After long and rather cold spring, warm temperatures are finally here. If you’ve been doing some spring yard cleaning, you might have piles of brush or last year’s fall leaves you need to get rid of.

What to do with all that yard waste?

GOLDEN PRACTICE

Hands down, the best practice for dealing with yard waste is to recycle it into something new.

Leaves and stems from plants can be composted and turned into great fertilizer for your lawn and gardens, and all that brush makes great mulch. If you have the space on your property, you can compost leaves right on site with a compost bin.

Have a ton of brush? Rent a woodchipper to turn it into mulch for gardens.

HAULED AWAY

Options also exist to remove brush and leaves from your property. You can take them to your city’s yard waste or brush drop site. Contact your city for drop-off site locations, items accepted, and any fees.

Many garbage haulers offer curbside services for yard waste. Check with your local hauler for options and remember to place leaves in compostable bags.

Do not place yard waste in your trash container, as that is illegal in Minnesota.

RAVINES AND PONDS

Leaves are full of organic matter and nutrients which if added to lakes or ponds, releases the nutrients into the water spurring the growth of algae blooms.

Do not dump brush, leaves or grass clippings in or around ponds or ravines.

BURNING?

Burning appears as an easy solution. You don’t have to bag it up or haul it away. But leaves are illegal to burn in the metro area and burning yard waste creates very unhealthy smoke.

The branches of brush typically do not have time to dry out sufficiently. Damp wood with attached leaves leads to inefficient fires and lots of smoke affecting the health and wellness of neighbors.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, wood smoke of any kind is unhealthy as it contains toxic chemicals that can lead to short-term and long-term health effects. The fine particles in the smoke can aggravate lung disease, trigger asthma, acute bronchitis and.

Short-terM exposure has even been linked to heart attacks and abnormal heartbeats. Those especially vulnerable to wood smoke include young children, the elderly, and people with asthma, lung, or heart disease.

Smoke from burning yard waste can travel great distances. Please be considerate to neighbors and choose to recycle or haul away your yard waste.

BONFIRES WITH LESS SMOKE

Bonfires are a part of summer fun. Carver County partners with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to manage the open burning program for townships, but cities manage their own burning programs.

Residents should check to see if it is legal to burn within their city. Many cities allow recreational fires, but residents must get a permit, and fires must typically be no larger than 3 feet by 3 feet.

If you choose to have recreational fires, follow these tips for safe and less smoky fires.

  • Only burn dry wood. Dry wood minimizes smoke. Wood takes anywhere from six months to two years to dry depending on type of wood, size, climate, etc. Here are some ways to tell if wood is dry. Dry wood will become grayer in color. Dry wood should not have a strong smell when cut. Dry wood may have cracks and bark may start to fall off.
  • Burn pieces of wood 1 inch in diameter or larger.
  • Make sure your fire has air flow at its base. This helps it burn more efficiently which reduces smoke.

Madeline Seveland is an education coordinator with Carver County Water Management. She can be reachedat mseveland@co.carver.mn.us.

Events