Building Buffers

The Buffer zone: The strip of land and water at the water's edge. A properly cared for buffer acts like a sponge filtering pollutants and keeps water clean and clear.


Tips for a Healthier Maine (PDF)

Quick Tips

  • Stop mowing to the edge. Let the grass grow. It will help filter pollutants.
  • Preserve. Keep what's growing naturally in your buffer zone.
  • Don't bare all. Plant or mulch bare soil.
  • Do not rake up the “DUFF” - nature’s mulch (twigs, needles & leaves that fall between the plants in the buffer).
  • Mix it up. Plant a mix of species of different heights including shrubs and trees. Make sure they're suited to your soil and sunlight conditions. Try native plants.
  • Forgo the fertilizer frenzy. Keeping lakes clean means using fertilizers sparingly and only when the exisiting ground cover is too thin or sparse. If you must: use small amounts (spoonfeed) of slow or timed release fertilizers or composted organic fertilizers, and unless a soil test indicates a need, always say NO to organic or conventional fertilizers containing phosphorus. Follow the regional landscape plant fertilizer guidelines A Gardener's Guide to Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs.
  • The wider the better. Bigger is better when it comes to building a buffer, but any buffer is better than no buffer at all!
  • What about my view? Let's put it this way, if you don't buffer and your neighbors don't buffer, then you're ruining your view anyway. Planting a buffer protects water, but it also protects your property value. Try groundcovers and low growing trees and shrubs.
  • Plan your path. Paths should be winding to interrupt the flow of rainwater. Cover bare soil with bark mulch or crushed stone.
  • Shrink surfaces. Minimize hard surfaces like pavement, patios, decks, roofs, compacted gravel and compacted lawns. Direct runoff from these surfaces into a buffer.
  • Stop soil from taking a swim. Mulch exposed soil on slopes or use erosion control netting. Water new plantings carefully, use a silt fence or hay bales during construction (schedule work for dry season). Try retaining walls or terraces (local and state permits required).