By Al Bennett - October 2020
This article is a reprint of an article that was first published in October 2018. It is a seasonal reminder that blowing leaves into the lake is not a good practice, especially given the recurrence of Harmful Algae Blooms over the past three years.
As homeowners, it is difficult for us to control the amount of nutrients that enter our lake from upstream sources; however, as residents we can control what enters the lake from our respective properties.
Blowing leaves into the lake is not recommended. Although not illegal, it is a form of littering that is discourteous to neighbors and it is harmful to the lake’s ecosystem.
Leaves blown into the lake rarely settle at the shoreline of origin. They are carried by wind and current to other locations before they reach bottom. In coves, it is usually the few lots at the back of the cove that receive the leaf debris. They are unsightly and over time, sedimentation buildup will cause these owners to lose water depth and will leave them with a squishy bottom.
Decaying leaves release nutrients, primarily carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous. These nutrients are great for soil but excess nutrients are a pollutant to lakes like ours. These nutrients, especially phosphorous, are a fertilizer for hydrilla and algae, promoting their growth. As hydrilla growth spreads, herbicides and/or carp are then needed to control its growth.
Similarly, excessive nutrient levels can contribute to low dissolved oxygen levels by causing abundant growths of phytoplankton (microscopic plants and algae) called blooms. Living phytoplankton may deplete oxygen levels during the night and as the phytoplankton die; decomposition of the organic material by bacteria consumes oxygen.
Let’s all be good neighbors and good stewards of our lake’s ecosystem by not blowing leaves into the lake. Instead, consider collecting and finely mulching them and spreading them so their nutrients can be returned to your soil.