Answer: Leaves are a terrific free source of organic matter for the garden so do try to use them one way or another. They can be composted (whole or shredded) for later use as soil conditioner, or shredded and used now as mulch.
Reserved leaves can be mixed with nitrogen rich green material such as lawn clippings during the summer, this makes excellent compost. Shredding reduces the volume so you can store more leaves over the winter in less space.
Unshredded leaves can mat down and smother plants and can also pack into a thick impervious layer so it is better to chop or shred them prior to using them as mulch. You can use your lawn mower to sweep, chop and bag them. Alternatively you can put them in a trashcan and chop them using a weed whacker, or you can use a chipper shredder.
You can also dig them into the soil in your garden now, by spring they should be partially decomposed and can be turned under again as you prepare for planting.
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