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Leaf collection starts this month in Fort Wayne.

Verbatim: Dispose of leaves properly

Statement issued Monday by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management:

Hoosiers will soon be pulling out their fall gear as cooler air temperatures start to envelop the state. Along with the cooler temperatures, falling leaves and rakes will make reappearance in yards, as well.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) offers a reminder of environmentally-friendly ways to rid yards of leaves and other yard wastes, such as grass clippings, branches and weeds, instead of burning.

Smoke from burning yard waste affects air quality. The smoke emits carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, fine particles and ozone-forming chemicals. The elderly, young children and individuals with respiratory or heart ailments are particularly vulnerable to ill health effects from fine particle emissions.

There are simple things every one can do to improve air quality, starting with the disposal of yard debris. The best way to get rid of leaves, branches and other yard wastes is by composting, chipping and mulching. These options can be done in your own yard or through a program set up with your city, township or county. Composting returns nutrients to the soil instead of releasing harmful chemicals into the air. Chipped wood can be used around trees and in flower beds to retain soil moisture and control weeds. Mulching leaves on the lawn with a lawn mower returns nutrients to the grass, fertilizing your yard.

Raking leaves into a pile and composting them over the winter creates a fertile soil amendment that can be used for flower beds, gardens and potted plants in the spring. Some types of food scraps can be added to an active compost pile year-round to reduce the amount of kitchen waste being sent to landfills.

"Since burning leaves, twigs and other yard waste is bad for the environment, I strongly recommend considering alternative ways of ridding your yard of waste," said IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly. "Smoke is unhealthy to breathe, it's a hazard, and there are safer, cleaner and more environmentally-friendly ways of disposal."

To learn more about ways to dispose of yard debris, visit IDEM's Web site at

Journey through gardening season with Rosa Salter Rodriguez (feature writer), Anne Gregory (Web editor and writer), Frank Noonan (copy editor) and Cathie Rowand (photographer)