Forest with orange leaves

You've raked them, jumped in them, raked them some what should you do with all those leaves?

Put them in the trash? Nope. State law bans yard waste--leaves, grass clippings, garden debris, and brush from our landfills.

Burn them? Not the best idea. Backyard burning pollutes the air, creates a fire hazard, and can bother your neighbors. Wisconsin air quality and fire control rules restrict backyard burning, and many communities prohibit it.

Compost or mulch them? Now, there's a good idea! Composting is nature's way of turning yard "waste" into a valuable soil conditioner. Organic material (in this case leaves) breaks down over time. Composting is a method to speed up the break down process.

Some cities collect leaves at curbside and take them to a city composting site, but you can compost them yourselves. It's best to chop your leaves up with a hoe, shovel, or mower (you may need an adult's help). This will help them decompose more quickly. Compost improves soil structure, holds in moisture and plant nutrients, and promotes strong, healthy root systems for plant growth. It can be mixed into garden soil or lawn soil before planting or seeding. Click here for some composting recipes.

You can also use leaves as mulch. Spread autumn leaves over your garden and around the bases of bushes, trees, and perennials. Leaves are rich in carbon, phosphorus, and potassium--all essential nutrients needed by plants. During the winter, leaves used as mulch, minimizes the alternate freezing and thawing of the soil which often damages plant roots.

Get busy raking and put those leaves to good use this fall, recycle them back into your garden and yard.