Winter is in full swing here in Texas and as I look around at the bare trees and dormant grass in all of the local communities I can’t help but have one thing on my mind: spring is coming, and soon. That’s a difficult concept to think about, last month I was walking on a pond covered in ice due to temperatures staying in the teens and twenties (in Texas!).
But sure enough, in the next 30 days you will see communities putting down fertilizer, laying mulch and seed, and planting in preparation of the use of their communal spaces for the upcoming spring and summer season. It takes a lot of work to prepare the ground for success, and, it takes a lot of nutrients as well. In the pond industry, we have a common saying, “If you want green grass, you’re going to have a green pond as well!”. When the first rain events of the season occur, a good percentage of those nutrients put down in preparation runoff into the pond, creating an even better growing environment for several aquatic plants: algae, Pondweed, coontail, primrose, naiad, the list goes on. These invasive plants are already very hearty and aggressive in their growth, and by adding nutrients to the mix, it’s simply adding fuel to the fire and exponentially increasing maintenance cost. I know what you’re thinking, “Well that’s great, thanks for the information. I’m still not going to stop fertilizing my grass.”. It’s one thing to know what the problem is, it’s entirely different to have a solution. While there is no silver bullet to eliminate invasive plant growth, a good start is to just give your pond some space, more specifically, a vegetation buffer.
A vegetation buffer, or “conservation zone” (communities seem to really like that term,) is a 5-10’ buffer between where the neatly manicured, well fertilized grass starts and where the pond ends. The dense buffer provides a nutrient absorption net, preventing excess load from entering the pond. While that is a great benefit alone, it is only one of several benefits this buffer can provide, all of which save the community money both short and long term. I’m going to focus on 1 additional benefit, natural erosion control. Erosion can be a terrible problem for some communities, we have seen some cases where due to the water current and other factors, some communities lose up to 2-3” of shoreline annually due to erosion. If left untreated over time, it can cause tremendous issues for a community such as sidewalk and street failure and it will provide a potential habitat for Nutria.
Nutria are an invasive aquatic rat species related to the beaver, which will accelerate the erosion process further along with other nuisance issues, but that is a different subject for another time. The problem with a neatly trimmed, Bermuda or St. Augustine shoreline is that the root system is very short and weak for the application of erosion control. That plant system is not designed to exist on the pond edge. Instead, the pond edge needs a heartier terrestrial plant to take root on the edge to minimize the erosion process from wave action and rainfall.
Those are just 2 of many of the benefits a buffer can provide for your pond or lake. For more information on vegetative buffers you can contact a PondMedics professional to guide and consult on the best possible options for your pond or lake. Just remember, sometimes the best solution for your surface water is just a little bit of space.