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Maintaining Your Freshwater Shoreline

The goal of shorescaping, or planting a shoreline buffer, is to stabilize your shoreline, slow sedimentation in your pond, and act as a filter for surface runoff. Establishing a healthy buffer can reduce the need for fertilizer, pesticides, or mowing along the water’s edge, which ultimately protects water quality. To find out more on the benefits and practice of shorescaping, visit HGIC 1855, Shorescaping Freshwater Shorelines.

Cross-section of a shoreline buffer

Cross-section of a shoreline buffer Clemson Extension, ©2019

 

Newly planted shoreline using a mix of wetland plants, including Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and Soft Rush (Juncus effusus).

Newly planted shoreline using a mix of wetland plants, including Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and Soft Rush (Juncus effusus).
Amy Scaroni, ©2019, Clemson Extension

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) planted in the emergent zone of a freshwater shoreline.

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) planted in the emergent zone of a freshwater shoreline.
Amy Scaroni, ©2019, Clemson Extension

Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) is a versatile shoreline plant that is very easy to grow.

Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) is a versatile shoreline plant that is very easy to grow.
Amy Scaroni, ©2019, Clemson Extension

Powdery alligator flag (Thalia dealbata).

Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) is a versatile shoreline plant that is very easy to grow.
Amy Scaroni, ©2019, Clemson Extension

Louisiana Iris.

Louisiana Iris.
Amy Scaroni, ©2019, Clemson Extension

Before and after view of a planted shoreline.

A before and after view of a planted shoreline.
Katie Callahan, ©2019, Clemson Extension

The following maintenance recommendations are intended to help ensure the shorescape is a long-lasting and attractive investment.

Once Planted

You’ll need to keep a careful eye on your new buffer after planting.

  • You may need to water upland buffer plants until they are well established. Check the soil periodically to make sure it isn’t too wet or too dry and use a rain gauge to help track rainfall. Depending on your site characteristics, local weather events, and plant types, this might mean watering every other day at first, but reducing to weekly watering over time. Once plants are established, they should only need irrigation during times of drought.
  • Inspect for signs of wildlife damage, particularly from waterfowl. If damage is noted, install geese fencing to deter further impact. For more information on geese fencing, visit HGIC 1853, Resident Canada Geese: Along the Waterfront.
  • New plants may become dislodged as water levels fluctuate. Periodically inspect your shoreline for floating plants and replant as needed; consider staking plants where needed.
  • Erosion control blankets or coir logs can provide quick stabilization to erosion prone areas. Follow all manufacturers’ instructions for installation.
  • Spread the word. Make sure that your business or community is aware of the new buffer location, its benefits, and any maintenance considerations. This is especially important if an outside company will be handling maintenance such as mowing, weed control, etc.

Once Established

Periodically inspect your buffer, and establish an inspection schedule that includes routine maintenance to help keep your buffer healthy and thriving.

Plants

  • Check to see that roots are not exposed and plants are still intact and upright.
  • Pinch off diseased leaves and dispose of in a location away from the buffer and pond.
  • Some plants may perform better than others due to varying soil conditions, sun exposure, and fluctuating water levels. Replace dead or dying plants with species that are already doing well in your buffer.

Watering

  • Plants located directly at the water’s edge and in the water do not need to be watered, although you may need to keep an eye out for fluctuating water levels in the pond. For all other areas of the buffer, let rainfall be the primary source of water, except after initial planting and during times of drought.

Pruning

  • An infrequent, but regular, mowing schedule is necessary to maintain any grassy or meadow-like areas in your buffer zone. Infrequent mowing will promote the spread of desirable perennial grasses and flowering plants, and control the growth of annual weeds and woody vegetation. Every other year, alternate mowing these buffer zones in late spring and late fall. See Life at the Water’s Edge: A shoreline resident’s guide to natural lakeshore and streamside buffers for water quality protection in South Carolina for more information (Roth, 2004).
  • Crowns of plants in your buffer should be cut back and harvested once each year before the spring growing season begins.
  • Dispose of plant debris away from buffer and the waterway. Trimmings should never be left in place or allowed to wash into the water where they can contribute to water quality issues or block flow.

Mulch

  • Mulch should only be used in the upland zone. Do not use mulch along the pond bank because it may wash into the pond. Space plants closely at the water’s edge to reduce the potential for weeds to invade the shorescape.
  • Periodically inspect your buffer to see if mulch has washed away and replace as needed.

Weed Management

  • Use anintegrated weed management plan (see http://www.clemson.edu/public/ipm/define.html). Inspect your buffer every two weeks, and remove any invading weeds that will compete with desired plants.
  • If herbicides are necessary, select herbicides that are labeled for aquatic use, which have less potential to harm aquatic life. Undesirable trees, large vines, and woody shrubs, and tall weeds can be eliminated using a hack and squirt method which involves applying a systemic herbicide directly to the cut stem of the undesirable plant. Contact the Clemson Extension Service for assistance in weed identification and treatment.

Fertilizer

  • Using native plants that are well adapted to soil and climate conditions reduces the need for fertilizer. Avoid applying fertilizer in the buffer to reduce the potential for runoff into the waterway.

Keep Infrastructure Clear

  • Maintain buffers for maintenance access; do not let vegetation overtake easements and infrastructure along your waterway. Prevent the spread and growth of woody vegetation on pond dams or spillways.
  • Pay special attention to preventing plants from growing over inlet pipes and outfalls which can block flow. Keep vegetation at least 10-15 feet away from these structures.
  • Following storm events, inspect and remove any accumulated trash and debris found in the buffer zone and around infrastructure.

Sources:

  1. Life at the Water’s Edge: A shoreline resident’s guide to natural lakeshore and streamside buffers for water quality protection in South Carolina. Lin Roth, editor. Clemson University. Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, 2004.
  2. SC Waterways Factsheet: HGIC, 1855 Shorescaping Freshwater Shorelines, 2013.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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