Leaves are truly a valuable natural resource! They contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the season. There are four basic ways in which leaves can be managed and used in the landscape.
Leaf Management - Mowing
A light covering of leaves can be mowed, simply leaving the shredded leaves in place on the lawn. This technique is most effective when a mulching mower is used.
Leaf Management - Mulching
Mulching is a simple and effective way to recycle leaves and improve your landscape. Mulches reduce evaporation from the soil surface, inhibit weed growth, moderates soil temperatures, keep soils from eroding and crusting, and prevent soil compaction. As organic mulches decompose, they release valuable nutrients for use by your landscape plants.
Leaf Management - Soil Improvement
Leaves may be collected and worked directly into garden and flower bed soils. A 6 to 8 inch layer of leaves tilled into a heavy, clay soil will improve aeration and drainage. The same amount tilled into a light, sandy soil, will improve water and nutrient holding capacity.
Leaf Management - Composting
Compost is a dark, crumbly and earth-smelling form of organic matter that has gone through a natural decomposition process.Compost can be used to enrich the soil by adding a natural source of nutrients, loosen tight, heavy soils, help sandy soils retain moisture and nutrients, add to potting soils for container grown plants, and mulch around landscape plants. If you have a garden, lawn, trees, shrubs, or even planter boxes or house plants, you have a use for compost.
Taken from Don't Bag It: Leaf Management Plan, Texas A&M University publication.