GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Did you know that leaves can be a source of food for the blue-green algae blooms? While cleaning up your lawn might make your home look more organized, disposing of those leaves incorrectly can increase algae blooms during the summer months.

Alyssa Reinke, a Northeast Wisconsin Stormwater Coordinator with the Fox Wolf Watershed Alliance explains how leaves can impact algae growth:

“They will become food over time for algae and different kinds of plant growth that we don’t want. The difference we have now is that we’ve changed the landscape; we have roads and hard surfaces and storm drains that lead right to our lakes and rivers. That means if your leaves are there, they are going to go into our lakes and that’s a lot more leaves going into our water now than there ever have been.”, says Reinke.

Once the temperatures warm up during the summer, nutrients from various sources including leaves help the algae become larger and more noticeable in our waterways.

To prevent the algae growth, Reinke offers up a few suggestions to help mitigate this issue:

“We have two answers for that. One is that you can leave your leaves on land when possible. that could be an important habitat for insects and animals. It also insulates your plants. But if you are going to be raking your leaves, you can do a couple of different things with it. One you can mulch them into your lawn or garden that creates nutrients down the line for your soil, you can compost it, or set it aside for pickup by your local community.”

As those leaves break down on your lawns, Reinke mentioned it could lead to richer soil and grass with little need to add fertilizers, which also contribute to the blue-green algae as it entrains into the groundwater.

It’s important to check with your local community as to their policy with leaf collection, as all communities are different. Reinke noted not to put leaf piles out too early, as leaves could be moved around by the wind and end up in those storm drains.