Shoreline Landscaping

shoreline that has been mowed to the edge

This shoreline lacked a buffer zone...

native shoreline up to the water's edge

For the last few years, the owners have been restoring a buffer zone to the land.

Lake shores and other waterfront areas are some of the most biologically diverse communities in the Midwest. Although waterfront lots have specific legal boundaries, a lake, pond, river, or stream benefits or suffers from the cumulative actions of all property owners near the water.

This gives waterfront landowners special responsibilities in the community. How they manage their waterfront property has a significant impact on the water's ecosystem and, in fact, the ecosystem of a large surrounding area.

The Importance of Buffer Zones

One of the best ways to promote good health in and around a body of water is to create a buffer zone. A buffer zone is a strip of natural vegetation between your lawn and the water. Preferably it requires at least 50 percent (75 percent is even better) of the property along the shoreline, extends from 25 to 100 or more feet onto the land and 25 to 50 feet into the water, and consists of vegetation that is natural to the area. The benefits of creating a buffer zone are immense. A good buffer zone:

  • creates a natural filter to prevent lawn fertilizer and pesticides from running off from the land into the water
  • helps purify the water by removing contaminants and encouraging soil particles to settle to the bottom
  • stabilizes sediments and shorelines and increases water clarity
  • reduces acreage of lawn and, therefore, the amount of time needed for mowing and maintenance
  • reduces the amount of fertilizers and herbicides required (native plants do not require fertilizers or herbicides)
  • deters geese from loitering on the lawn and shoreline, eliminating goose dung
  • discourages muskrats burrowing under the lawn area (if property owner does not mow within 25 feet of the water’s edge) because their burrows do not extend far enough into the bank to reach the lawn
  • absorbs the energy of waves that may erode the soil
  • preserves natural appearance of shoreline
  • provides increased wildlife diversity and improves habitat
  • reduces noise, such as from motor boats and jet skis, coming off the water

Also, well-planned buffer zones can hide undesirable views while framing the ones you want.

Recreating a natural buffer zone may seem to be a major task, but the result will be better water quality, more wildlife, better preservation of your property, and less time and money spent on lawn maintenance. The first step is to recognize the need for a buffer zone. Then, seek assistance from people or organizations who recognize the need to keep or re-establish buffer zones. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offers information and workshops to improve the quality of shorelines and water.