Should I burn my pile of autumn leaves? Iowa DNR weighs in

Iowa News

(KCAU) — Fall is officially upon us, which means the trees are getting more bare and yards are being blanketed with leaves.

People have different ways of handling their leaf piles, but the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) advises against one technique: burning them.

The DNR said burning leaf smoke can pull pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, soot, and toxic chemicals, into your lungs. This can be harmful for children, the elderly, and anyone with respiratory or heart problems.

Instead of burning leaves, here are safer ways to discard them, according to the Iowa DNR.

  1. Compost. Composting leaves and food scraps can be made into garden nutrients. The DNR said a good compost mix needs both carbon (dead or dry leaves) and nitrogen (green materials like food scraps and grass clippings). Many types and sizes of compost containers are available. For tips on low-tech ways to compost, see a DNR tutorial.  
  2. Mulch. The Iowa DNR said leaves are a free, natural fertilizer that enriches soil with organic matter. Folks can use your regular lawn mower, or a mulching lawn mower to shred and mix leaves and grass into your yard.  
  3. Bag it. Anyone with too many leaves or branches to compost can check with their community to see if they collect yard waste or have a drop-off site. There’s might be a fee, but the upside is that anyone can pick up composted materials for their yards or gardens.  

The Iowa DNR has a report of peak times that leaves begin turning color and falling across the state which can be seen here.

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