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Extension > Environment > Water Resources > Property owners > Shoreland maintenance > Caring for shoreland lawns and gardens

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Caring for shoreland lawns and gardens

Why are lawns and gardens a potential problem


Figure 1: A well-designed landscape plan includes

  1. natural vegetation along the water's edge;
  2. an intact ice ridge or added berm;
  3. a natural vegetation filter strip;
  4. well-established grass or ground cover; and
  5. a level garden set back from the waterfront.

Lawns and gardens near shorelands must be carefully planned and maintained to prevent possible contamination of surface waters. Native vegetation should be considered as a quality alternative to cultured lawns and landscapes. Landscapes will revert to a native state if no maintenance is performed; planting native vegetation will hasten the process.

Establishment of new lawns must conform to Shoreland Management Regulations, which prohibit excessive removal of vegetation near the shore and on slopes and bluffs. Check with your local zoning authority for specific regulations governing the body of water in question.

Existing lawns and gardens must be maintained in a manner that prevents the possible contamination of ground and surface waters.

Before beginning any practice, stop and think about potential risks to water quality. Shoreland owners must be aware of potential problems caused by soil erosion, as well as pollution due to chemical amendments and organic yard waste.

Special attention should be paid if the following conditions exist:

Avoid or minimize the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Preventing soil erosion

Surface waters can be contaminated by soil particles that are washed or blown into the water. In addition to the problem of sediment, soil particles can carry phosphorus, which is a potential pollutant, into the water.

To avoid this problem:

Preventing potential problems from fertilizers

If possible avoid the use of chemical fertilizers. Native vegetation does not require the application of additional fertilizer. Use caution if applying fertilizers to lawns and adhere to the following guidelines:

Preventing potential problems from pesticides

If possible avoid the use of chemical pesticides. Consult a professional from the University of Minnesota Extension or Soil and Water Conservation District to determine if the use of a pesticide is justified. The following practices will minimize the potential of contamination from pesticides:

Best management practices for lawns

The establishment of new lawns must conform to Shoreland Management Regulations. Natural vegetation cannot be excessively removed from the "Shore Impact Zone," generally a distance of 50 to 100 feet from the surface water, depending upon the county, and lake or river classification. Removal of vegetation from slopes and bluffs is also regulated. Check with your local zoning authority for specific regulations.

Establishing new turf

Maintaining established turf


For dense growth, grass requires the addition of some form of nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen is a very mobile nutrient and attention must be paid to application rates and timing to eliminate the possibility of water contamination.



BMPs for gardens

Flower and vegetable gardens can add to the quality of life for shoreland owners. Certain precautions must be taken to prevent the possibility of surface water contamination.


Soil fertility management

Excessive application of fertilizers has the potential for ground and surface water contamination. This can be avoided by the following practices:

Pest management

Vegetable wastes

Yard waste disposal

Yard waste, including leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable wastes, and woody materials, should never be allowed to enter the water. These materials contain phosphorus and may contribute to degradation of surface water quality.

Collect and compost yard waste. Compost provides an excellent material for amending flower and vegetable gardens. Information on composting is available from your county office of the University of Minnesota Extension or the County Solid Waste office.

For more information

County offices:

Regional offices of MN State agencies:

Other resources:
Backyard Composting. FS-3899, University of Minnesota Extension

Composting and Mulching: A Guide to Managing Organic Yard Wastes. FO-3296, University of Minnesota Extension

The Home Lawn. MI-0488, University of Minnesota Extension

Lawn Care Practices to Reduce the Need for Fertilizers. FO-5890, University of Minnesota Extension

Soil Sample Bags and Information Sheets. University of Minnesota Extension, County Offices

Turfgrass Management for Protecting Surface Water Quality. BU-5726, University of Minnesota Extension


Shoreland Best Management Practices

Reviewed 2016

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