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As we wrap up the fall season and before the snowfalls, many homeowners wonder about leaves and what to do with them.

Should you rake them up, toss them in a bag and take them somewhere? Or is it best to just run them over with a lawn mower with the rest of your yard? Or maybe you just want to leave them in the yard?

According to EPA data, yard trimmings, including leaves, created about 34.7 million tons of waste in 2015, which is about 13% of all waste generation. 10.8 million tons of that went to landfills.

Some see leaves as a natural fertilizer and believe they should be mulched up with the rest of the grass in the yard.

Dan Sandor, a postdoctoral researcher of turfgrass science at University of Minnesota, advises mowing over the leaves with a mulching blade about once a week.

"It's free fertilizer," Sandor told the USA Today.

Some leaves like maples do a great job of reducing weed seed germination while other species like honey locust add a lot of nitrogen to lawns, Sandor said.

Blowing leaves into the street is also bad, said Minnesota's Sandor. Because leaves have so many nutrients in them, they can break down when they get into sewers and also cause algal blooms in waterways, he said.

Sandor said leaves and lawns are different shapes and sizes, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. If it looks like your mower won't be able to handle all the leaves or like your lawn is being smothered, that's when you may need to rake them to thin it out.

What to do with your leaves

The Sentinel reached out to a number of municipalities and here’s what we learned about leaves in Burnett County.

The Village of Siren has a few ordinances dealing with leaves, including it is against village ordinance to rake or dump leaves in any public street or into the gutter along any public street.

“Village ordinance 294-8 allows for controlled burning of dry leaves as long as the burning is monitored by a responsible person until the fire has been extinguished, conducted on days without excessive wind, not being done on a public street or in the gutter, and located at least 30 feet from any neighboring residence.”

Village Clerk/Treasurer Ann Peterson said Siren residents have access to the brush dump available off Nyberg Road if people want to take dry leaves there. They simply need to stop at the Village Hall and pick up the key.

“It is not left open and is available only for Village residents/land-owners as it is regulated by the DNR and we have to report how much composting is done, etc. on a yearly basis,” Peterson said.

She added the village’s public works crew will contact people if they are raking leaves into the street, which could cause problems with the storm sewers.

The Village of Webster does not have any specific ordinances about leaves and yard waste.

Webster clerk/treasurer, Debra Doriott-Kuhnly, said residents are allowed to burn leaves in the village between 6 p.m. and 12 a.m. (midnight) but not on Sundays or holidays. 

The village does have an ordinance on dumping refuse and grass in gutters, “No person shall deposit any refuse, leaves or grass clippings in any gutter along any public street, road, alley or highway.”

The Village of Grantsburg ordinances outline the leaves in their ordinances with burnable yard waste, “Leaves, yard and garden debris, excluding grass clippings, and brush including clean woody vegetative material less than three inches in diameter.”

It continues to explain that burning is permitted within certain parameters. Burning is allowed Monday-Saturday 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. midnight, the pile should not exceed four feet across or three feet high and should be 50 feet from any structure or trees.

The village ordinance also states it is unlawful to dump leaves on the street. Placing or throwing leaves or other yard waste on the street, sidewalk, alley, drainageway or public ground in Grantsburg is unlawful.

Grantsburg also has a brush site open to village residents available at the village office.

If you have questions about your leaves and what to do with them call your local public works department and ask what they advise residents to do with leaves before the snow flies.