Bulkheads are not the best or only way to prevent erosion and can create dangerous drop offs, especially to children and the elderly. They also interrupt natural shoreline vegetation and nutrient flow.
Controlling erosion and run-off by planting natural/native vegetation provides a more gradual transition from yard to lake, helps beautify the lake and enhances wildlife habitats. Native plants require less pesticides and fertilizers, need less water and create a natural filter system trapping nutrients from water run-off before it enters the lake. Rain and watering can cause wide-spread use of fertilizers to wash into the lake and cause rapid aquatic plant growth and algae blooms, which hamper lake activities and kill fish. Careless disposal of lawn clippings and yard debris will also pollute the water. Dispose of these and/or start compost piles well away from the lake. Pesticides and herbicides can cause serious damage to fish, wildlife, and people, especially if applied on windy days or stored improperly. Always read the labels carefully regarding their use and container disposal.
Canadian Geese like to feed in short grassy areas, but their feces on docks, lawns and in the water can cause harmful nutrients in the lake and are unsightly, unsanitary and unsafe. (It is illegal to feed waterfowl in all three of the counties around the lake!)
Consider placing a path through a six to eight foot wide buffer zone of low growing plants on the way to a dock or beach. Many plants are suitable for this area of wet soil. In future newsletters we'll talk about designing and specific plants for your buffer garden.
In our last edition I wrote about common problems with shoreline landscapes and introduced the concept and benefit of creating a "buffer zone" between your yard and the lake to correct those problems. In this edition we'll look at what makes up a buffer zone.
First, every bit of buffer counts. Any amount is better than none. The most effective backyard buffer has three zones:
Streamside: From the water to the top of the bank. It protects the bank and offers habitat. The best buffer has mature forest but large shrubs may be a better choice where trees have collapsed a bank. Let it grow and let it go for the best protection.
Middle zone: From the top of the bank inland. It protects stream water quality and offers habitat. The area can vary in width, depending on the slope and use of nearby land. The best buffer has trees, shrubs, and perennial ground plants. Portions can be cleared for water access.
Outer zone: The yard, garden, or woods between your home and the rest of the buffer. This area traps sediment. Play areas, gardens, compost piles, and other common residential activities occur here.
To begin your buffer, spend some time outside during a heavy rainstorm, watching to see where the water goes. Your buffer will do the best job of filtering runoff when the water spreads out and does not flow straight to the lake in a channel. Re-grade, or use stones or landscape timbers to divert runoff into flatter areas where it can soak in.
Avoid planting a lawn to the water's edge. Lawns have no habitat values (except for mice