Lakescaping... the future of your shoreline.
This story first appeared in Lake & Country Magazine.
Our Wisconsin lakes are a treasure, worthy of the best protections we can
Sixty years ago, you could dip a cup into any of our local lakes, and
drink the water. Today, if you stand in some lakes up to your ankles, you can't
see your feet because of the algae. Development has had a huge impact. The good
news is we now know how to arrest, prevent, and even reverse the deterioration
of our lakes.
Research shows that a thriving plant community on the lake edge is crucial
for good water quality.
Lakescaping encompasses plantings from 100 feet of the
shoreline all the way down to and into the water. Native trees, shrubs,
wildflowers, grasses, sedges, and aquatic plants provide a buffer against soil
erosion. Densely rooted plants trap and filter fertilizers, chemicals, and other
pollutants. Shoreline vegetation fosters zooplankton which are essential to the
lake ecosystem. Lakeshore is one of the most biologically diverse natural
communities in the Midwest. It is not just property, it is habitat!
Shoreline buffers, once established, are very low maintenance.
They can be
planned to preserve and enhance lake views, accommodate recreation, and, because
there is less lawn to mow, increase leisure time. Buffers also keep nuisance
animals, like Canada Geese, off the shore. Plantings don't cause mosquito
problems. A planted area along the lake serves as a resting area for
dragonflies, damselflies, frogs and the like, all of which help keep the
mosquito population in check by eating them.
How to proceed? 1. Make a plan.
The state recommends that at least 3/4 of
your lake frontage be planted in shoreline buffer, and unneeded lawn should be
eliminated from all areas of your lakeshore property. Plan to place trees and
shrubs to enhance your view, and grasses, sedges, and wildflowers to fill the
gaps, and provide color. Emergent, floating, and submergent plants will be
anchored in water until they are established. 2. Inform yourself about laws and
zoning requirements. Links to state and local agencies can be found on the
Shorelines page at www.botanicawisconsin.com. 3. Select your plants. Native plants thrive best in the local ecosystem. 4.
Prepare the site by eliminating invasive weeds and turf, then plant, being sure
to follow state and local guidelines. 5. Finally, maintain it. Diligent
attention is necessary for the first two years, to keep weeds out. After plants
are established, they will outcompete most weeds. No maintenance is usually
necessary on the lakeshore after the first two years.
Now may be a great time to get started on your lakeshore enhancements.
Department of Natural Resources is currently updating its 34-year -old shoreland
development standards. The new standards will address minimum lot size,
setbacks, and shoreland vegetation management. New mandates will offer better
protection of our lakes, but requirements will be more rigorous, and permitting
will be even more challenging.
The writer is co-owner of Botanica Fine Gardens and Landscapes which
installs shoreline buffer plantings, landscapes, gardens and ponds in the
Southern Lakes area. For more information call (262) 248-7513 or check out