Thank you, Charlie. I've had many snowy winters living & gardening in Z5 for close to 40 yrs before moving to AL. For about 5 months, there was no outside gardening for me. It's kind of opposite where I am now, but for the months when I don't do anything, that's when the hot weather plants are blooming. So there are pics to take, occasional bouquet to cut for a friend or to bring to work, and I can't pull weeds because ants will attack me. I'm still getting used to it after more than a decade.
Maple leaves are probably my fav but I've never tried to move them around when they were wet. I would wonder if that could cause them to mat together, airlessly? Without air, they would decompose more slowly I bet. That seems to be a thing, from what I've seen.
The only $ I've ever spent on soil was to buy mulch. I'd call myself a neat freak too, in a sense that I'm thorough about trying to move available organic matter once, and into a spot where it can benefit something that is growing as part of the mulchy layer protecting the soil, and whatever comprised its essence can be given back to the soil to be used by whatever grows next. I no longer need a maddock to dig in my cultivated areas. It's a pretty amazing transformation, where cars used to park as recently as 8 years ago. There is no addition of organic matter to the soil that I've ever declared a mistake. All of it decomposes into the soil. I did this in several gardens in OH, and in 3 locations here in AL, so it's been fun to see that the same thing that can transform solid clay in OH can also make the same transformation on the sand + just enough clay to make concrete, in AL.
But I have definitely bought plants that didn't like the conditions I have available to offer, and I'm sure in some cases I did something I shouldn't have and messed some of 'em up, but that's under the heading of conditions I have available to offer. I can offer minor spot-watering but otherwise, plants in the ground are pretty much on their own.
I don't buy products to mess with the plants or the soil, except some fertilizer for potted plants. I just put what I like in the ground and let the plants decide to live or die. It's a lot of fun seeing which ones choose to live @ my house, and I'm about out of space without reclaiming (from mowing) some new areas. Most of my plants are there for hummingbirds and butterflies. All I can do during the hottest months is wade through the humidity as I go in and out but those amazing critters have to live out there.
Naturally decisions will vary among gardeners because the end goals are not identical. The amount of time and energy varies among individuals, and so many other variables. I'm happy to share what I've done and seen for whatever value it may have for those who feel like it relates to what they have chosen to do, or would like to do.
I also enjoy reading about radically different things people are doing and rarely mentally think they are making a mistake. They are dealing with their specific conditions. When others say how the same thing would work differently in their different conditions, everyone can benefit from thinking about that.
Since I don't spend any $ on any products, I can't join those parts of a discussion, but I have experience changing & improving the soil with only the organic matter generated by a small yard and kitchen.