Enjoy Lake Living


by Dave Foley

Keep Canada geese and ducks off your lawn. Don't feed the geese or ducks. That's only logical. Not only is their defecation the wrong kind of fertilizer for your lawn, but ducks carry the parasite that, when it interacts with snails, creates swimmer's itch.

The best way to keep waterfowl off your lawn is to create a shoreline greenbelt which is a band of natural vegetation, such as wildflowers, grasses, perennials and trees. These buffer strips stabilize shoreline to help prevent erosion and filter pollutants and sediments. Uncontrolled sedimentation will alter the habitat of crayfish, mayfly larvae, and fish as well as increase phosphorous loads in the lake. Leaving a strip of natural vegetation between your lawn and the water’s edge is one of the best things you can do to discourage Canada geese from invading your property.

Don't allow raked leaves or empty grass clippings into the lake. Leaves or grass, once they decompose, will provide fertile areas to grow aquatic plants. Burning yard waste near the lakeshore is not a good solution either. Ashes contain phosphorous and nutrients that can easily make their way into the lake resulting in excess weed and algae growth.

Eliminate loosestrife or phragmites. While these plants may be attractive, they are invasive and harm native wetland vegetation. These plants should be uprooted and removed. The seeds will travel on the wind and water to new locations.

Use Phosphorus-free fertilizers and fertilizers sparingly. Rain, lawn sprinkling, and snow melt all will wash fertilizers and sediments from yards into the lake unless there is a substantial greenbelt along the shoreline. The soil in the Lake Mitchell watershed generally has more than adequate amounts of phosphorus to grow lawns. With nitrogen, apply the correct amount at the right time to maximize plant uptake and minimize off target movement. You may purchase a soil sample kit at the Michigan State Extension in the Wexford County Lake Street Building in Cadillac. They will test your soil to determine what, if any, fertilizers are needed. If you must use fertilizers, select bags that are phosphorus-free and with slow release nitrogen. If the label on the package has a zero in the middle such as 12-0-20 then you know it contains no phosphorus. Excess nitrogen can add to weed growth while phosphorous can enhance algal blooms.

Secure lightweight float toys and yard furniture. Strong winds and waves will carry these items out in the lake unless they are secured.

Protect you bird feeders from bears. Yes, there are bears living in the woods and swamps around Lake Mitchell. In the spring and fall, when there is a shortage of natural foods, bears will destroy bird feeders.

Protect your water pipes from freezing. Each winter several cottages suffer damage from burst pipes. If you're not going to be using your cottage in the winter, drain your pipes. If leaving your home overnight during the winter, turn off your water pump. Consider leaving a faucet trickling water on sub-zero nights.

Watch out for underwater hazards. Each year boat motors are damaged by underwater hazards. Submerged rocks are found near reed beds and in the area in front of and to the north of the canal.

Prevent likelihood of yard flooding. Melting snow and heavy rains may leave some lawns covered with standing water. Unable to seep into the saturated ground, water collects on low sections of land. Property owners who wonder why their yard suddenly is prone to flooding after handling runoff well for many years will likely discover that the flooding began after they expanded paved surfaces. In neighborhoods where several property owners enlarge their impervious surfaces, water retention on land surfaces can be exacerbated. Paving a driveway, building a garage or enlarging a building's footprint, covers the ground with a surface that water cannot flow through, so it must flow elsewhere. Once the ground is saturated the water pools up on the surface.