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Love Your Lake

Help keep Fox Lake beautiful for all

Responsible Lawn and Garden Care

When you live near a picturesque lake, the beauty of the landscape becomes a part of your daily life. With serene waters glistening in the background, it's essential to be mindful of the impact our lawn and garden care practices can have on these natural wonders. Using chemicals in your landscaping routine can pose a significant threat to the health of our lakes.

Why Avoid Chemicals Near Lakes?

Lakes are delicate ecosystems that are highly sensitive to external influences. Chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers, can have severe repercussions on the water quality, aquatic life, and overall balance of these natural environments. Here are some compelling reasons to steer clear of using chemicals near lakes:

Harm to Aquatic Life: Chemical runoff from lawns and gardens can make its way into the lake, causing harm to fish, insects, and other aquatic creatures. The chemicals disrupt the food chain, negatively impacting the entire ecosystem.

Algae Overgrowth: Excess nutrients from fertilizers can lead to an overgrowth of algae in the lake, particularly blue-green algae. These algal blooms can result in foul-smelling water and harmful toxins that threaten the health of both the lake and its surrounding environment.

**3. Chemical Runoff:** Rainfall can easily wash chemicals into the lake, contaminating the water and harming the quality of the lake, which can affect activities like swimming and fishing.

Safe Application Practices

If you must use chemicals on your lawn and garden, it's crucial to employ safe application practices. Here's how to minimize the environmental impact:

Read Labels: Always read the labels and follow the recommended application rates and safety precautions. Different products have different instructions, so it's essential to understand what you're working with.

Proper Timing: Apply chemicals when the weather conditions are favorable. Avoid application on windy days or just before heavy rainfall to prevent runoff.

Calibrate Equipment: Ensure your equipment, such as sprayers, is well-maintained and calibrated correctly to avoid over-application.

Stay Informed: Stay informed about local regulations and restrictions on chemical use. Some areas near lakes have specific guidelines to protect the environment.

A Targeted Approach for Herbicides

Herbicides are designed to eliminate unwanted weeds, but they can have unintended consequences if not used carefully. Consider a targeted approach to minimize collateral damage:


Spot Treatment: Instead of applying herbicides over the entire lawn or garden, target specific areas with weed infestations. This reduces the quantity of chemicals introduced to the environment.

Manual Removal: Hand-pulling weeds or using non-chemical methods can be a more eco-friendly approach to weed control.

Clover as a Natural Solution: Allowing clover to grow in your lawn can help capture nitrogen from the air and naturally fertilize the soil, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.

By avoiding chemicals near lakes, following safe application practices, and adopting a targeted approach for herbicides, you can play a crucial role in preserving the natural beauty and health of your local lakes. Responsible lawn and garden care ensures that the stunning waters you enjoy today will remain pristine for generations to come.

Pink Blossom
landscape image showing water runnoff into a wisconsin lake.jpg
Protecting Lake Water Quality
Managing Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater runoff, the result of rain and snowmelt flowing across various surfaces, significantly affects the quality of our lakes. As it traverses roads, driveways, fields, and lawns, this runoff carries soil particles, oil, pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants into our waterways, resulting in cloudy water filled with excess nutrients. The surplus nitrogen and phosphorous in this water fuel algae growth, leading to reduced water clarity, higher oxygen consumption, and impaired aquatic plant growth and fish habitats.

How Can We Improve Water Quality?

Effectively redirecting and filtering water runoff is key to keeping pollutants and nutrients out of our lakes. Here are some actionable ways to achieve this:

Redirect Downspouts: Redirect water spouts from impermeable surfaces toward lawns, gardens, or rock infiltration areas, away from the lake. This allows the water to be absorbed into the ground before reaching the lake.

Diversions and Swales: Use berms or shallow trenches to intercept water from paths or roads and divert it into dispersion areas where it can soak into the ground.

Rain and Buffer Gardens: These gardens capture and filter water runoff while providing wildlife habitat. Plant native species with deep roots near downspouts and shorelines.

Reduce Hard Surfaces: Avoid adding more pavement or hard surfaces to your property, as these generate significant runoff during rain.

Control Erosion: Use straw to prevent soil erosion when restarting or tilling a lawn.

In addition to managing runoff, adopting good lawn and garden practices is essential for improving lake water quality. Limit or eliminate the use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, as they can harm aquatic life. Increase plantings and decrease lawn coverage to help absorb excess water. Properly dispose of pet waste to prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria, parasites, and excess nutrients into the water.

Every small action we take to manage water runoff has a significant impact on our lakes. Combining multiple practices in a holistic approach can bring about positive change. Together, we can work towards preserving the health and beauty of our lakes.

