If you feel like you're really getting the stink eye from your neighbors for your "messy" lawn, and so decide to rake up your leaves, don't ditch them or you'll be throwing away valuable compost for your garden and cluttering up landfills.
If you're not set up to compost them yourself, the National Wildlife Federation recommends bringing them to a municipal recycling center. Check with your local center first about its preferences, but consider avoiding plastic bags and instead using bags that can decompose (such as un-dyed paper or specially designed plastic), or see if you can bring your leaves over in reusable plastic bags or garbage cans and dump it straight onto the center's compost pile. If you're a backyard chicken keeper, add leaves to your coop's bedding. Your chickens will be entertained by scratching through the leaves, and they will turn the leaves into fantastic compost in the process.
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Not only do they enrich your soil, but you can also use these fallen leaves to protect your garden from weeds. "There are two cardinal rules for using organic mulches to combat weeds," says Debora L. Martin, author of Rodale's Basic Organic Gardening. "First, be sure to lay the mulch down on soil that is already weeded, and second, lay down a thick enough layer to discourage new weeds from coming up through it." This can range from anywhere from 2 inches in the shade to up to 6 inches in full sun.