August 2 – 8, 2019Vol. 21, No. 9

Don't Hesitate, Vegetate!

This buffer has five tiers of vegetation: pine needle mulch, ground cover, shrubs, midstory, and canopy. Current LakeSmart standards require awardees to have at least three out of the five tiers. Photo courtesy of Maine Lakes Society LakeSmart.

by Sabine Fontaine

This tip is all about how to vegetate. And no, I don't mean vegetate as in being passive, inactive, and dull. I mean vegetate as in to grow or sprout or plant! Plants save the lake by catching rainwater runoff and filtering chemicals out of it. Vegetation also covers soil with its leaves, and holds soil with its roots. The vegetation along your shoreline is called a buffer. The larger it is, the more it protects the lake. Please note that grass is not a proper buffer! In fact, I've often heard that grass is as good as a dirt hill. It does not protect the lake compared to other ground covers, shrubs, or trees.

On the shore we name five tiers of vegetation: mulch, ground cover, shrubs, midstory trees, and canopy trees. For example, a five-tier buffer garden might have a layer of pine needles or some undyed mulch; some creeping juniper, lowbush blueberry, hostas, ferns, or daylilies as ground cover; some larger shrubs such as highbush blueberry, dogwood, summersweet, or chokebush; and finally trees such as pussy willow or common witchhazel, and oak or maple. These plants are hardy and they are widely available at local nurseries in central Maine.

If you want more information or have any questions about your own buffer, sign up for a free, no obligation LakeSmart visit by contacting Sabine at or 512-5150.