Yard Waste Management Frequently Asked Questions
Is it OK to dispose of leaves on stream banks? There are leaves there already and I've heard it helps to stabilize the stream bank. No-- It is true that there are trees and other vegetation next to streams and leaves from those trees fall into and around the stream, but as with many things in life, too much can be a bad thing. The natural system is equipped to break down and process the leaf litter that is there naturally, but dumping leaves in or near a stream overwhelms the system. Too much decomposing organic waste adds excess nutrients into our streams and lakes that can lead to unsightly algae blooms which also can be harmful to pets and humans. As algae dies, it uses oxygen in the water, which causes depletion in oxygen in the water for aquatic life and can cause fish kills.
Is it OK to put leaves in the storm drain? No-- it is illegal to dump anything, other than clean water, into the storm drain. Not only is it bad for water quality because stormwater is not treated, it can cause clogs in storm water catch basins which could result in localized street flooding. And this causes increased maintenance costs for your city, which could result in higher taxes for you.
Will mulch mowing leaves cause thatch in my lawn? I'm worried because have several mature trees in my yard. No-- research from Michigan State University Hancock Turfgrass Research Center has shown that you can mulch up to 6 inches of leaves into your lawn. To do this effectively, it is best to stay ahead of the leaves and not try to mulch 6 inches at once, but mulch frequently throughout the fall season. Also, make sure and have your mower blade sharpened before the fall season to ensure effective mulching. Research has shown that core aeration and fertilizing your lawn with a fertilizer that has a high nitrogen (N) and low phosphorus (P) content will help break down the leaves into a useable resource for your healthy lawn. (When purchasing fertilizer, check the Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) contents. Lawns in Johnson County generally do not need additional phosphorus.)
Additionally, thatch is not caused by mulching leaves or grass clippings into your lawn. Thatch is caused by many factors which include, frequent and shallow watering, excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides, compacted and poorly aerated soils, and infrequent, high mowing.
Is it OK to blow or rake my leaves into the street-- doesn't the city pick them up? Most cities in Johnson County do not offer a leaf removal service. The street sweepers you may see on your street are there to pick up the leaves that fall on the street and ONLY those leaves that fall on the street. They are not equipped to remove a large amount of leaves, such as those raked intentionally from a yard, The cities of Westwood, Westwood Hills, and Roeland Park do offer a city-wide leaf pick up service, but only on specific days. Contact your city for details. The cities of Fairway and Mission Hills have negotiated on behalf of their residents with a third-party contractor to provide a fee-based leaf-collection service. Most other cities in Johnson County have weekly curbside yard waste collection, but require leaves to be in paper bags or in a container clearly marked as yard waste.