Love Your Lakes, Don't Leaf Them

Show you love the lakes by keeping your leaves out of the street. Then, get a yard sign from us. Leaves can fertilize your lawn or flower beds, or promote algae growth in the lakes, depending on where you put them. Rain washes leaves in the street down storm drains and ditches and into nearby lakes and streams. Even if the leaves themselves don't move, rain seeping through leaf piles and leaves crushed by car tires makes a rich "nutrient tea" that flows along the curb into the storm drains. These nutrients then fuel algae growth. Brown leaves in the street this fall make green lakes next summer. Print this handy seasonal guide to yard care to show your love for your lakes all year long.

View our Love Your Lakes, Don’t Leaf Them Brochure.

Click on the image above to
print your own yard sign!

Leaves and grass clippings naturally contain nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. If leaves and grass are raked or blown into the street gutter, the leaves and the nutrients they contain can be washed away before collection and end up in our lakes and streams, contributing to algae blooms.

Leaves and grass can also clog storm sewers and contribute to localized flooding. Burning these yard "wastes" not only releases air pollutants, but the ashes can pollute lakes and streams if carried away by stormwater runoff. Street sweeping is not intended to capture large quantities of leaves.

So, here are some options for leaf management that will also help your lakes and streams.

  • Keep fallen leaves out of the street gutter. Many leaves naturally fall into the street. Use a blower or sweep them up.
  • Compost your leaves. Place composted leaves in your vegetable and flower beds. Composted leaves amend soil that's healthy for plants and it’s free! Compost bins start at about $35 and come in various sizes and shapes or you can also make a simple leaf bin from chicken wire or other metal fencing. The leaves will take longer to break down if they are not shredded or mixed with other wastes, but they will eventually decay, leaving a nice crumbly humus which can be put on gardens and lawns to enrich the soil.
  • Use leaves as mulch. Rake leaves to vegetable and flower gardens, under shrubs or around trees to help suppress weeds and help prevent weed seeds that sprout in the spring. Decayed leaves enhance the soil for any planting bed and save money on purchased mulch.
  • Mow leaves. Leave the leaves shredded by your lawn mower right on your lawn. The small pieces quickly break down, releasing nutrients for a green, well-fed lawn. Or if using a bagger, use the chopped up leaves as mulch.
  • Follow your municipality's guidelines for leaf collection if you rake. Contact them for more information. Information on MAMSWaP municipalities’ pick up requirements can be found through the links below:
Municipality Options
City of Fitchburg B, C
City of Madison A, C
City of Middleton A, C
City of Monona C
City of Stoughton Page 1   Page 2 C
City of Sun Prairie B
City of Verona C, D
Village of Cottage Grove C
Village of DeForest C
Village of Maple Bluff A
Village of McFarland B
Village of Shorewood Hills A
Village of Waunakee A
Town of Blooming Grove B
Town of Burke C
Town of Cottage Grove C
Town of Madison A
Town of Middleton C
Town of Westport C
Town of Windsor C
Dane County C

Option A

Leaves raked to terrace, but not in the street.

Option B

Leaves placed in bags at curb.

Option C

Yard Waste Drop Off Sites. Contact your municipality for locations. If your municipality does not have a drop off site, all Dane County residents may take their leaves to the county compost site.

Option D

Verona only: Because of machinery limitations, actually requires residents to rake leaves directly in the street.

Other Leaf Resources: