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Burn, Rake, or Mow? A Seasonal Question

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fall_colorsThe warm days and cool nights of autumn will soon arrive here in Annapolis, along with those beautiful leaves that we all enjoy so much.  As majestic as those trees look while the leaves are still attached, what do we do now that the leaves begin to fall to the ground, covering the landscape?

Many of us have happy childhood memories involving playing in the leaves around the yard.  While growing up, my family always bagged them and took them out to the curb to be hauled away.  But as time has passed, my father now just chops them up into little pieces with the old lawn mower(which drives my mother insane).   I can also remember traveling to my grandparent’s farm where they just gathered the leaves into piles and burned them.  So what is the best alternative?

Many municipalities now either ban or discourage the burning of yard waste.  Before you burn, check with local authorities or your state’s department of natural resources to see whether a permit is required.  If you live in an area prone to forest or wildfires, you may have “red flag” burning restrictions in place.

Leaf burning leads to air pollution, health risks, and fire hazards:

  • Smoke from burning leaves contains toxic or irritating particles and gases that can increase the risk of respiratory infection.
  • Carbon monoxide can result from incomplete burning, especially when leaves are wet.  Inhaled carbon monoxide is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it can reduce the amount of oxygen that red blood cells carry.
  • Local fire departments can attest to house fires that have resulted due to unsafe burning of leaves.

Fortunately, there are some very good alternatives to traditional leaf burning.  Lucky for us in the Annapolis, Maryland area they will pick up the raked leaves or “Yard Waste” if left at the curb, either in a pile or in appropriate bags.  Check the link above for details.

Another great option is to compost the leaves yourself or to use the leaves as mulch around garden and landscape beds.

Of course, you also have the option of just mulching the leaves with the lawnmower.  They make an excellent soil conditioner.  Today’s mowers do an excellent job of shredding the leaves into very small pieces.

After you’re done with your yard work, you can always enjoy a safe fire in your fireplace!

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