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Don't rake those leaves this fall!

A late start to fall foliage means leaves will be coming down quickly over the next couple weeks. Experts say you can use them as natural fertilizer.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The weather will be turning quickly—essentially overnight—thanks to the passage of a cold front Wednesday. We know what this means in late October: Fall is upon us! 

With the late start to fall this year thanks to persistent above average temperatures, leaves will be falling quickly in the coming days and weeks. But the question is... What should you do with them?

Experts say to put them to use, not simply toss them to the curb.

"The leaves are full of nutrients," said Adam Thoms a turfgrass specialist at Iowa State University. "That's free fertilizer for your yard, just like when you return your grass clippings after mowing it."

Thoms said the best way to use leaves as fertilizer is to start mulching them when they fall and are dry.

"You can do that with really any kind of a lawn mower. A mulching lawnmower works best, but the idea is to chop those leaves up fairly small if you're going to leave them on your lawn. They can add a lot of benefit going into next year," said Jeff Goerndt, state forester with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The number of leaves left to the City of Des Moines is somewhat staggering.

"Almost 7,000 tons of debris and leaves land on our streets. That's about the weight of 30 Statues of Liberty," said Jonathan Gano, public works director for the City of Des Moines.

Thoms added that if you plan on using weed control in your lawn, you should remove the leaves before spraying the pesticide so that the weeds are the target, not the leaves.

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