Remember– leaves don’t belong in our lakes!
Leaves are organic and consist of the elements that were used to make them – carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. These are exactly the same components that are needed to make aquatic plants and algae in our lakes. When leaves fall off trees and decay, they release those nutrients back into the environment. Putting leaves in the water is like fertilizing our lakes for next year’s growth. It takes very little time for all of the nutrients to leach out of leaves into the lake. Most of the nutrients in leaves can leach into water within 24 hours. Those nutrients are then available for plant and weed growth.
So what can we do with leaves? If you don’t have lawn under your trees, you can leave the leaves where they fall. The “leaf litter” will slowly decompose and over time will become mulch and fertilizer for your trees. The leaves will also help stop erosion of bare soil.
If you have lawn where the leaves fall, you can mulch the leaves in place with a power lawn mower. This is very easy with a mulching mower. It may take a few extra passes with a regular mower after the usual end of the grass mowing season to chop the leaves into small particles that will decay over the winter. Too many leaves? One study mulched 18 inches of leaves on top of a lawn, and this helped the lawn rather than hurt it. That’s well in excess of the leaves that fall on most lawns.
Another choice is to compost your leaves. This can be as simple as putting leaves into a pile. Create your compost pile away from the lake and where leaves won’t blow into the lake over the winter. To speed the decomposition of the leaves into compost, you can use a compost bin or occasionally turn and water the area. This will eventually produce a beneficial soil additive that can be spread on lawn or garden areas. And you reduce your carbon footprint by not hauling leaves out of your lawn and compost back! If you have questions about composting, the Lewisboro Garden Club is willing to help. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plan to handle your leaves wisely each fall so they don’t create a problem in our lakes in spring.