Don't Burn the Leaves in Your Yard: Do These Things Instead

You won't be-leaf how easy it is to get rid of fallen leaves in your yard.

Published August 21, 2023
family jumping in a pile of leaves

Imagine the perfect autumn scene in your head. We bet it’s a bit windy, something spicy is cooking in the oven, and there are loads of crunchy colorful leaves littering the ground, right? There’s a reason tourists (or leafers, as locals like to call them) flock to the mountains in the fall. But those piles of crisp leaves can lose their luster after a few weeks. So before autumn is in full swing, learn the different things you can do with leaves in yard and why you shouldn’t burn them.

Why You Shouldn’t Burn Raked Leaf Piles

If your image of a perfect autumn included burning piles of leaves, you're not alone. For a long while, it was customary to rake a couple of piles of leaves and, on a calm day, burn them to the ground. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t recommend leaf burning for a number of reasons, some of which are because it “leads to air pollution, health problems, and fire hazards.”

As the leaves burn, they’re reduced into particulate matter that’s added to the atmosphere, which contributes to a lot of problems — the most significant of which is climate change. Rising summer temperatures and extreme weather events have only increased fire dangers across the United States.

All that being said, every state has its own rules about open burning, and you should check your state guidelines before setting any leaf piles on fire.

3 Things to Do With Fallen Leaves in Your Yard

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it is the motto for many things, but burning leaf piles to get rid of them is a broken system if ever we saw one. Adopt these safer, environmentally friendly options instead.

Compost Fallen Leaves

Just like with grass clippings, you can turn leaves into compost. They’re organic material that works really well in tandem with your grass clippings to keep them from getting too wet and smelly as they decompose. You can add leaves to any compost pile and watch organic fertilizer get made (slowly) in front of your eyes.

If you don’t compost yourself, you can also look for local areas that compost and see if they’d be willing to take your donations.

@simonakeroydgardener Make free compost. Never buy compost again. Compost made from leaves is called leafmould. Use it for potting on plants, sowing seed or as a mulch on your flower beds. Leaves take about six months to rot down. #composting #gardening #greenplanet #foryoupage #fyp #foryou Stairway to Heaven (Remaster) - Led Zeppelin

Let the City Take Care of It

Not every municipal area will dispose of your fallen leaves for you, but many do. Check with the waste management company overseeing your area to find out if they pick up leaves, and if so, how often/what the requirements are for doing so.

Stipulations can look like only having your leaves in clear lawn bags or only being able to put out two bags per pickup cycle. Either way, it’s one option to keep your leaves out of the yard and the gutter down the street.

Get Chopping and Make Leaf Mulch

A fun way to get rid of the leaves in your yard is turning them into leaf mulch. All you have to do is run over your leaves with a lawn mower a few times to break them into small pieces. Once you’ve got this mulch, you can deposit it across your fall garden beds and indoor plants to help enrich their soil.

@gardenmama40 Leaf mulch in the garden #gardening #learnontiktok #gardenmama40 #backyardgarden #howto #leafmulch #freemulch #didyouknow #foryoupage #gardentok GOOD VIBES - Ellen Once Again

Why Getting Rid of Your Fallen Leaves Is Important

You’d be surprised at just how dangerous leaves can be. For how beautiful they are, once they hit the ground, they transform into mischievous little things. It’s important to keep your leaves raked up and disposed of properly for many reasons.

  • Leaves will clog storm drains. If it’s not cold enough for snow, fall precipitation can come down in buckets of rain. Piles of leaves washed into storm drains can clog them and increase flooding.
  • They’re a fall hazard. Like a banana peel, wet or sleek fallen leaves can turn super slippery, and one wrong move will put you on the ground.
  • They can make the roads hard to see. If no one picks up their leaves and those wonderful autumn breezes come barreling through, drivers could get a windshield full of leaves that no windshield wiper speed will clear away. 
  • They could be home to dangerous pests. Granted, you’d have to have left your leaf pile for a while to become a home for an unwanted animal, but it can happen.

Don’t Leaf Your Fallen Leaves

Autumn’s such an idyllic season full of fun holidays, delicious flavors, and pleasant weather. But you don’t want to ruin anyone else’s fall fun by burning down half the neighborhood with your smoking leaf piles. Instead, get rid of your leaves the right way.

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Don't Burn the Leaves in Your Yard: Do These Things Instead