Here are some ways you can keep your watershed healthy this fall.
Keep leaves out of storm drains
As nutrient-rich leaves fall in our yards and neighborhoods, they can wash into storm drains, carrying excess phosphorus and nitrogen directly to lakes and streams. Managing those leaves is good for your yard and for the environment.
- Mulch. Depending on the amount of leaves that accumulate on your property, you can mulch with a mower instead of raking and bagging – at least for much of the fall season. This is a great way to prevent leaves from washing into storm drains, and it fertilizes your lawn in the process.
- Rake. If fallen leaves have blanketed your lawn, raking may be your best option. Be sure to gather any leaves that spill into the street. Bag them for pickup (if your city offers this service), take them to a designated compost site, or compost at home.
- Clear storm drains. Please help keep storm drains clean from leaves and debris, and consider adopting a drain in your neighborhood.
Improve your lawn
Fall is a great time to improve the health of your lawn. And you don’t need excessive fertilizers and chemicals that cause runoff pollution.
- Aerate. Aeration helps break up compacted soil, letting water and nutrients infiltrate. This in turn helps your grass and discourages weeds from taking hold. Use a spade or shovel to aerate small areas; for larger lawns you can hire a lawn service or rent a core aerator.
- Seed bare patches. Help prevent soil erosion by seeding bare patches of your lawn. Use a hand rake to lightly cover and ensure good soil-to-seed contact. Instead of traditional turf grass, consider converting these spots to native plants or a low maintenance grass variety such as fescue. Visit the Blue Thumb website to learn about some of these options.
- Fertilize sparingly. By aerating and choosing the right seed for your yard, you may not need to fertilize. If you decide to, choose a zero-phosphorus fertilizer and use sparingly as these nutrients can quickly end up in local waterbodies where they fuel algae growth.
Prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species
Be on the lookout for aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil when removing boats, docks, lifts, swim rafts and other equipment from the water this fall. If you find an invasive species that has not already been confirmed in the lake, contact a local DNR AIS specialist.
Storing and transporting
If you hire a service to remove your equipment, make sure they are on the DNR list of permitted lake service providers.
You can remove water-related equipment – even if it has zebra mussels or other invasive species attached – and place it on your shoreline without a permit. However, if you want to transport equipment to another location for storage or repair, you may need an authorization permit.
As always, when transporting your boat (even to a storage facility), Minnesota law requires that you:
- Clean aquatic plants and animals from watercraft.
- Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft.
- Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
For more tips and stories of residents in your community working for clean water, visit cleanwatermn.org.