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Residents of Florida are acutely aware of the effects of surplus nutrients in our coastal waters.

The fish deaths due to algae blooms in Mosquito Lagoon and the red tide episodes in the Gulf of Mexico are constant summer reminders of what happens when high nutrient levels are introduced into our coastal aquatic environment. High nutrient levels promote the growth of harmful algae.

Most DIY homeowners know not to allow lawn fertilizer to remain on driveways and sidewalks, where it will be washed into storm drains and ultimately wind up in our rivers and oceans.

But there’s another factor many people don’t know about that contributes to the very same problem: mismanaged yard waste.

Mismanaged Yard Waste Has Consequences

I’m not talking about tree branches and bagged leaves collected by our cities and counties, but rather the smaller offenders: grass cuttings and leaves blown onto the streets and sidewalks by uninformed homeowners and “lawn guys.”

Lawn waste mismanagement like this incurs several hazardous consequences, including:

  • Damage to our lakes, rivers, and oceans
    • Guess what? Those clippings count as nutrients!
  • Clogged storm drains and storm sewers
    • This can easily create flood conditions to area residents
  • Peeved neighbors
    • Blowing detritus off your property with no concern for where it lands makes it, rather rudely, “someone else’s problem”

This practice is prohibited by most county and municipal ordinances. (Really. Check yours.) Penalties may include significant fines.

I have a few simple suggestions for homeowners and lawn maintenance companies to consider to avoid potential fines, but more importantly, to protect the environment and our future.

Like many of you, I’m a do-it-yourself when it comes to lawn maintenance. I also don’t enjoy making my life more complicated than it needs to be. The method I use requires little more than the typical “mow, blow, and go” approach that is so popular.

It’s Easy to Avoid Contributing to The Problem

First, I edge the hardscape and mulch beds of my yard. Next, I tour the property with a leaf blower. Last is the mowing.

Here’s the big difference: instead of blowing the grass and leaves into the street during that second step, I blow them directly into the yard, along with the soil that results from edging.

Doing so reduces soil erosion at the edge of the property, while returning the grass and leaves to the yard. The mower will mulch them up, and provide a natural source of fertilizer as the waste decays. Unless the leaves and grass are heavy, a second trip around with a blower is usually not required.

Good stewardship of lawn waste is a win for your lawn, your neighbors, and the environment, and requires little additional effort.


Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.

Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control