Lawn and Order: Tips for removing fall leaves, waste from your yard

single-meta-cal November 8, 2023

Remember when fall meant piling up leaves and letting the neighborhood children jump and play in them until they dispersed and blew away? At that point, they were someone else’s problem, and life went on. 

Today, we know better! Drifting fall leaves can pose serious hazards to storm drains, streets and sidewalks. Read on to learn how to responsibly get rid of leaves.

Mow it over

The best approach for your lawn and the environment is to mow over leaves and leave them in place. This keeps leaves from blowing away and provides a natural fertilizer.

“Chopping up leaves with your lawnmower might seem like a quick way to have a messy yard, but it’s actually a great way to make your lawn healthier,” said Landscape Management Director Brian Walker. “The leaves turn into free nutrients that will bring back bright green grass next spring.”  

Walker said chopped leaves can also be used as mulch and spread under shrubs and onto flower and vegetable beds.


Another environmentally conscious alternative to leaf disposal is composting. Create a protected pile of leaves in a secure well-ventilated area, and choose your desired mix of organic material. It can be dead leaves, a mix of leaves and grass clippings, or a combination of leaves, grass and food scraps. Gardeners know composting creates “black gold” nutrients for shrubs and flowers, free of charge.   

Pack your bags

If bagging is your preference, consider using leaf bags made from paper or biodegradable plant starch. Waterproof containers are also acceptable. Both options should be under 32 gallons and weigh less than 50 pounds. Containers can be left curbside for City collection. 

“We’ll be glad to pick up leaves and yard waste as long as it’s responsibly removed and packaged for our drivers,” said Sanitation Manager Keith Robertson. “Just make sure it’s in a container, out by 7 a.m. on your pickup day, and five feet away from any obstructions.” 

When collecting yard waste, remember the City will not pick up dirt, rocks, shingles or tree limbs longer than five feet. 

Tan kraft paper lawn and leaf composting bags sit along street curb waiting to be picked up by trash truck to haul yard waste to compost

Bagged leaves may be placed curbside for City pickup as long as they are five feet away from any obstruction.

Lawn and Order

You would never throw trash in the road, gutter, drain or sidewalk, and the same rule applies to leaves and other yard waste. City ordinance states residents can’t sweep or move debris out of a yard into the street, sidewalks, gutters or other public property. Burning within the City limits is also illegal – especially with a statewide burn ban in place. 

A bunch of red, yellow and brown leaves sit against a storm drain near a home in historic downtown Huntsville.

Fall leaves should be bagged or composted, never brushed into the street or storm drain.

While the City regularly checks storm drains to make certain they’re free of debris and trash, residents are responsible for maintaining the curbs in front of their homes. This enables rainwater to make its way into storm drains and prevent street flooding. 

“Clogged drains lead to flooded streets, which can quickly sweep away your vehicle if the water has nowhere to go,” said Public Works Director Chris McNeese. “Keeping leaves and other debris out of the drain can save a life. It’s that simple.” 

Check out the Curbside Collection Schedule for more information on safely removing leaves and yard waste.

Follow Green Team on Facebook and Instagram for more tips during the changing seasons.