we are involved in.

live stakes


Applicable Uses
Commonly used Alberta live cutting species
Live cutting sizing chart
    • Erosion and Sediment control


    • Riparian restoration


    • Prairie Wave Erosion


    • Waterfront erosion


    • Slope stabilization


    • Stormwater outflow protection


    • Industrial and mining restoration


    • Vegetated sound barrier


    • 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)
    • 0.6m


    • 1m


    • 1.2m


    • 1.5


    • 1.8m


    • 2m


    • 2.2m


  • Additional sizing can be requested depending on species and time of year
Red Osier Dogwood live stakes (Cornus sericea (stolonifera))

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.

Installation notes

Live stakes are harvested during their dormancy (late fall, Oct 1st to early spring, March 31st) to ensure viability for planting. Installation can commence after October 1st, and up to June 10th. Live stakes MUST be stored in a refrigerated condition until planting of temperatures of -2-degree Celsius or lower.  Soaking live stakes will increase success and growth rates. 1-2 week in spring, 3-5 days in fall. Drive a pilot hole in the soil, (buds oriented up) with at least two-thirds of its length underground, preferably 7/8ths is underground. Gently tamp the soil around the live stake and water in thoroughly to ensure no air gaps are touching the live stake. Live stakes should be irrigated for one-year minimum. 

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)

Live stake project examples

Bio-engineering and erosion control project with Dave Polster Environmental and the Elbow River Watershed Partnership, erosion control, live staking
Live staking at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary along the Bow River, Calgary, AB – Project for the City of Calgary
Live staking in High River, AB along the Highwood River. Project completed for Dakoda Reclamators LTD
Installation along the Bow River in Calgary, AB. Project completed for City of Calgary


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.

Installation notes

There is a wide range of methods to use, please contact us to assess your unique conditions.

Prairie Wave Erosion solution at Southwinds community in Airdrie, AB. Client – Mattamy Homes

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


A brush mattress is a layer of criss-crossing live stems installed along a streambank face. The brush mattresses are used to produce a dense vegetated cover, immediately act as a sediment trap, can replace riprap and produces a filter barrier to prevent erosion.

Installation notes

Place live cuttings with basel ends facing the bottom of the slop. Using 1m square spacing drive wedges, live stakes or poles between the installed plant material. Stretch wire or biodegradable twine along the posts. Drive the posts deeper into the stream bank to secure the twine to the brush mattress plant material. Place a thin layer of soil over the entire brush mattress to encourage rapid vegetation. Irrigation is essential immediately after for plant establishment and effective soil adhesion onto the live cuttings.

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.

Installation notes

Find gaps in the riprap and use a stinger attachment or rebar to drive a pilot hole. Insert the dormant live stake and tamp the soil around the plant material. Water immediately.

Timber Crib Wall

A live crib wall is used to rebuild a bank which is nearly vertical. It consists of a cabin boxlike interlocking logs or timber members. The structure is filled with river rock at the bottom or required grade of stone and soil. The beginning of stone and soil starts typically at the high-water mark. Layers of live cuttings root inside the crib structure and extend into the slope. Over time the live cuttings vegetate the wall and disguise the timber frame.


Sonotubes are construction tubing set into landscape either pre or post-construction. The tubes are biodegradable and can be filled with live cuttings and soil. The controlled growing medium established the root system of live cuttings then the sonotube biodegrades allowing the rooted cuttings to expand into the native soils.

Box fascine

Box fascine is similar to a regular fascine bundle, except there are typically four bundles. The first two bundles and set onto a shelf cut into the river bank, soil and stone are tamped on top of the bundles. Two posts at each end of the bundle are installed to create a frame for the remaining two fascine bundles on top of the first two. Cover the remaining bundles in the soil and water thouroughly to eliminate any air pockets during installation.

Installation and harvesting best practices

    • Live cuttings which 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 7/8ths 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.
Leaf Ninjas packing out live cuttings harvest.
Installation along the Bow River in Calgary, AB. Project completed for City of Calgary
live stakes
Balsam poplar live poles ready for delivery before silvicool tarps covering live stakes for transport.