Yard / Garden

Keep Yard Waste out of Storm Drains, Streams & Wetlands

Grass clippings, leaves, tree branches, and other yard waste or landscape materials should not be blown or raked into storm drains, or dumped into streams, water bodies, or wetlands, which is a violation of state and local wetlands protection law. These materials can interrupt normal drainage patterns, clog waterways and cause localized flooding and water stagnation, with the potential for increased mosquito populations. They may also impact sensitive wildlife habitats and harm aquatic life, particularly as they decompose.

The Town of Burlington offers seasonal curbside pickup of yard waste and leaves, and also sells compost bins at a reduced price for residents. Contact the Department of Public Works at 781-270-1670 for more information.

View the Good Practices for Yard Work Fact Sheet (PDF).

Reduce or Eliminate Fertilizer & Pesticide Use

Phosphorus, a component of many common household products including lawn fertilizer, can be extremely damaging to our waters and aquatic organisms. Excess nitrogen can also contribute to impaired or polluted waters. Fertilizer from lawns and gardens washes into our streams and rivers with stormwater runoff. Fortunately, most lawns in our area do not need fertilizer and can be maintained with simple, organic compost and mulch (see below for a great compost option).

State regulations passed in 2015 have specific regulations on the application of plant nutrients (fertilizers) and when, where, and what quantities can be used to both be effective and minimize impacts on surface and groundwater resources to protect human health and the environment. These regulations apply to homeowners as well as professionals.

View the Massachusetts Plant Nutrient Regulations for Turf and Lawns Fact Sheet (PDF) (PDF).

Action Items

  • Have your soil tested: UMass Amherst provides inexpensive soil testing, which can determine what modifications your soils need for home gardening and landscaping.
  • Buy compost locally: Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm in Andover uses horses to provide beneficial therapy for people with a wide range of physical, emotional, and cognitive disabilities. To help raise funds for their therapy programs, they sell well-composted horse manure by the 5-gallon bucket for a very reasonable price. The Burlington Garden Club has been offering this compost to its members and it has been very popular.
    It is purely organic, composted a minimum of 5 years, and has no chemicals and no odor. It looks like a rich dark loam. Please email Ironstone Farm to order or with any questions.

Maintain a Naturally Vegetated Buffer Around Streams & Wetlands

Trees and other vegetation around streams and wetlands are critical in providing and supporting the following important services:

  • Flood control
  • Prevention of pollution
  • Protection of fisheries
  • Protection of wildlife habitat
  • Storm damage prevention

Vegetation, especially trees and shrubs also help stabilize stream banks and prevent erosion, and the shade they provide helps mitigate the thermal pollution of streams by street runoff. Dead trees provide additional wildlife habitat and carbon and nutrient cycling.

Plant Native Plants

The Conservation Commission regulates work within 100 feet of wetlands and 200 feet of most streams and encourages planting native plants within these areas, particularly within 20 feet of wetlands and 100 feet of streams. Contact the Conservation Department at 781-270-1655 for more information.