Burning grass clippings in the yard

Can You Burn Grass Clippings in Your Yard?

In Lawn & Garden, Tips by Jamie

Millions of people have an excess of grass clippings in their yards after cutting and mowing and just general maintenance.

Many people wonder if they can burn their grass clippings as a way to dispose of them but are afraid of breaking the law or causing damage if they do so.

Can You Burn Grass Clippings in Your Yard? Are You Allowed?

The truth is that you can in fact burn grass if your local ordinances allow it. There are certain things to keep in mind, such as the season and the weather and if your county has prohibited burning (not just of grass but of any kind) at the time.

Laws regarding the burning of grass clippings and other garden waste vary by location, so check with your local fire department before burning anything. There may be burning prohibitions in certain areas, while others may need licenses or have specified periods when burning is permitted. To avoid large penalties, make careful to complete your research on local burning and fire legislation. It’s also a good idea to inform your neighbors about your intentions so they know what to anticipate.

While burning grass clippings in your yard is usually allowed, there are many other things to keep in mind when you are doing so, especially when it comes to safety when burning.

Is Burning Grass Toxic?

Yes, burning grass can be toxic because of some of the pollution that is released when you do so.

Grass burning emits more nitrogen pollution than wood burning. Smoke from burns transports chemicals into the air that impact climate and may be dangerous to persons and ecosystems, whether from wildfires or from residential and agricultural grass and crop burning.

It poses a threat to both the environment and your health. Homeowners who care about the environment and their health should be aware that burning grass clippings releases hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide into the air.

Is Burning Grass Clippings Illegal?

Typically, burning grass clippings is not illegal. However, each county and even city across the country may have different regulations about burnings, especially if they are located in parts of the country that get very dry and could possibly have fires during the warm seasons.

While the burning of grass clippings may not be illegal, the burning of other household items is. Some people use burn piles to not only get rid of green waste, but to also eliminate older household items and products they no longer want. That can release deadly chemicals into the air, can create explosions, and is prohibited in most parts of the country. Therefore, it is vital that you only burn grass and green waste in your burn pile.

How to Safely Burn Grass Clippings?

Step 1

Clear a 5 foot-diameter area in your yard for a fire pit and surround it with rocks. The pit should be 50 feet away from any structures, with unobstructed overhead access and no overhanging trees or cables.

Step 2

In the middle of the pit, make a pyramid with three or four logs, then crumple up some newspaper and set it in the center. Stack kindling wood or tiny branches on top of the newspaper, taking care not to disturb the logs, and leave a hole for lighting.

Step 3

Light the newspaper with a lighter after pouring a little quantity of fire starter on the kindling. Allow the fire to burn until the logs catch fire.

Step 4

Once the fire is hot enough to ignite the logs, begin putting the grass in handfuls into the fire. Spread it over the flames and make sure a handful of it has fully burnt before adding another. Patience is required. If you add too much grass at once, it will start to smolder and prevent the wood from burning.

Step 5

Using a shovel, stir the fire occasionally to scatter partly burnt grass and mix it in with the burning wood. To keep the fire going, add additional logs as needed.

Step 6

When all of the grass has been consumed, let the fire burn itself out. As long as there remain flames, stay with the fire. If it’s safe to do so, cordon off the fire pit and leave it overnight, or bathe the fire with water from a garden hose, stirring it with a shovel as you soak to make sure all the embers burn out. Allowing the fire to burn overnight will turn all of the embers into ash, making cleaning much simpler.

Do you need a special fire pit mat for your backyard in order to safely perform your burn? We have created a compilation of the 10 best ones you can buy.

Things to Consider When Burning Grass Clippings in the Yard

Are There Any Fire Bans or Restrictions Ongoing?

It is very important that you be very aware of any fire bans in your county before you start to burn your grass clippings. Make sure you find the information directly from your county’s website, typically in an Emergency Management section.

Having a Water Supply Nearby is Important

Of course, you should also have easy and quick access to a large water supply before you start any burn. A working hose is a must but you should also have other ways of showering water if an accident occurs. Also, it’s not a bad idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand too.

Be Aware of the Wind

When you are burning anything in your yard, you need to be very aware of the weather conditions and most importantly the wind. If the wind is strong, more than even 12 miles per hour, it can cause embers from your flame to be transported to any dry are nearby and could cause a blazing fire. You should pay attention to your local weather report before you start any fire.

Use an Appropriate Fire Pit

You need to have the right sort of fire pit before you can burn your grass clippings in the yard. A proper burn pit is about 5-feet in diameter and at least 50 feet away from any structure for safety purposes.

Will the Smoke Affect Nearby Drivers?

Yes, smoke will most certainly affect nearby drivers and nearby homes too. Even with a light wind, smoke will make its way into roadways and homes nearby. That is why you should ideally burn in an area that is far away from other properties or drivers.

Are Your Neighbors OK with it?

That leads us to our next point: you should check in with your neighbors before you burn, especially if their homes are very close to yours. While you are legally clear to burn stuff in your backyard, it is still a common courtesy to tell your neighbors what you’re doing and allow them to raise any concerns if they have some. This is just a friendly step that you should take if you want to keep peace in your neighborhood.

How Should You Dispose of Grass Clippings?

wheelbarrow on a lawn with fresh grass clippings in summer

You may dispose of your lawn clippings in a variety of ways. Read our guide on 7 natural ways to dispose of grass clippings at home. 

Grass cuttings should be raked into many tiny heaps. Separate the clippings into yard trash bags and dispose of them according to local rules. Some towns have curbside collection programs for green trash, which is subsequently recycled.

Grasscycling refers to the practice of leaving grass clippings on your lawn. Allow grass clippings to settle back into your lawn rather than raking them into yard trash containers. They will supply important nutrients to your lawn as well as aid in the retention of moisture in the soil. To make grasscycling more efficient, mow your grass while it is dry and only chop off approximately one-third of the whole blade length at a time.

Gather the grass clippings and place them in your compost pile. They will gradually contribute nutrients to your compost, which you may then use to feed your other garden plants. Alternatively, contact local nurseries and garden supply businesses to see whether grass clippings may be donated to their compost piles.

There are in fact many ways to dispose of grass clippings and, thankfully, we have created a list of seven of them for you to read.

The Verdict: Can You Burn Grass Clippings?

You can definitely burn grass clippings and many people do it every year. However, it’s not just a cut and dry solution to getting rid of grass.

Read our article Can You Burn Leaves in Your Yard?

You need to be sure that local regulations have no banned any sort of burning. You should also be aware of any weather conditions that could make a simple burn into a disaster. Finally, you should check with your neighbors and let them know of your plans, just in case they don’t want the smoke or burn that close to their home.

About the Author

Jamie

Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.