A Demonstration Project
Landscape Design for a Lakefront Property on Crystal Lake Burnsville, MinnesotaIntroduction to the Project
Minnesota is truly a land of 10,000 lakes - lakes that play a major role in the quality of life for many Minnesotans. With a rising population, the quality of our lakes is being compromised by overuse and from the side effects of development. Both of these activities lead to an increase in erosion and additional nutrient-rich runoff that finds its way into the lakes. This, in turn, degrades water quality - both aesthetically and as wildlife habitat. With this problem in mind, a design was created in the spring of 1998 for an actual lakeshore property in a highly developed suburb of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. It is meant to be a working landscape design for the homeowners as well as a demonstration project for other landowners.
The subject of water quality is a complicated one involving many different players. Water quality control is everyone's responsibility - landowners and developers alike. Owners of property not directly adjacent to water play a role as well. Everything that lands in our streets and gutters will eventually make its way to a lake, stream or wetland through the stormwater sewer system. This includes leaves, grass clippings, and fertilizer, which add to the excess nutrient loads flowing into lakes, as well as spilled chemicals and motor oil. Water from stormwater systems is not treated before being discharged into a body of water. Additional information can be obtained from the Chain of Lakes Clean Water Partnership, 3800 Bryant Avenue South, Mpls, MN 55409.
This particular project will address these issues in regard to waterfront property. The design was done as a demonstration project to overcome functional and aesthetic concerns on the site through landscape design and landscape maintenance practices. The project's goals are:
General Considerations When Working With Lakefront Property
Because of the pressure placed on lakes by human development and the special functions of lakefront property, it is necessary to include additional information when completing both the site analysis and the site survey. Some of this information can be obtained from the landowner while other information will require contacting outside sources. Some things to consider are:
Many of the above concerns can be addressed during the process of creating a base plan for the design. The client interview should include discussions about the special needs of the property such as winter storage areas and planned usage of the site. The site survey should include ordinary high and low water marks, moisture content of the soil, existing aquatic and shore vegetation and its value, slope to the shore, and any erosion problems. The site analysis needs to include qualifications on the site in regards to wetland, protected water, and lake type designations. The first two sources to be contacted in locating this type of information are the local DNR office and the zoning department at the local government office.
After completing the site survey, site analysis and base plan it is time to move onto the landscape design sequence. Before starting the first step in the design sequence, bubble diagrams, it will be beneficial to go through the first three steps of the following problem solving sequence. This will determine exactly what problems need to be overcome, what the causes of those problems are and the role of government regulations and guidelines in developing possible solutions.
Step One: Determine what problems need to be addressed:
Step Two: Determine causes of problems:
Step Three: Gather information from regulating offices:
Before determining solutions for the defined problems, the regional DNR office and the local government zoning office should be contacted. This is true of all waterfront landscape designs and was done for this project. They will help determine if the project requires permits and/or additional input from the Army Corps of Engineers, the local conservation officer, the regional hydrologist or a watershed district. Phone numbers should be available in local phone directories or by calling the state office information number.
Information available from state DNR offices:
Information available from local zoning offices:
There are also national wetland inventory maps available; see appendix for information on how to obtain Minnesota maps.
Step Four: Determine solution to problems:
Landscape Design Strategy for Waterfront Property
As with all landscape designs, the waterfront property design should be functional, maintainable, cost effective, visually pleasing and environmentally sound. Waterfront properties typically present additional challenges. As seen above, there are more regulations regarding this type of property than for typical residential lots. These regulations are designed to protect water quality as well as the aesthetic value of lakes. Fortunately the methods to achieve these two goals are mutually inclusive as well as being beneficial to property owners by maintaining property values. Good information is available to demonstrate how this works. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has both a video and an information packet explaining shore land best management practices to "preserve water quality and the value of your shore land!" Another video, called "The Living Shores," uses computer animation to show what changes can occur when various management practices are implemented. This video was made as a cooperative effort by the University of Minnesota Extension Service, Minnesota DNR, Wisconsin DNR and University of Wisconsin Extension (see the appendix for ordering information). Following are three methods of achieving the above goals while being mindful of function, maintenance and long-term performance.
Method One: Include a vegetative buffer strip and aquascaping in the shoreline design.
Definition of buffer strip:
More information on aquascaping is available in the Minnesota DNR's March/April 1998 issue of The Minnesota Volunteer (see appendix), "Shorelandscaping" from The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership (1) and "Aquascaping: A Guide to Shoreline Landscaping" from the Hennepin Conservation District; there is an excellent aquascaping video to accompany this publication (2).
