After you rake out your gardens and clean up your yard, don't toss out those leaves!
Bag them or pile them up and save them for next spring. They will break down a little making the perfect free mulch. You can cover your soil to prevent weeds, or even smother weeds with leaf mulch. Leaf mulch won't make your soil dry and hard or suck out the nitrogen the way wood mulch does. You actually get the added bonus of enriching your soil as the leaves break down.