Lakes and ponds are a beautiful addition to your property, but they can also become an eyesore when not properly managed. One of the greatest passive lake management options is a native plant buffer. Here’s what you need to know about these buffers, their benefits, and some best practices.
What Are Native Plant Buffers?
Native plant buffers are a section of plant growth around your pond or lake comprised of aquatic plants native to the area. This means controlling what plants are allowed to take root to avoid invasive species. Rather, hardy native species helps keep the water body balanced and thriving.
Control Harmful Runoff
If you’ve managed a lake or pond for long, you understand the difficulty runoff brings to keeping a healthy lake. On the minor side, there’s the simple erosion problem, which dumps uncontrolled amounts of dirt into your water. This inevitably leads to expensive maintenance to keep the water at an appropriate depth.
More dangerous to your pond’s ecosystem is the chemical runoff, including pesticides, fertilizers, and more. These chemicals alter the water's composition, making it difficult to maintain healthy life in the pond.
Balance Aquatic Ecosystem
An aquatic ecosystem requires an assortment of lifeforms in order for the entire system to thrive. This includes bacteria, plants, and everything from small to large fish.
Native plant barriers help balance these delicate ecosystems. When non-native plants invade, they change the proliferating bacteria and the nutrients in the water. Native plants keep these elements in balance to encourage a sustainable environment for the entire ecosystem.
Control Insect Annoyance
Most of us think of ponds and lakes as the source of nuisance bugs, like mosquitoes. However, with the right native plant barrier, you can actually help reduce the proliferation of these nuisances.
With a healthy ecosystem, fish that feed on the larva and bugs thrive, thereby reducing the number affecting us. Restricting aquatic planting in lakes inhibits these smaller fish, allowing insects to flourish without a natural predator.
Reduce Unsightly Overgrowth
One of the biggest aesthetic problems to lake or pond management is keeping invasive and destructive bacteria and algae at bay. These microbes not only infect the plants and fish in the lake, but can also turn an unsightly color.
Maintaining native plant barriers helps reduce the harmful bacteria and algae by encouraging the appropriate microbial growth. This keeps your water looking healthy, and your plants and fish naturally healthy with less maintenance.
Best Practices for a Plant Buffer
Start with making sure you have enough of a plant buffer. Ideally, you want about a 3- to 5-foot buffer to allow for enough separation from the shore. This helps reduce the amount of shore erosion and keeps other contaminants out of the water.
Next, use care with what kind of plants you use in your barrier. Stay away from invasive and nuisance species. These plants spread aggressively, outgrowing other native plants and limiting the diversity of the ecosystem.
Also avoid woody vegetation like weeping willows, tree saplings, and shrubs. These plants destabilize shorelines, dry out soil, and contribute excess nutrients to the lake or pond. They also attract some burrowing rodents, which further ruin the embankments and shoreline.
Few things can disrupt the tranquility of a pond like algae. While having some beneficial green plants around your pond is always a good thing, the last thing you want is to have algae start growing and take over the water. Algae not only turns the water into a murky shade of ugly green, but it also depletes oxygen and can lead to more problems such as the fish dying off. Gaining control of algae and green water requires taking a balanced approach to your pond maintenance plans.
Know What You Are Dealing With
Algae works much like other plants by producing oxygen through photosynthesis. The problem with algae gets worse when there is not enough sunlight to make this process happen. Overnight and on cloudy days, algae creates carbon dioxide and respires, which causes oxygen levels in the pond to go down.
There are two main types of algae that you’ll find in a pond, and these are green water and string algae. The green water type is made up of single-celled organisms that develop in large numbers. They are so small that they can often pass through many common filters. String algae grows in long strands that you can visually spot accumulating on rocks or floating through the water. It is possible for both types to exist within your pond, but being able to recognize them helps you to plan better for algae control.
Add Beneficial Plants
The components of an active pond ecosystem should all flow well with each other. In a perfectly kept pond, fish create nutrients that are then absorbed by the plants. This leaves very few nutrients for algae to use for growth. Aquatic plants can help to choke out the algae by reducing nutrients in the water. Floating plants such as lilies and lotus add a touch of beauty while helping to reduce algae growth. Submerged plants are another option that won’t typically be noticeable from the surface.
