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How to Burn Yard Waste In Your Backyard

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Do you want to know how to burn yard waste in your backyard? Many people prefer to get rid of brush and yard debris without having to haul it to the dump. If you’re like many, we’ll cover how you can burn yard waste safely without hauling it away.

First thing you need to do is check with your city or county regulations. They usually will showcase burn days and burn restrictions. For some areas, it just doesn’t matter how careful you are, if things are so dry, then just one stray ember can cause a lot of damage.

You’ll need to check with your local fire department again for burn days or burn seasons. If you’re out of season, just pile up your yard waste until it’s time. You could compost the smaller leaves and grass in a backyard compost tumbler.

Many restrictions include that your burn area should be at least 150 feet from your neighbor’s house and at least 50 feet from yours. Also check the weather for the day to make sure that the wind isn’t blowing too much.

You want the wind to be less than 10 miles an hour for blowing. But you’ll also want to make sure that if any winds are blowing, that it’s not blowing directly at a structure.

Burn Area

Next, you’ll want to create a burn area. If you have an extremely large area to deal with and need a large burn pile, then you can create a cinder block fire pit.

Still, your fire pit shouldn’t go larger than 3 to 4 feet high and no more than 3 or 4 feet around. The goal isn’t to burn everything at once. It’s more of a longer, burning session where you continue to add to the burn pile as things burn off, so keeping it smaller makes it easier to manage in case something gets out of hand.

After setting out your cinder blocks, make sure you have removed any brush or yard debris around the burn area. This should help reduce any chances of an ember catching fire outside your burn barrier.

We built the one shown below as our oyster roast fire pit and also started out as our burn pit. It’s currently out of burn season, so you see we have grass growing around it right now.

But when we built this, we created a gravel perimeter and when burn season comes back, we’ll remove all the grass and weeds so nothing catches.

If you have a average yard size with typical yard waste, then you can see our post on how to make a burn barrel. Most feed and seed stores will carry burn barrels. These make it much easier to handle any yard waste.

We’ve also found that having a burn barrel is a much cleaner burn because the fire gets extremely hot and you barely have any smoke coming off it. That’s my favorite type of burn day.

Again, when burn season is back, we’ll clear this area so no stray embers catch anything.

Keep a poker stick and water source on hand in case anything jumps, so you can take care of it quickly. Again, if you have a burn barrel, it should make things easier to deal with.

If you have a fancy fire pit area, feel free to use that as well. If your yard waste isn’t a lot, then having the yard waste is the perfect fire starter for your fire pits if the waste is really dry.

When it’s time to burn and you’ve checked with local authorities on when you can burn things, the next thing to do is to make sure that you’re only burning authorized items.

When starting the fire, use leaves, newspaper, or the small tinder to get the fire going. Most will want to start it with fire starter fuel, but that can cause the fire to become unmanageable.

You’ll probably have a good amount of ash leftover. Great news! There are a lot of cool uses for wood ash.

uses for wood ash

Household trash and plastics is usually never authorized to be burned in city municipalities and counties.

You’ll want to keep the things you burn to typical yard brush and mowing clippings. Before we got a shredder, we would start our fire with any paperwork that had our information that we didn’t want to just throw away.

Don’t burn things like poison oak or poison ivy or pressure treated lumber. That is very toxic when released into the air, especially the pressure treated lumber.

And just keep a steady feed, while burning everything. It can take one to two hours to burn a 4 by 4 area of yard waste.


Whether you use a cleared pit area, burn barrel, or existing fire pit area, getting rid of your own yard waste can be safely done no matter where you live.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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