Falling Leaves – Pretty But Dangerous To Waterways

Thomas J. Koske  |  10/29/2005 1:36:18 AM

Pretty as fall leaves are, they are a potential water pollutant. They can endanger aquatic life and are especially a problem this year with extra downed leaves from hurricane winds.

News You Can Use For November 2005

Grass clippings are a constant in yard maintenance, but fall introduces leaves into the mix. This year the nuisance is worse because hurricanes and storms have defoliated more trees.

LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske says leaves and clippings not only are a nuisance to clean up, they are potentially a water pollutant.

Leaves and clippings are organic matters that naturally leach nutrients and compost into soluble nutrients and minerals. Soluble products follow ground waters and especially surface waters.

Because these waters end up in aquifers, ponds and bayous, they must be protected from mineral pollution or from organic pollution, Koske explains. Organic products reduce the dissolved oxygen levels, stressing or killing aquatic life.

With so much at risk, Koske advises following best management practices in dealing with loose foliage.

1. Never dump clipping or leaves into ditches, storm drains, lakes or bayous.

2. When fertilizing the lawn, avoid spreading materials near waterways. Leave an untreated strip of several feet between the granule swath and the waterway. If turf is thin and on steep slopes, allow even more space.

3. Avoid blowing or spreading fertilizer or leaves and clippings onto walks, drives, roads or any hardscape. The debris generally will go directly into storm drains and ditches. Blow, sweep or rake this trash back into the lawn or carry it to a compost pile.

4. Don't over-fertilize your lawn with phosphorus. It needs only a low to moderate level. High soil phosphorus will promote weed growth, waste money and threaten the surface waters.

If in doubt about your soil's fertility level, take a routine soil test. The LSU lab will run one for only $7.

Your local AgCenter county agent can help you with this test sample. Fertilize according to the soil test results and recommendations for best results and a cleaner environment.

More information on lawn care is available at your local LSU AgCenter office. In addition, look for lawn & gardening and Get It Growing links in the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com/
On the Internet: www.louisianalawnandgarden.org

Source: Tom Koske (225) 578-2222, or tkoske@agcenter.lsu.edu

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