How do I restore a shoreline that has been totally cleared and planted with grass?

If your shoreline has been substantially changed from its original vegetation, then you may be contributing to deteriorating water quality without realizing it! Plus, your shoreline may be at risk for erosion problems. Consider restoring it by planting some native shrubs or trees.

Before you start planting, do some planning:

– Make a brief sketch plan of your property, noting locations of roads and buildings; shoreline features; slopes; vegetation areas, and any other special natural features. A sketch plan helps you identify where you feel comfortable introducing native shrubs and trees.

– Look at the site conditions on your property – aspect (which direction it faces), type of soil, light, moisture, and degree of slope. These will all influence your planning.

– Identify how much of your shoreline you will feel comfortable letting revert to nature. Even a small area is a good start. Identify what you need for recreation; are there other ways of meeting your recreational needs with less use of the shoreline? A good rule of thumb is to let 80% of the shoreline revert to nature, leaving 20% for human use – dock, swimming area, etc.

– If you are planting in an established lawn, consider how you are going to handle the turf. You can either remove just enough to plant your shrubs and trees, or you can remove (by covering with black plastic or carpet pieces) larger sections and seed or replant with a variety of native grasses, perennials, shrubs, and trees.

– If a manicured landscaped look is very important to you, consider hiring a landscape architect who specializes in native plants. There are many native plants which can look attractive.

– Aim for the layered look; you’ll help protect your shoreline – and you’ll help wildlife too! Incorporate low lying ground cover, tall grass and wildflowers, shrubs, small trees and vines and, finally, tall trees. This way, you will create a more interesting landscape with a variety of shrubs and trees with different root masses to help bind your soil and hold your shoreline together. You will also create homes for a variety of wildlife.

– Remember to protect the vegetation that grows in water – this is critical for helping protect your shoreline, as well as for many forms of wildlife.