We all love grass. It looks nice, is great under foot, super to play on and most of us have fond memories of doing some of our favourite things on grass.
So why do the lake health experts tell us not to use it around lakes in the Highlands. Are they just spoil sports or do they have valid reasons for their concerns with grass in lake country? Here’s the scoop….
Commonly used grass varieties are not native in lake country.
Non Native plants:
- Are not well suited to life in the Highlands and therefore need more inputs than native plants
- Water – something the experts say we may soon be short of
- Fertilizer- polluting our water- and costing us money
- Cutting and trimming – adding to Global warming
These extra inputs add nutrients to our lakes increasing algae and weed growth thereby decreasing the oxygen that fish need. We are told that no point in the Highlands is more than 500 metres from water….. how far from the lake is your septic system?
- Do not provide any habitat for the species that we all love such as frogs, toads, butterflies, humming birds etc.
Perhaps the biggest downside with grass is that grass does not contribute to and in fact harms the health of our precious lakes. Why is that – well there are all those reasons above but the biggest one is that grass does not do a good job of intercepting and absorbing nutrients before they get to our lakes. Nutrients such as Phosphorus come from:
- Our bodies, through our septic systems, where they leach into the soil and head down to water – our aquifers, streams, rivers and lakes
- Our Pets, Fertilizer use, Wildlife such as geese, birds etc.
This pictures shows why native plants absorb far more nutrients than non-native species such as grass:
While grass roots extend mere inches into the soil, the roots of native species extend many feet into the soil, searching for and absorbing nutrients such as phosphorous before they can damage our lakes. These long roots also do a better job of preventing erosion.
So why not take an area of your grass and plant it with native plants to help protect our lakes! You can start with a small area and then add more area over the years. Every little bit will help your lake where you, your kids and grandchildren can make new memories!
Author Paul MacInnes is Chair of the C.H.A. and a Member of the Haliburton Highlands Stewardship Council.