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Dane County Land & Water Resources Department

Easy and effective tips for leaf clean up to help Dane County’s lakes, rivers and streams

October 05, 2009
Marcia Hartwig, Madison Area Municipal Storm Water Partnership, 224-3746,
Land & Water Resources

As the leaves turn glorious colors and fall onto the yards and lawns of Dane County residents, it’s time to “Love Your Lakes, Don’t Leaf Them.”

How You Can Help
The Madison Area Municipal Storm Water Partnership shares the following easy tips for easy leaf clean up that help prevent algae-feeding nutrients and decaying organic matter from reaching lakes, rivers and streams.

· Keep leaves out of the street: Leaves in the street get washed directly to lakes and streams when it rains. Even if the leaves never move, rain water running over and through them makes and carries a nutrient-rich tea directly to the storm drains and lakes and streams. So, when you see someone keeping leaves out of the street and gutter, you know they are helping to keep algae-feeding nutrients out of our surface waters.

· Mulch: Probably the simplest and easiest thing to do is to use your lawn mower to mulch leaves directly on your lawn. These shredded leaves act as a natural fertilizer returning nutrients to your lawn. If you prefer to bag your grass clippings and shredded leaves, you can empty them on your vegetable and flowerbeds or around your trees and shrubs to help suppress weeds.

· Compost: Save time, money and water and improve your gardens and the environment by turning leaves into “black gold.”. Go to to learn more about composting. If you don’t have the room in your yard, you can take your leaves to one of the three County compost sites. Go to for more information.

· Rake: If you rake, pile leaves on the terrace, not in the street. Covering the piles with a tarp helps to prevent them from blowing around and reduce nutrients that can leach from them during a rain. Check with your municipality for curbside collection dates and set-out requirements so that your leaves are at the curb for as short a time as possible. It’s important to contact your municipality as some require leaves be placed in a bag or container, others don’t.

Go to for great ideas on turning leaves and other yard “wastes” into valuable, useful amendments for your yard and gardens.

“Love Your Lakes, Don’t Leaf Them” is an annual campaign started in 2003 by several watershed groups in central Dane County and the Madison Area Municipal Storm Water Partnership. The campaign focuses on the importance of keeping leaves out of the streets and storm drains to protect and improve the quality of our lakes, rivers and streams. For more information or to obtain yard signs and brochures, visit or call 224-3746.
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