A Place to Call Home

Six things you can do to help save our local lakes and wetlands!

1. Mulch or compost your grass clippings

Keep your grass clippings off of hard surfaces (sidewalks, driveways, streets) from which they can be washed away, ultimately ending up in our waters. Mulching your grass reduces the need for fertilizer because, as the grass clippings break down, nutrients are released into your lawn. Less fertilizer on your lawn means less fertilizer in the water. If you don’t want to mulch, compost your grass clippings.  Also, don’t cut your grass lower than 3 inches in the summer. Slightly longer grass will stay greener, reducing the need for watering. Less watering means less runoff.


2. Mulch or compost your leaves

Because they blow away, leaves can be an even bigger problem than grass clippings. Mulch or compost the leaves in your yard as soon as they fall and as often as possible. This minimizes the chance that they will reach our waters. Also, regularly clean leaves from your gutters so they can’t be washed away with the rain.  Mulching leaves, like grass, adds nutrients to your lawn, reducing the need for fertilizer.  Don’t rake leaves into the street.


3. Use zero-phosphorous fertilizer

If you must fertilize, do not use a fertilizer that contains phosphorous (it’s phosphorous that accelerates algae growth in our lakes and wetlands.) Consider this – one pound of phosphorous in runoff can result in 500 pounds of algae growth! Soils in the Metro area are already phosphorous-rich. Our lawns do not need additional phosphorous to look green and healthy.  Make sure to keep any excess fertilizer off of hard surfaces – sweep the fertilizer from sidewalks, driveways and streets so it won’t run off into our waters.


4. Reduce stormwater runoff from your property

Runoff is excess water that washes the grass clippings, leaves, fertilizer and other "pollutants" from lawns, sidewalks and driveways, carrying them into our water system. To reduce runoff, direct downspouts onto your lawn not onto hard surfaces. Also, use rain barrels to collect rain water  for watering plants. Additionally, reduce the "hard surfaces" on your property. Finally, you can create "rain gardens" - collection areas that are planted with native, moisture-loving vegetation.


5. Use native plants; remove invasive, non-native plants

Landscaping with native plants (e.g., Little Blue Stem, Blazing Star, Dogwood) improves our local ecosystem. Native plants are adapted to our environment and climate and are tolerant of both drought and tough winters. This drought tolerance means no need for excessive watering and, therefore, less runoff. Native plants are also adapted to our soils and, thus, don’t need fertilizers or pesticides. This means less maintenance for you. And, because native plants have deeper root systems (which create more air space in the soil), they accommodate water infiltration which, in turn, reduces runoff. Finally, native plants also provide better habitat for wildlife.  Removing invasive, non-native plants is the other side of this equation. Non-native plants such as Buckthorn, Siberian Elm, Reed Canary Grass, Amur Maple, Purple Loosestrife and Birdsfoot Trefoil crowd out and destroy native plants, reducing native plant diversity to the detriment of our ecosystem.


6. Properly dispose of household hazardous waste

Do not pour old gasoline onto the street or wash paint brushes at the end of your driveway. Where do these pollutants end up? In our lakes and wetlands!  Properly dispose of household hazardous wastes.  Whether gasoline, paint, pesticides, antifreeze, motor oil, or the like, dispose of them at your county waste site. Their effect on our waters can be devastating!   


-Printed with permission from Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, rwmwd.org

For more information on Preventing Stormwater Pollution, visit