*From UW Extension publication: "Protect Our Lakes and Streams, Help Stop Polluted Runoff" UWEX Publications GWQ063, 10-2013, DNR PUB-WT-1000, 2013*

Managing Fall Leaves

Fall means raking leaves – lots of them! Keeping your fallen leaves out of the lake is essential for lakefront homeowners. Wherever leaves land, they break down into nutrients and organic material- great for lawns and gardens but NOT for lakes. Leaves are rich in nutrients, especially phosphorous, a long-lasting nutrient that fuels unwanted algae growth. It only takes one pound of phosphorous to produce 500 pounds of algae!

Fall Clean-Up Tips for Lakefront Homeowners:

  1. Don't rake or blow leaves into the lake; it promotes algae growth.

  2. Avoid burning leaves due to air pollutants and phosphorous runoff.

  3. Mulch leaves in place with a mulching mower or use them in garden beds.

  4. Compost your leaves to enrich garden soils naturally.

  5. Take collected leaves to a designated composting site.

  6. Keep driveways, streets, and catch-basins leaf-free to prevent phosphorus runoff.

Fall Bird Migration

It’s tough being a bird these days; habitat loss, cat predation, window and car strikes, and other challenges have resulted in a 30% loss of the bird population in North America over the past 50 years. Spring and fall migrations are particularly perilous times.  Here are some simple actions that you can take to improve their chances of making it to their destinations safely:

-Keep cats inside – always! A 2015 study stated that cats kill an estimated 2.6 BILLION birds a year.  Cats are the leading cause of bird fatalities.

-Turn lights off at night, particularly outside lights. Many birds, especially songbirds, fly at night and get disoriented by lights.  Reducing light pollution can benefit other wildlife too.

-Limit your use of pesticides. Birds need insects for food.

-Hang ribbons, tape (masking or painters tape), glass decals, soap or tempera paint (no less than 4 inches apart) or a commercial one way transparent film, on the outside of your windows to deter window strikes.  It is estimated that 624 million birds are killed annually by window collisions in the US and Canada. 

-Locate bird feeders either <3 feet or >30 feet from windows.  Feeders are safest when placed close to or even mounted on windows because if a bird takes off from a feeder and hits a window, it is travelling at a slower speed so has a better chance of surviving a window strike. (Also note that feeders should be cleaned with a 10% beach solution twice a year.)

Steps to Better Fishing

Good fishing makes for a good lake- right?  If fishing is good on your lake, chances are your lake has good water quality and a healthy shoreline.  Both are critical for a hearty fish population.

Fish are not fussy. They need three things to grow and flourish:

  • Clear water to find food, have enough oxygen to breathe and allow sunlight to penetrate to grow abundant aquatic plants. Poor water quality can lead to increased populations of “tolerant” fish species such as common carp and black bullheads. Those fish species further contribute to turbid water conditions.

  • Food sources, such as plants, macroinvertebrates, and other fish.  Plants are eaten by all kinds of aquatic wildlife, which may then be eaten by larger fish.  Macroinvertebrates are small water creatures such as mayfly and dragonfly larvae that provide a basic food source for most fish. They are considered an indicator of a healthy ecosystem. 

  • Shelter to provide cover from predation and good spawning grounds. The shelter can be in the form of woody structures, such as “fish sticks” (downed trees or large branches anchored to the shoreline) or emergent and submersed plants.  These plants have the added benefit of producing oxygen, reducing nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous), and controlling excessive algal growth.

What can we do to improve fishing on our lake?

Having a healthy shoreline is essential to a healthy lake.  Shorelines with vegetation and native plants on the upland, shoreline, and adjacent water reduce erosion from waves and rain, absorb nutrients and pollutants, and provide habitat for both land and aquatic wildlife. Over 90% of wildlife depends on this critical area.  Lawns abutting the water's edge are detrimental to lake water clarity and fishing. Lawns don’t provide the water filtering and habitat needs required and may harm existing fishing habitats if added fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides wash off into the lake.  Reducing the area of lawn by the shoreline can have a big impact on water quality and fishing.

Preventing nonsource pollution (aka: water runoff) is also important for good fish habitat. Water runoff from rains and snowmelt carry sediment, nutrients, oil, animal waste, and other pollutants as it travels across driveways, parking lots and lawns before entering the lake. Redirecting that water runoff and capturing it into rain gardens, swails or dispersion areas where it can soak into the ground and be filtered first is key to improving lake water quality.   Simply redirecting downspouts from impervious surfaces to lawns and gardens on the upland sides of houses and garages (away from the lake) can make a big difference.

There are many steps that individual property owners can take to improve fishing on our lake. Every small step collectively has a big impact on the lake that we all share. Talk to your neighbors and encourage them to take action.  Together, we can make a difference.


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