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Can I burn leaves in my backyard to get rid of them?

While you may detest the sight of leaves piled up in your yard and think that the easiest way to rid yourself of them is by setting them ablaze and watching them disappear into a tiny mound of ashes, there are a few complications with doing so. The simple answer to the question of, “Can I burn leaves in my backyard?” is yes, but that yes involves following the strict requirements of the local authorities. 

Regulatory laws

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), Florida Forest Service (FFS) controls most open burns in Florida, which refers to the burning of materials in a way that releases smoke directly into the air without going through a stack or chimney. Burning leaves in your backyard falls into this category, which means that it is imperative to follow the rules. Although actually gaining authorization from FFS is not required for the burning of residential yard waste, contacting the FFS regarding burn conditions for the planned open burn day is still strongly recommended. 

Open burning of residential yard waste, such as leaves, is only allowable on residential premises of no more than two family units. Additional requirements of subsection 62-256.700(1), F.A.C. that must also be met include:

  • Generation of the leaves or yard waste on the same premises as the site of the open burn
  • Open must occur between 8:00 a.m. CST to one hour before sunset
  • Open burning must always be contained in a noncombustible vessel or gathered in a pile of no more than eight feet in diameter
  • The location of the open burn must be at least 150 feet away from any occupied building other than that of the landowner, 50 feet away from any paved public roadway and 25 feet away from any forests or wooded areas, brush or any type of flammable structures
  • The open burning must be closely monitored, with fire extinguishing equipment ready for immediate use

Burning alternatives

That said, when asking, “Can I burn leaves in my backyard?” you will likely conclude that the “yes” comes with too many conditions and rules. A simpler alternative may often be a better one, even though it may not be the quickest in execution. Options include collecting the leaves into bags for curbside pickup by the city waste company, using the mulching blade on your lawnmower or adding them to your compost pile. 

Curb alert

For curbside pickup, you will need to first contact your local waste management company for their requirements on proper disposal methods that comply with their collection regulations. They may have restrictions on the number of bags or the type of bags used and may have strict instructions on the placement of those bags near the curb. This may be a  hassle, perhaps, but it is generally still a great alternative to open burning.

Make mulch

Another viable alternative is simply using your lawnmower for the purpose of turning the leaves into mulch. You will have a great additive for your garden beds and plants and around trees, which not only gives them a source of nutrients as they break down into the soil, but also helps in providing insulation against the cold in winter.

Compost

Adding them to your compost pile is as simple as it sounds. Rake them up, take them to your compost pile and deposit them. Yes, they will take a bit of time in breaking down, but it is still a desirable alternative to burning them.

Do not feel the burn

If you consider it, the reasons for foregoing the method of burning are strong. In addition to the regulatory laws concerning open burns, there are also other nuisances and dangers: the smoke generated by the burns as well as the risk that the fire may possibly get out of hand and cause damage to the surrounding area or even to homes. It is highly recommended that one of the alternative methods of disposing of the leaves is taken, as these are often the safest and most effective ways of ridding your yard of unwanted leaves.

Hire Experts for Your Yard

As experts on all things outdoors, the team at Executive Landscaping, Inc. has years of knowledge in disposing of leaves and other types of yard waste. No matter the project we take on, we pride ourselves on the quality of our work, and our clients expect that standard of excellence. Creating a unique design that showcases their property is always our top priority, and our success is built on the results we achieve. 

If you are wondering, “Can I burn leaves in my backyard?” call Executive Landscaping, Inc. to learn the best options and find out more about the range of outdoor services we offer today!