Minimizing water problems from yard waste

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Recent temperatures may not make it feel like fall, but leaves in lawns sure do show that we are in the fall season.

Many residents do not like the look of an abundance of leaves on the lawn. Many work hard each fall to remove leaves from the lawn. This can create many issues, especially for those that live in the city limits.

One common practice that I often see as I drive through Winchester is homeowners who blow, rake or collect leaves into storm drains. Keep in mind that this can create many issues with the storm water system. Leaves can cause trash and other debris to collect which may clog up storm drains. This can create flooding issues when the next rain event happens. It may not flood the property of a homeowner collecting leaves along storm drains, but will most likely affect property owners in the low-lying areas along the storm water drainage system.

Most storm water drainage systems also run directly into a stream. Drains that do not necessarily clog will add excessive plant material into streams or other bodies of water. Excessive plant debris in streams can result in low dissolved oxygen levels which negatively affects aquatic life.

It is a much better practice to get the benefit of using leaves and other fall yard waste in a more sustainable manner. Leaves can be stored in a compost area or bin, and then be added as a carbon source to other materials such as grass clippings or food wastes that are higher in nitrogen throughout the year to make compost. Composted material can be added to gardens, flower beds or landscape plantings to benefit the soil.

Mulching leaves with a lawn mower is very beneficial for the lawn. Leaving mulched leaves on the lawn adds organic matter to the soil, makes use of the soil nutrients contained in the leaf material, and the mulching process allows seeing the grasses instead of a blanket of leaves. Just simply rake or blow leaves into rows and run over those rows several times with a lawn mower to mulch the leaves. I actually do this in my lawn, and I notice quite a difference each spring between the areas of the lawn where leaves were mulched and where they were not. After mulching the leaves with the mower, there is very little evidence indicating that they were even there after a couple of weeks. This practice is also much less work than collecting the leaves to dispose of them.

For more information on dealing with fall leaves, composting or protecting storm water, feel free to call me at the Clark County Extension Office at 744-4682.

David Davis is the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.