Practice Proper Fish Breeding and Feeding
Fish help to promote a healthy ecosystem. However, you can sometimes do more harm than good if you don’t know how to care for the fish. Using a high quality food helps the fish to digest it more easily. This allows for fewer nutrients to pass into the water that could feed algae growth. You can also reduce the amount of nutrients that make it into the water by making sure that fish populations stay under control.
Use Water Treatments
Special treatments are available that you can use along with other methods to eliminate algae. A water treatment is best to use in the beginning if the pond already has substantial algae growth since it can provide fast results. Pond management companies in Florida can recommend a quality and safe water treatment that will improve the effectiveness of your other maintenance strategies.
Algae growth patterns can increase rapidly in response to environmental changes. Even something as small as a recent storm can throw off the balance of nutrients in the water. Maintaining a watchful eye on your pond helps you to know when it is time to respond to potential problems before they destroy the beauty of your favorite water feature.
Storm drains. We usually think of them as the catch-all of things we don't know what else to do with. However, storm drains are essential for diverting excess rainwater so that the streets and yards don't flood.
What Should Never Go Down The Storm Drains?
Unlike the sewer system, which treats everything that goes through it, storm drains don't go through a treatment process. Whatever goes into them goes directly into the local streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. So, if you wouldn't want to drink it or put it on your skin, then don't put it in the storm drains.
If you need stormwater management companies in Florida, then call us at 941-479-7811. We're among the best in the area for managing the sometimes torrential amounts of rainwater we get in Florida, and we can help you with your stormwater management needs.
Ponds and lakes offer the best of both worlds: a beautiful place for quiet reflection and contemplation and a spot for active play and sightseeing. When properly cared for, a waterbody can become the highlight of your community. Pond management companies in Florida provide the top ways to make your pond or lake the most attractive it can be.
Consider floating fountains
Fountains are visually appealing and provide significant benefits. Keeping water moving discourages the growth of nuisance algae and weeds, and also helps prevent mosquitos. You may consider adding colored lights or other decorations to the fountain to make it exciting for passersby at night.
Plant good aquatic plants
It’s worth taking a closer look at what’s growing in and around your waterbody. Getting invasive species like cattails and purple loosestrife under control is the critical first step before you plant any new vegetation.
A pretty border of decorative plants can both frame the pond and prevent soil erosion. Choose wildflowers and grasses that are native to the area in order to promote a healthy ecosystem, filter pollutants, and encourage wildlife. Lake management companies can give you advice on which plants may be best for your area.
Sediment, mud, and debris can build up over time, causing your waterbody to lose depth. Removing these nuisances restores the pond’s depth and vibrancy and improves its visual appeal. Proactive management keeps the lake or pond healthy year after year.
There are two sediment removal options: hydro-raking and dredging. Hydro-raking removes organic muck from lakes and ponds, and can also remove nuisance plants. Dredging can be used when a waterbody is closer to the end of its lifespan and needs more of its original volume restored.
Routine maintenance is key
You may also decide to make changes over the course of the life of your waterbody. Community engagement can be important in this regard. Local birdwatchers might want to see birdhouses around the pond or lake and have a gazebo for relaxing while birdwatching. Biking enthusiasts might want more bike trails around the waterbody. Actively solicit and encourage feedback from community members.
Your waterbody is an investment in your community. Once you have achieved the initial results you are looking for, consider the benefits of an annual management program. Regular maintenance by pond management companies in Florida ensures this space will stay beautiful year after year. This includes services like visual inspections, shoreline weed control, and monthly fountain or aeration maintenance.
Annual management is key to preventing larger-scale issues like algae blooms and blocking invasive species from returning after they have been cleared out. Health and functionality are the principles of effective waterbody maintenance for creating a space that everyone will enjoy for years to come.
At Crosscreek Environmental, we believe in providing a comprehensive, environmentally friendly approach in creating solutions to maintain the beauty and health of Florida's ponds, lakes, wetlands, and shorelines. We use the B.E.S.T.™ geo-tube solution and are one of the best geo-tube solution providers in the state of Florida.