By Barbara Luck, WCLRA
With leaves turning to fire-y reds, glowing yellows and oranges, and bold maroons, fall is a favorite time of year for many people. It’s a time to enjoy some of nature’s finest color displays. Before we know it, the leaves lose their luster and begin to fall off. We know it’s going to happen but do we know how to help leaves stay where they can replenish soil with nutrients? When leaves decompose, they give off large amounts of phosphorus that can be great for lawns and gardens. Some leaves fall into waterbodies naturally, but it’s not good when large quantities of leaves end up in the water, as the phosphorus creates troublesome algae and depletes oxygen needed by fish and native plants.
Even after the leaves have finished their colorful display, you can get more benefits from them while protecting our lakes and rivers with these actions:
- Rake leaves out of the street to keep street gutters and storm drains clear and keep leaves out of nearby water to protect water quality. Similarly, if you have waterfront property, rake leaves away from your shoreline buffer and water.
- Mulch your leaves with your mower for your lawn, or use them around shrubs, both of which provide nutrients to the soil.
- Consider starting a compost pile with leaves, which provides nutrient-rich material you can use to replenish garden soil. For more information, see Composting in Wisconsin Overview (DNR).
Enjoy fall and admire the rich abundant leaves, but don’t rake leaves towards the water