Fallen leaves make great mulch and compost for your garden, protecting your perennials as well as improving the condition of your garden soil. Instead of raking the leaves up and taking them to the curb in lawn waste bags, consider using them to your advantage this fall.
If they are small leaves, simply rake or blow them into your garden around your perennials and shrubs, taking care not to bury the smaller plants. If the leaves are large, run them over with your lawn mower to shred them before adding them to your garden. Oak leaves especially should be shredded, as they are slow to decompose. You may have to spray the leaves with your hose once they are in the garden to keep them from blowing back onto your lawn.
In the garden, worms from the soil will draw the decomposing leaves into the soil, improving the condition of your soil, which in turn benefits your plants. Next spring you can bury the portions of leaves that have not decomposed in the garden, and marvel at how rich your soil is.
The leaves in the garden will also protect your perennials and shrubs, like a warm blanket, from the freezing and thawing cycles that do the most damage to garden plants. Roses especially benefit from a blanket of leaves around their crowns at the soil level.
Leaves should not be left on the lawn however, as they will smother the grass, ruining even the healthiest lawn.
So, when you are out raking the leaves off of your lawn within the next few weeks, save your money by forgoing the lawn bags and turning the leaves into compost and mulch.