Garden soil needs to be replenished with organic matter each year in order to maintain its fertility. In spring, we add compost made from the prior years garden and kitchen waste as well as composted horse manure from a friend. In fall we add leaves. Unfortunately for us most of our trees are not yet large enough to produce enough for our gardens and many blow away. So off I go to ask perfect strangers in town — ‘Excuse me, would you mind if I took your leaves home?’
You can apply fallen leaves to the surface of your garden soil and turn them under either in fall or spring however I find not all leaves decompose that way. Large leaves can also form dense mats, keeping water and air from the soil. This year I used my new cordless electric mower to mulch the leaves and just spread them on the top of the garden. Chopping leaves into small pieces speeds decomposition and increases air circulation to the soil, and it makes the worms happy! Leaving the mulched leaves on top of the soil not only adds organic matter, it suppresses weed germination in spring.