For many Bloomington-Normal residents, leaf-raking efforts are already underway. While raking leaves isn’t rocket science, some leaf-raking practices can be harmful. Raking leaves into the street clogs storm drains, causing street flooding; if they don’t clog but rather wash down into the storm drains they become a storm water pollutant. The additional nutrients from the massive amounts of leaves decomposing in creeks, streams, or lakes removes oxygen from the water, suffocating plants and wildlife, and causing algae blooms that can result in bad odors and unpleasant tastes in drinking water.
The Ecology Action Center urges residents to help keep our local waters clean by using by using the following leaf management practices:
- Let leaves lie! Leaving your leaves where they fall is beneficial for your lawn; many residents choose to use a mower to break them into smaller pieces. Leaves are decomposed by earthworms and other microorganisms and turned into plant-usable organic matter. Leaves also make great mulch to protect flower beds from harsh winter weather.
- Compost your leaves! Leaves are a great source of nitrogen and an important dry component to a healthy compost pile. Start a compost pile and reduce your waste, keep waterways clean, and generate free fertilizer for your lawn and garden. Find helpful instructions to start your compost pile at CompostBN.org.
- Don’t break the cycle! The above two options keep your organic material on-site, rejuvenating your soil with valuable nutrients just like the nutrient cycle occurring in nature. Removing your leaves each year can gradually deplete your soil, leaving your lawn, your trees, and your garden hungry for nutrients. As well, keep these materials on-site helps reduce demand for collection by Public Works crews, conserving financial resources for other municipal services.
- Curb your leaves! If you do choose to rake your leaves for curbside pick up, the municipalities require that you rake them to the curb, but NOT into the street.
Information on protecting our local watersheds is available at mCLEANwater.org, a clearinghouse of local resources about our water and efforts to protect it.
The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment. The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.