Method Two:Practice erosion control and reduce nonporous surfaces.
Erosion control can be a complicated issue and needs to be customized for each landscape project. Consult with the DNR and local building ordinance office for assistance.
Whenever possible, keep nonporous surfaces to a minimum. A nonporous surface is one that will not allow water infiltration such as blacktop, concrete and rooftops. Runoff water from these surfaces provides a potential means for pollutants and excess nutrients to be carried into bodies of water. Nonporous surfaces can be reduced by using porous materials, such as wood chips, for pathways and mulch. Occasional use parking and vehicle turn arounds can be constructed of turf that incorporates porous pavers or mesh (see appendix for material and application information).
Method Three:Choose plant materials that are adapted to site conditions.
The choice of plant materials will play a vital role in determining how well a landscape functions, how well the design's goals are met and the long-term sustainability of the design. Whenever possible it is advantageous to use native plants appropriate to the site's growing conditions. Although using native plants is not always possible or desirable they generally:
Three rules of thumb regarding plant choice are:1. Choose a plant that is known for good survival and performance in the type of conditions present. Conditions to assess are soil type, drainage and sun exposure.
2. Choose a plant that will have the correct form and size for the space available. This will decrease maintenance time by reducing the need for pruning and shearing.
3. Choose a plant that will perform the desired function, i.e., provide shade, screen views, be a focal point, etc.
Another consideration in shoreline plant selection is size for the maintenance of attractive views and to screen undesirable views. Taller plant material can be used on either side of a pleasant view to create a frame and enhance the view. These same plantings can be used to screen power lines or a neighbor's storage area. When choosing a plant height to avoid obstructing a view, remember to take into consideration the difference in elevation between the shoreline and the viewing area, often a deck or porch. In this demonstration project the porch and patio are seven feet above the lake level. Any plantings less than seven feet will not interfere with the view. If mature trees have a few lower limbs removed, it is usually possible to see under the tree's canopy.
Even the type of grass used in areas of mowed lawn can be selected for low maintenance; not all grasses are created equal. As much care should be given to choosing the correct grass as is given to other plant materials. The amount of sunlight, as well as the type of use for an area, will determine the best grass mix to select. Using a grass that will perform well and provide a thick, healthy lawn will allow for maximum infiltration of runoff water. The county extension office can give guidance in grass selection. Although mowed turf can prevent erosion and increase water infiltration, it doesn't always perform all the other functions desired in a plant material. In or near the water, plants are used to filter sediment, take up excess nutrients, provide wildlife food and habitat, and shade shallow water to reduce temperature fluctuations.
Upland plants can also be used to provide wildlife food and habitat, provide privacy, screen undesirable views, frame pleasant views and provide shade. Information concerning plant selection and plant sources can be found in Minnesota and Wisconsin extension publications (3), Landscaping for Wildlife (4) and Aquascaping: A Guide to Shoreline Landscaping (2). See appendix for additional plant sources.
Landscape Maintenance to Protect Surface Water QualityEven with a landscape design geared to low maintenance, there will be a need for some level of care. If trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are chosen with care, there should be less need for pruning, irrigation, fertilization and pest control. It is important to have thick, healthy turf to allow maximum infiltration of water. When fertilizing landscapes, including lawns, one should be aware that in central Minnesota it is rarely necessary to add phosphorous. As a rule, our soils already have ample phosphorous for most plants. Before using a phosphorous fertilizer, always have a soil test done. Contact a university or county extension office for further information. Phosphorous plays a major role in water quality - causing excessive aquatic growth and algal blooms. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has excellent materials available on turfgrass management to help maintain a healthy lawn while minimizing adverse effects on water quality (5).
How This Design Works to Address the Needs and Considerations of a Waterfront Property
Details of the Aquascaping Plan:
The local zoning office and the DNR were consulted regarding the proposed plan.
Implementation of the design will need to be carefully planned before work begins to avoid erosion problems. Some possible erosion control techniques are:
Removal of the turf in the wet meadow can be done with a turf cutter during a dry period or killed chemically with rodeo, a product similar to Round-Up that is labeled for use in wet areas. Consider using bare-root stock for woody species to reduce costs. These need to be planted early in spring and may require calls to several nurseries to locate plants.
Note: All plants in wet areas should be native and non-invasive. The local DNR office can advise on plant choice.
