Why is a
natural shoreline important?
Undeveloped or restored
shorelines carpeted by woods, meadows, or marshes enhance the quality
of Minnesotas lakes and rivers, as well as our recreational
opportunities. If youre lucky enough to have shoreline that
hasnt been developed, think before you clear it. If your property
has already been altered, there are steps you can take to have a more
natural shoreline. Natural shorelines help protect water quality by
slowing runoff, reducing erosion, and filtering nutrients that can
cause algal blooms. They also provide habitat for wildlife and can
deter nuisance species like Canada geese. Natural shorelines add beauty
and color to property, increase privacy, and can reduce the amount
of time you spend on lawn care! By improving water quality, habitat,
and appearance, a natural shoreline can even improve your property
What is a shoreland
A shoreland buffer
strip (also called a filter strip or buffer zone) separates your lawn
from the lake. It typically includes taller grasses, blooming plants,
shrubs and trees, as well as aquatic plants such as cattails, rushes,
How can I establish
a shoreland buffer?
The easiest approach
to establishing a buffer strip is simply to do nothing. If you stop
mowing, weeding, and raking your shoreland area, many native plants
will likely reestablish. Plants such as spike rush, sedges, and arrowhead
have become established on some shorelines when people stopped cutting
and raking. Another option is to actively restore the site by replanting
native vegetation in the water and on the adjacent land.
There are four steps
to restore your shore:
- 1. Start by assessing your site and the different ways you use it
(e.g., swimming, making campfires, docking your boat).
- Carefully plan your project and prepare the site.
- Select and plant appropriate native plants.
- Maintain the area so the plants become well established.
What do I need to consider
before I plant my shoreline?
Consider the specific
conditions at your site, including light, moisture, orientation, and
degree of slope. Identify soil type and the type of lake bottom (mucky,
sandy, rocky). Think about where youre located on the lake
do you get a lot of wind and wave action, or direct sunlight for much
of the day? Consider how you want to use the property and how much
of your shoreline you want to restore. Resource professionals recommend
that you maintain a shoreland buffer along 75% of the shoreline frontage.
Keep in mind that the goal of shoreland restoration isnt to
eliminate access and recreational use, but to provide the benefits
of a natural shore, while allowing those uses in carefully defined
areas. Shoreline revegetation is most likely to succeed in areas that
are sheltered and experience little or moderate wave action, do not
experience significant changes in water level during the growing season,
and are not very steep.
Why choose native plants
for the shoreline?
Native plants are
plants that grew in your area before European settlement and the introduction
of cultivars and exotic species. The extensive root systems of native
plants help protect your shore against erosion. Removing the native
plants and replacing them with shallow-rooted turf grass causes many
shoreline erosion problems. Native plants improve habitat for fish
and wildlife. Minnesota animals are adapted to native vegetation and
rely on it for food, shelter, and nesting. Imported cultivars or exotic
plants dont provide the same wildlife benefits. You reduce the
chance that exotic plants will invade when native species are in the
shoreland area. A healthy population of native plants is better able
to withstand competition from exotic species. Native plants can reduce
the need for lawn chemicals and fertilizer that may end up in your
lake. Finally native plants are better adapted to Minnesotas
climate and growing season. By choosing natives, youll preserve
a more natural appearance and probably have better plant survival
than with imported cultivars.
How should I prepare
Steps required to
prepare the site for planting include removing exotic vegetation within
the planned buffer area, thinning existing vegetation to allow new
plants to become established, moving any docks or paths located in
the revegetation zone, and grading slopes if necessary while taking
care to prevent erosion. Once the planting takes place, mulching around
the new plants helps reduce invasion of undesirable species.
Where do I find a list
of plants appropriate to grow in my area?
Finding native plants
appropriate for your area of Minnesota may be difficult. Prairie plants
that would fit well on the shores of southern lakes arent necessarily
appropriate for northern Minnesota. You can try local nurseries, your
SWCD or Extension office, the regional DNR office (Ecological Services),
or the county biological survey. A county Master Gardener may be your
best bet to find out where to get plants that are truly native to
your area. Nurseries may carry plants that are labeled "native,"
but that might mean native to North America, the Upper Midwest, or
anyplace in Minnesota. A good idea of what aquatic and upland plants
will do well in your area can be obtained by boating around your own
lake. See what grows naturally in the water and what plants are working
for other property owners. To accelerate the naturalizing process
or to feature particular plants, your best option is to plant seedlings.
Select appropriate plants for each of the shoreland zones (upland,
near shore and in the water). Do not harvest wild seeds or plants
or purchase from nurseries that wild-harvest. Wild stocks should be
left to self-propagate. Do not buy generic wildflower packs, because
they often contain unwanted weed seeds. Before installing aquatic
plants, obtain a no-fee permit from the DNR.
What kind of maintenance
is necessary for native planting?
A shoreland restored
with native vegetation should maintain itself. Apply mulch to new
planting beds to prevent soil erosion, hold moisture in the soil,
and control weeds. You may need to water and weed the first season,
but once the plants are established, they will be able to out-compete
most weeds. Native species should never be fertilized because they
are adapted to the nutrient levels found in local soils. Fertilizers
and pesticides applied to areas near shore can be a threat to aquatic
life and water quality. Plants left standing in fall and winter provide
seeds and shelter for wildlife, add interest to the winter landscape,
and protect the soil from wind erosion. If some plants do not survive
the first year, replant as quickly as possible to maintain a continuous
vegetative cover. As your shoreland buffer grows, you may want to
trim some tree branches or shrubs to keep your view of the lake clear.
"Shoreland editing" gives you a view while maintaining the
benefits of a natural shoreline.
Who can I contact if
I have questions or a problem related to shoreland revegetation?
Check your local telephone
listing, the Who to Contact
section of the Minnesota Shoreland Management Resource Guide Web site,
or the Web sites listed below for:
- A Master Gardener
- University of Minnesota
- A landscape designer
- Your county Soil
and Water Conservation District office
- Your Minnesota Department
of Natural Resources (DNR) area hydrologist
What are some additional
resources about shoreland revegetation?
- Lakescaping for
Wildlife and Water Quality. 1999. C.L. Henderson, C.J. Dindorf,
and F. J. Rozumalski, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
- Nursery Sources
for Natural Landscaping. 1994. University of Wisconsin Extension
- Shoreland Landscaping
Series: A guide to natural landscaping and revegetation for enhancing
lake quality. 1999. University of Minnesota Extension Service,
- Wetland Plants
and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin. 1997. S.D. Eggers
and D. M. Reed. US Army Corps of Engineers