Planting and Maintenance

Buffer Zones

  Planting a Vegetated Buffer

Composition - Select a variety of trees, shrubs and ground covers to be used in your buffers. All of these types of plants should be included because in combination they take up the most water and nutrients. To make the best choice, look at what is already growing in your area and try to replace it. In areas where a modest view of the lake is desired, the predominant planting can be shrubs. Keep the openings in the tree canopy small. When you eliminate trees you can also reduce the quality of the buffer for deflecting raindrops and taking up nutrients.  The natural duff layer that occurs in a forest needs to be replaced also. A thick layer of mulch material such as bark mulch can be used. In a pinch a grass mix with good hay mulch will temporarily protect the area between the trees and the shrubs.  Width - Buffers range in width from 25 feet to 250 feet. Do the best you can to make it as wide as possible.Grading - In general, leave the buffer as irregular as possible. However, if water is channelizing through it in a small stream or ditch, this should be be changed. Water must flow through the buffer as sheet flow (think of it as a thin film of water only about ¼ and inch deep at most) for the buffer to be able to treat storm water runoff.  If the site previously had a lot of foot or vehicle traffic, the soil will need to be loosened up before planting can occur. Plants can’t grow in soil that is too compacted.Footpaths - Foot traffic to the lake through the buffer should be limited to a winding path.


  Protection and Maintenance

  • Don’t allow vehicles to cross the buffer.
  • Restrict cuttings and thinning of vegetation in the buffer as much as reasonable possible. Some cutting is vital to preserve the health of the forest.
  • Inspect the buffer annually and repair channelization and erosion problems.
  • Don’t rake the duff layer – leave it undisturbed.

  Planting Suggestions



  • Red Maple (wet areas)
  • Sugar Maple
  • Silver Maple
  • Norway Maple
  • Littleleaf Linden
  • Green Ash
  • Crabapple
  • Red Oak
  • Paper Birch
  • Honey Locust


  • Red Pine
  • White Pine
  • Austrian Pine
  • White Cedar
  • Eastern Hemlock


  • Arrowood
  • Korean Spice Vibernum
  • Doublefile Vibernum
  • Cranberry Bush
  • Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle
  • High Bush Blueberry
  • Red Twig Dogwood
  • Grey Dogwood
  • Serviceberry
  • Rugosa Rose
  • Autumn Olive
  • Winterberry
  • Bayberry
  • Spiraea
  • Lilacs
  • Potentilla
  • Juniper
  • Barberry
  • Burning Bush
  • Rhododendron
  • Azalea

Vines & Ground Cover

  • Lowbush Blueberry
  • Honeysuckle
  • Bittersweet
  • Virgina Creeper
  • Daylily
  • Hosta
  • Crown Vetch Ferns

More on Buffer Zones...

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