As everyone knows, when those orange leaves are falling to the ground, they land where they will: the deck, the street, the lake, the lawn. Many of these leaves land or blow into the street where they find their way to the gutter, and the rain carries them down the storm drain system, directly into our local lakes and streams. While it is natural for some leaves to fall into these water bodies from surrounding trees, it is not natural for leaves to be piped in from throughout the city. This results in more leaves than the water bodies can handle. The excess nutrients the decomposing leaves provide increase algae growth, which can lead to algae blooms. When the algae dies and decomposes, it uses up much of the oxygen in the water, which is needed for fish and aquatic plants to survive. Much of the pollution in urban lakes can be attributed to an excess of leaves.
You can do your part for improving water quality by taking care of the leaves that fall in your yard, driveway, or sidewalk right away before they have a chance to blow into the street. While raking and bagging them for pick-up is a good option, a great alternative is mulching your lawn with the leaves. The easiest way to do this is to mow over the leaves while mowing the grass. This will break the leaves into small enough pieces that they will settle into the lawn. Some people worry that mulching with shredded leaves will build thatch, but that is not the case. The shredded leaf mulch acts as a fertilizer adding nutrients back to the soil, helps the lawn retain moisture, and reduces weeds. Mulching with shredded leaves gives your lawn multiple benefits while also reducing the amount of nutrients that enter local lakes and streams. It’s a win-win!
Keeping your leaves out of the street may seem like a small action that won’t make a difference, but it does. Do your part, talk to your neighbors about it, and bit by bit, everyone’s actions combined can help lead to cleaner, clearer water.