Shoreline Resoration

Linda Fierheller

A healthy shoreline ensures that the water quality remains pure, and that all wildlife – birds, insects, turtles, frogs, are able to continue their life cycles with little disturbance. Native vegetation ensures that these animals are fed and protected. Shrubs, grasses, trees, flowers due to their variations in root systems, help to keep the soil intact, filters water, removes impurities, and slows runoff so that water tables are built up.

There are a number of things to do to ensure a natural and healthy shoreline. Don’t allow lawns to go down to the water. A natural, uncut strip of vegetation, about 10 meters in width, should be left along the shoreline for the reasons noted above. A pathway, wide enough to accommodate walkers, giving access to the shore and dock is reasonable, but replanting the 10 meter strip in native shrubs, trees and grasses is very important. It is interesting to note that, where the shoreline has been left undisturbed, plants are naturally diversified, and remain so, however, where disturbances have occurred, clearing of areas, lawns to the shore, when left to recover, invasive species seem to flood in. This area will require thoughtful planting of diverse native species and a good weeding out of the unwanted plants.

The replacement of native plants can be done by removing areas of sod, and then planting wanted shrubs and trees. Dogwoods, shrub willows, meadowsweet, and native grasses are a good start. One shrub per meter of shoreline is a good rule of thumb. Try to plant spring and fall, when temperatures are cool, and good rainfalls can be expected. If your planting area is about 60 sq. meters, plan to plant 50 to 60 small shrubs. These can then be interspersed with appropriate native trees. Look around your area and see what trees are growing where. Low wet areas, rocky outcrops, dry sandy or a bit of everything determines the types of plants required. Be sure the planting hole is wide and deep enough to accommodate the root systems. Try to ensure that they get a good watering every week or two.

There are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t lift plants from wild sites, as this will damage other natural areas. Use good nursery stock to ensure success in transplanting. Peterborough’s Ecology Park is a great spot to get anything you will need.
  • If erosion is a problem, loose stones of varying sizes, laid along a gradual slope right into the water, and interplanted with shrubs and vines will provide shoreline protection to absorb and break up detrimental wave action.
  • Where beavers are active, wrap newly planted trees with loose blankets of chicken wire, or hardware cloth.
  • Cover all bare soil with a mulch – wood chips or straw is good. This helps to prevent erosion and retains moisture in the soil.
  • Remember – gasoline spills, pesticides, cleaning products, are toxic, and if used near the shore, can contaminate the water.
  • Use compost instead of fertilizers that will leach into the water, upsetting and increasing the growth of some aquatic plants, causing them to clog waterways.
  • Conserve water use as everything that goes into a septic system does eventually reach the lake or river.

A few suggestions for planting in:

Dry Upland Areas (Rocky, exposed areas):

TREES – Balsam Fir, Basswood, White Cedar, and Sugar Maple. SHRUBS – Serviceberry, Red Elder, Grey Dogwood, Common Juniper. Grasses and Wildflowers – New England Aster, Switch grass, Black-eyed Susan.

Wet, Lowlands (Wet or flooded for part of the season):

TREES – Red Maple, Black or Green Ash, Eastern Hemlock. SHRUBS – Speckled Alder, Red Osier Dogwood, Pussy Willow, Common Elderberry. Grasses and Flowers – Swamp Milkweed, Prairie Cordgrass, Joe-Pye Weed.

For further information to read, or for planting advice, contact either Peterborough Green-up at (705) 745-3238, email- or Peterborough Ecology Park which have the same phone and email contacts.