This is the time of year when curbsides are “decorated” with brown paper bags filled with fallen leaves. They’re awaiting pick-up by the city, which will compost the lot and sell the rich, crumbly results a year or two from now.
That’s all fine and well, but anyone who does their own composting would be advised to hold a few of those bags in reserve. Dead leaves are the perfect complement to salad greens and other kitchen scraps when you’re making your own compost. So if you hold a few of those bags in reserve now, you’ll be able to “cut” the green material (high in nitrogen) with brown material (high in carbon) throughout the winter, spring, and summer, when dead leaves are less abundant. The balance between nitrogen- and carbon-rich materials speeds up decomposition.
Eric mentions the ease of mowing over your leaves because it puts the kibitz on raking. I do this myself, but I often bag the remains so I can topdress my garden beds. The shredded leaves are a GREAT winter mulch, protecting plants from frost-heaving. Come spring, you simply scratch the mulch aside, do your planting, and brush the mulch back in place. Voila! A soil-strengthening, weed-dampening, moisture-holding wonder mulch that costs you (drum roll, please) ZILCH!