Winter Lake & Pond Buffer Management Tips

winter pond and lake management scenic (15)

Keeping a buffer of beneficial plants around your lake or pond is a no-brainer; it’s a simple, natural and effective way to promote and maintain good water quality. A beneficial buffer will help filter stormwater runoff and also help prevent erosion around the shoreline of your waterbody. Buffers can also help to deter geese and other nuisance animals from wreaking havoc in and around your lake or pond. Properly maintaining a buffer zone is just as important as establishing one, and there are several things that can be done over the winter that will help to ensure that your lake or pond is healthy and beautiful come springtime.

While buffers are vital to proper lake and pond management, they do not need to be excessively high. For this reason, an annual cutting is recommended to maintain the aesthetic appeal of your waterbody. Winter is an ideal time to trim buffer plants since vegetation growth has slowed or ceased. Every effort should be taken to keep cuttings out of your waterbody as an influx of organic matter could result in future water quality problems. In addition to helping your property look great throughout the year, dormant season trimming also helps to seed the buffer for the upcoming growing season and conditions the soil to promote growth.

Maintaining healthy buffer length

When it comes to trimming the plants that make up your lake or pond’s buffer zone, be sure that the vegetation is not cut too short as this may result in increased nutrient loading. It is recommended that beneficial vegetative buffers are maintained at three feet tall and at least three feet wide. Buffers wider than three feet can be utilized, if feasible or desired, and will do an even better job at filtering runoff, thus decreasing the chances of future algae blooms and other water quality issues. Maintaining a tall and healthy buffer is also a great way to eliminate geese problems on your site. Geese prefer to inhabit or congregate in areas where there is a direct line of sight to the waterbody, with no barriers to getting in and out of the water. When you maintain a thick, tall buffer, geese are encouraged to move to another body of water, rather than deal with the difficulty of accessing a lake or pond that has an established buffer.

When managing your vegetative buffer, the amount and distribution of woody vegetation should also be considered. Though woody vegetation can sometimes look nice, it can also cause on-going water quality issues. Trees and shrubs can destabilize banks, dry out soil, and add large amounts of unwanted nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus to your lake or pond. Certain types of woody vegetation can also allow beavers and muskrats to create dams. And due to their hardy nature, trees and shrubs can be very difficult to control. Many woody plants will shed their leaves and slow their growth in the winter, which makes it much easier to trim or remove them from the shoreline during this time of year. Most owners and managers of lakes and ponds do a good job of establishing a beneficial buffer, but often fall short in their overall vegetation management. This winter, take the time to assess your waterbody’s buffer. A properly maintained buffer zone can go a long way in helping prevent problems for your lake or pond.

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SOLitude Lake Management is a nationwide environmental firm committed to providing sustainable solutions that improve water quality, enhance beauty and preserve natural resources.

SOLitude’s team of aquatic scientists specializes in the development and execution of customized lake, stormwater pond, wetland and fisheries management programs. Services include water quality testing and restoration, algae and aquatic weed control, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, shoreline erosion control, muck and sediment removal and invasive species management. SOLitude partners with homeowners associations, golf courses, private landowners, businesses and municipalities. SOLitude Lake Management is part of Rentokil, a leading business services company, operating across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

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