One of the greatest lessons we should take from the natural world is that when form and function combine, beautiful things happen.
Our lakes’ natural shorelines are a wonderful example: they are perfectly designed to filter the waters that flow through them before they reach our lakes. They are the perfect habitat for the wildlife that lives among them. And, at the same time, they somehow manage to be a stunning natural backdrop for our own lives at the lake.
A 30-metre natural shoreline, rich in native vegetation, requires minimal maintenance, offers the best defence against damaging nutrient run-off and lakeside erosion, and keeps the whole local ecosystem healthy and working as Nature intended.
When we remove or reduce our natural shorelines by introducing lakeside walls, large firepits and manicured lawns, we are damaging these incredible systems and putting our lakes at risk.
What’s more, none of us who love living by the lake would ideally want to make our shorelines look like the suburbs, or to recreate what it’s like to live in a city – so why would we think that property and structures that look good there would ever look good by a beautiful, natural lake?
We live here because of our County’s natural beauty and so we should do all we can to preserve and nurture our natural shorelines.
Natural is the new beautiful.
Unlike the dense, natural growth found in vacant land around our properties and in the woods, keeping a natural buffer zone of plants native to Haliburton County (zone 4) doesn't mean our shorelines need to look wild and unkempt. There are many beautiful trees, perennials and shrubs that will turn a plain, grassy yard into a garden oasis that not only looks vibrant and beautiful but is working hard behind the scenes, to keep the quality of our lake water healthy and safe for us to use.
Here are a few examples of native plants that help re-naturalize our shorelines turning them into beautiful buffer zones.
5-step guide to planting and maintaining a natural shoreline
Naturalizing your shoreline can be one the easiest ways to ensure the health of both your lake and your property. Native plants are naturally suited to withstand the climate, soil type and environmental conditions of Haliburton County.
Creating or re-establishing a natural shoreline takes planning. We have included tools and links to help guide you through the process. Here is a five step guide to getting started:
1 Before you begin, determine the conditions of your property and make a layout plan. The former will inform your species choices, while the latter will ensure access to the water and any recreational areas, and low-lying shrubs in areas with better views of the lake.
2 To figure out your property condition, consider any existing vegetation and other growing factors including the shade/sun ratio, soil type and moisture levels. Here's a couple of helpful starter points:
- An abundance of tall trees creates more shade
- To determine your soil type, rub the soil through your fingers and feel for coarseness or smoothness. Sand grains are large and feel coarse. Silt grains are medium in thickness but feel smooth or floury. Clay is fine and feels sticky. Loam is a combination of one or more of the above and usually contains a high content of organic matter
4 Different plants thrive in specific light and soil conditions. Here are the four most common soil types for Haliburton County and the native plants that work best for each. Depending on your soil’s moisture level (wet, moist, normal, dry) some plants will thrive better than others.
The Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Association has partnered with The Haliburton Master Gardeners Group to develop a helpful Shoreline Plant Finder tool to help you discover which native plants thrive best in your soil conditions. Contact your local nurseries to find the native plants you would like to use.
The above list is provided as a brief overview and as inspiration for a beautiful, natural shoreline. There are many factors that affect hardiness of plants. Be sure to understand and work with your local conditions when you purchase new plants to ensure they will survive.
Once you have your plan and your plants:
- Dig a hole large enough to ensure the plant’s roots are completely covered
- Put the plant in the hole and cover with the removed soil and any topsoil you may need to fill in the rest
- Ensure no air in the hole by gently stomping around the base of the plant and packing the soil down
- Leave at least a metre around each plant so they’re not fighting for the same nutrients
- Lay mulch around the base of your plant to protect it from weeds and other predatory plants Water your plants well to keep them healthy and to remove any leftover air pockets contained within the soil
"We had no idea about the importance of shoreline health to our lake when we bought our property ten years ago. We removed many trees and replaced plants with lots of grass, essentially hardening our shoreline. But last Fall we were notified our lake had toxic algal blooms and was unfit for ANY use."
Ann and Mark, Haliburton
To see other examples of before and after shoreline re-naturalization and to learn about the programs and initiatives available to help you protect your lake, visit:
For more information on simple things you can do to take of your shoreline, download a copy of The Shore Primer and A Shoreline Owner's Guide to Healthy Waterfronts.