October 10, 2008

Yard Waste Should Be Disposed of in ‘Green’ Way


The Evansville area is dealing with a lot more yard waste than normal this month. The hurricane winds of September tore down a lot of limbs and branches. In addition, the dry weather of the last several months is causing earlier-than-normal fall leaf drop. We need to deal with this yard waste in a "green" manner.

Because of the current dry spell, the Evansville Environmental Protection Agency has issued a ban on open burning in Evansville and in a band four miles beyond the city limits. Barbecues and patio dish fires are permitted, but no burn barrels, open fires (on the ground) or fires larger than 3 feet by 2 feet. Under no circumstances should yard waste (leaves, branches) or trash (plastic, treated lumber, etc.) be burned.

Part of this ban is for the obvious reason that our yards are so dry, one stray spark could ignite your lawn (or your neighbor's). A small puff of air is all that's needed to send burning leaves into the air and onto something flammable.

Burning is also a bad idea for dealing with yard waste and trash because of health reasons. While many folks enjoy the scent of burning leaves, there's a lot of people with breathing disorders who could become seriously ill because of the smoke.

Safer options for dealing with storm debris and yard waste exist. Small amounts of leaves can be shredded with a lawn mower and left on the lawn. If you have so many leaves that you risk smothering your lawn, they can be mowed up and then either placed in a compost pile or directly tilled into your garden. If you go with the direct- till method, add some fertilizer to help the microbes break down the leaves faster.

If you don't have a garden and physically can't compost your leaves, there are plenty of gardeners out there who can use them. I don't keep a list of such gardeners, so don't ask, but you might talk with your neighbors or local neighborhood associations and see if they know someone who can use the leaves.

Woody yard waste, especially from the storm, is a little more difficult to work with. If your neighborhood has yard waste pickup, find out from your waste hauler what its requirements are. Usually, branches will need to be cut to a manageable size and tied in bundles. Most companies will collect yard waste only on designated days.

If you don't have yard waste pickup, you'll need to handle your branches yourself. Few, if any, tree trimmers will come to your property to chip up downed limbs, unless they are also trimming your trees. Cut larger limbs into firewood-sized logs. Smaller branches and twigs can be run through a wood chipper, available at most equipment rental shops. The resulting wood chips can be used as mulch around trees and shrubs.

Be legal, be safe and be a good neighbor: Avoid burning your yard waste this season. For more information on composting or other yard waste disposal, contact the Purdue Extension Service at (812) 435- 5287.

Larry Caplan is an extension educator-horticulture with the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, Vanderburgh County/ Southwest Indiana. You can send e-mail to him at [email protected]

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