Using Native Plants For Erosion Control And Shoreline Protection

Using Native Plants For Erosion Control And Shoreline Protection

A Natural Way To Protect Your Shoreline

Shoreline erosion is a serious issue in Michigan, with many homeowners struggling to protect their property from being lost to the water. While there are many methods of controlling erosion, planting native vegetation is a natural and effective way to help prevent further damage.

Native plants have deep root systems that help to anchor the soil, preventing it from washing away during storms and high water levels. Additionally, they help to filter and absorb nutrients and pollutants that would otherwise end up in the water, protecting the ecosystem and promoting healthy aquatic life.

(Featured Image: Marsh Marigold by G. Alexandrov)

5 Steps For Shoreline Protection And Erosion Control

If you’re considering planting native vegetation to protect your shoreline, here are some tips on how to get started:

Step 1: Assess Your Site

The first step is to assess your site and determine what kind of vegetation will thrive in your specific conditions. This will depend on factors such as soil type, sun exposure, and proximity to the water.

Some common Michigan shoreline plants include wild rose, common elderberry, highbush cranberry, and red twig dogwood. These plants are adapted to the wet, sandy soils found along the shore, and can help stabilize the area while also providing habitat for wildlife.

Step 2: Choose Your Plants

Once you’ve assessed your site, it’s time to choose your plants. Look for species that are native to your region, as these will be best adapted to your climate and conditions.

Consider choosing a mix of shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants to provide a diverse and stable ecosystem. Some good choices for Michigan shorelines include:

  • Red Osier Dogwood: This shrub has bright red stems that add a splash of color to the shoreline. It can grow up to 10 feet tall and thrives in wet soils.
  • Pussy Willow: This small tree has fuzzy, silvery buds that open to reveal soft, green leaves. It can grow up to 25 feet tall and prefers moist soils.
  • Marsh Marigold: This herbaceous plant has bright yellow flowers that bloom in early spring. It can grow up to 12 inches tall and prefers wet soils.
  • Blue Flag Iris: This herbaceous plant has showy, blue-purple flowers that bloom in late spring. It can grow up to 3 feet tall and prefers moist soils.
  • Wild Bergamot: This herbaceous plant has pink-purple flowers that bloom in midsummer. It can grow up to 4 feet tall and prefers well-drained soils.

Step 3: Prepare Your Site

Before planting, it’s important to prepare your site by removing any invasive species or other unwanted plants. You may also need to amend the soil with organic matter to improve drainage and fertility.

If your shoreline is already eroded, you may need to consider installing a retaining wall or other structural erosion control measures before planting. This will help to stabilize the area and prevent further damage.

Step 4: Plant Your Vegetation

Once your site is prepared, it’s time to plant your vegetation. Follow the specific planting instructions for each plant, and be sure to water them regularly until they are established.

For maximum erosion control, plant your vegetation in clusters or rows to create a cohesive and stable ecosystem. You can also use mulch to help retain moisture and prevent weed growth.

Step 5: Maintain Your Vegetation

Once your plants are established, it’s important to maintain them properly to ensure their continued health and effectiveness in erosion control. This may include regular watering, fertilization, and pruning to keep them in good shape.

You may also need to monitor your plants for pests and diseases, and take action if necessary to prevent damage.

A blue flag iris native plant that is planted along the shoreline of a Michigan lake.

Blue Flag Iris by Seney Natural History Association

Start Protecting Your Lakeshore Shoreline Today

Planting native vegetation is an effective and natural way to control erosion and protect your shoreline in Michigan. By choosing the right plants for your site, preparing your soil, and maintaining your vegetation, you can effectively prevent shoreline erosion and help to protect your lakeshore. Not only is this method effective, it can also save you thousands of dollars in shoreline protection down the road.

Are you searching for plants to help with your shoreline erosion? Bright Lane Gardens is a Northern Michigan plant nursery that specializes in native plants that are local to our region. Located just 20 minutes west of Traverse City, Bright Lane Gardens carries a wide variety of native plants that are essential to shoreline protection and erosion control.

Sleeping Bear Dunes near Traverse City, Michigan.

Lake Michigan, near Traverse City, MI. Credit: D. Shute.