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1) Rake. Natures’ leaves can mat around plants keeping food and moisture away from roots. So I rake them out of the beds and into the paths.
Underneath, you’ll find spring–shoots of emerging daffodils and perennials. Tempting–but it’s too soon to leave them uncovered and it’s too soon to fertilize. So go to step two
2) Mow. I run my husband’s lawn mower (with bag) over the leaves in paths. Make sure to wear eye protection (your sunglasses). Things fly around a lot. And I use a dust mask from the hardware store. It’s a dirty job.
For bed building, I lay down flattened cardboard and dump the ground leaves on top. It’s a great way to smother great masses of weeds. Just leave some space around plants. Never pile mulch against trunks or stems.
Benefits of mulching this way:
Your paths are raked.
Your beds are mulched.
The leaves will break down over time and improve your soil. Ground up leaves are the “organic matter” the books are always talking about. Can you believe people haul them to the street!