Planting Techniques For the Wet Meadow and Aquatic Areas
Planting of herbaceous materials can be done with plugs or larger plants by cutting holes in the dead turf. This will prevent erosion while new plants become established. If it is desired to till in the dead turf, new plantings will need to be well mulched. Alternatively an erosion mesh can be used with holes cut in it to accommodate new plantings. It would also be possible to seed the area to reduce costs and eventually have a more dense stand of plants. A disadvantage of this method would be a longer establishment time. If seeded, a custom mix of seeds should be used to best meet the needs of a particular site. A combination of seeding and plugs could be done as a compromise, giving some immediate gratification and still keep costs down. Either way, the homeowner needs to be patient and understand that it may take up to three seasons before the area looks completed.
Many species need to be used in the water and in the buffer strip. It is not certain which species will work best in a particular site so several need to be tried. This will also give a longer bloom time and foliage interest period. Eventually the plants will sort themselves out according to the sun and moisture regiment best suited to them. While becoming established it will be necessary to watch for undesirable volunteer plants. These need to be removed so they won't push out the new plantings. Aquatic and wet meadow plantings cannot be considered a static garden. It will be ever changing which adds to its interest.
Aquatic plants are generally easier to establish in times of low water levels. Once established they will better tolerate higher water levels. Plants that are put directly in deep water, such as water lilies, can benefit from being anchored until they are established. Depending on wave action at a particular site, it may be necessary to install wave breakers until plants are established (see aquascaping article in the appendix).
Professional consultants are available to aid in the implementation of an aquascaping plan. Check with local regulatory offices to find names of firms or look in the yellow pages under Environmental and Ecological Services. Be sure to thoroughly check a company's references and confirm that they have the kind of experience the project requires. It would be prudent to visit an implementation site that the company has completed.
This demonstration project should:
Although residential landscape design and maintenance is only one piece of the puzzle affecting water quality, it plays an important role. This issue can be addressed by individual homeowners or, more effectively, by groups of property owners through a lake or homeowners association. The materials listed in the reference section and the appendix, particularly the videos, are excellent educational tools to use at association meetings.
1. Shorelandscaping, Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, University of Wisconsin Extension.Cooperative Extension
United States Department of Agriculture
University of Wisconsin-Extension
432 N. Lake Street
Madison, WI 53706
2. Aquascaping: A Guide to Shoreline Landscaping. Carolyn Dindorf. 1993. An aquascaping video is also available.Hennepin Conservation District.
10801 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 240.
Minnetonka, MN 55305.
3. University of Minnesota Extension ServiceDistribution Center
1420 Eckles Ave
St. Paul, MN 55108-6069
Updated publication listing. Internet address: www.extension.umn.edu
4. Landscaping for Wildlife. MN Department of Natural Resources. St. Paul, MN. 1987.
To locate your regional Minnesota DNR office call 651-296-2835 or 1-800-766-6000
5. Turfgrass Management For Protecting Surface Water Quality
6. The Water's Edge. MN DNR. 1998.
To receive a copy call the DNR Section of Ecological Services
Sources of Information Regarding Shoreland Management - Regulations and Guidelines
1. "The Living Shores" videoOrder by sending a $17.00 check payable to WAL to:
Wisconsin Lakes Partnership
P.O. Box 126
Stevens Point, WI 54481
The above is also available from the University of Minnesota Extension Service.
2. "Keeping Our Shores, Shoreland Best Management Practices" video and "Protecting Our Waters, Shoreland Best Management Practices" - packet of 18 publications
Call University of Minnesota Extension Service 1-800-876-8636 or see attached order form.
Four additional videos are part of the above series from the University of Minnesota Extension Service; "Keeping Our Shores," "Water Conservation," "Septic Systems" and "Erosion Control."
3. University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin Extension Services publications
See reference section
4. University of Wisconsin-Extension
5. Wisconsin Association of Lakes
6. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
7. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
8. To locate the appropriate Minnesota DNR office:
9. To locate the proper local office for regulations and guidelines: in a city or village, call the city hall and ask for the building inspector or local zoning office. In an unincorporated area, call the county courthouse and ask for the county zoning office.
10. For information on how to order a Minnesota National Wetlands Inventory Maps Index contact:
This index will also list other wetland information sources.
Note: Many localities have ordinances that supersede state regulations so always check both levels of government.
Plant Material Sources
Minnesota Native Wildflower/Grass
Lee Nursery, Inc
Hild & Associates
Taylor Creek Restoration Nurseries
Prairie Moon Nursery
Prairie Restorations, Inc
This design report was developed by Darlene Charboneau, Environmental Horticulture Student.