shoreline with wildflowers and aquatic plants near dock

Prevent Disturbances

In natural shoreland management, we use the term disturbance to refer to an element that alters or disrupts the ecosystem. For example, mowing and competition from lawn grasses inhibit native plants from extending their territory. Eliminating the competition can allow native plants to reestablish gradually in the lawn area. This technique can be thought of as "No mow, let it grow".

That can mean good news for some owners. They may not have to do any planting in their upland areas. The determining factor will be whether native plants are located in the seed bank or adjacent to the area where they want them to spread.

Wave action is another disturbance that can be temporarily lessened to restore the aquatic and some transitional vegetation on your shoreline. Once aquatic plants have been removed, it may be difficult for them to become re-established because of wind or boat-induced waves. Wave action may also inhibit growth of the transitional plants as water pounds against the shoreline edge.

Recommended Actions


Aquatic and transitional zones

Reduce wave action by installing a wave break (photo left). This will create a calm area where submersed aquatic plants might reestablish without assistance. If the shoreline is also stabilized enough, some emergent and transitional plants may reappear over time and grow. Remember that you may need a DNR permit to install a wave break.

Upland zone

First, discontinue practices that remove native vegetation or prevent it from establishing:

  • mowing
  • expanding your lawn area
  • removing native plants, both on land and in the water.

Next, actively control the source of competition that discourages native plants:

lake shore with small mowed path to dock and large are not mowed

If your property has a good native seed bank nearby, you can naturally restore your shoreline in phases. First, stop mowing a 10-15' strip of sod at the water's edge. When the native plants are successfully reestablishing, you may increase the buffer zone by expanding the unmowed area.


Weeding - Spot check for weeds every two weeks. Watch for invasive species, like reed canary grass, purple loosestrife, spotted knapweed, burdock, Canada thistle, nettles, and common buckthorn.

Remove undesired plants by hand-pulling or spot spraying. Mulch between leaves will help prevent weeds from germinating.