Raking leaves isn’t my favorite activity, and with mature trees on 3 sides of my house I have plenty without the neighbors leaves blowing into my yard. But just like the guy with too many lemons I take advantage of the situation. My good luck stems from the fact that I have wide drain that runs along the road that backs up when it rains and forms a shallow pond. And that’s where I rake my leaves.
I let nature take its course and my lawn mower does the rest. It begins when the leaves saturate with water and fungi and bacteria begin to colonize the cellulose in the leaves. Cellulose forms as a result of photosynthesis generating glucose which is then polymerized. In its most basic form two glucose molecules are bound together and form structural cellulose.
Fungi and some bacteria possess the ability to break the bonds and derive glucose and other micronutrients from the leaves. Slowly the leaf breaks down. Worms help that process by feeding on the fungi and wiggling around as worms will do. Of course raking the leaves into a pile and mulching them with a lawn mower speeds things up considerably.
In the early stage the leaves are simply wet and matted and therefore a welcome environment for the fungi and bacteria. Second from the left are the leaves I ground up with mower last summer, the next pile was ground up last spring, and the pile on the far right was dug out the year before and is ready to be incorporated into the soil.