I have a nice little gully behind my house that is engulfed by hardwoods and such. I can get about 30 50G bags of leaves in a weekend and it doesnt look like i made a dent in it.
I have done mostly trial and error… even bought a used chipper/shredder that does a fantastic job making leaf mulch. However i dont think its the best way. There are steps missing.
I have found that leaving the leaves in bags open while it rains then letting them sit for a year or so makes something different. Poking holes in the bottom of the bags attracts worms which go up into the bags and make very nice vermicompost. (Black Gold)
The soil that i rake up is rife with myco and fungis and bacterias and things that consume the leaves anyways and transport to the trees roots on the forest floor. Those things decompose the leaves 24/7.
So bagging up leaves for me along with a little forest floor inoculation with the bacterias and fungis along with worms makes a very potent compost.
If you leave good sized holes in the bags you will also get lizards and salamanders that go in and hunt for bugs… if they are native to your area.
I do this in a very shady area where not much grows and is useless to me anyways… prime for making compost…and letting nature do all the work for me.
You could probably do the same thing with a tarp or something… but bags make it easier for me to keep the rotation going… and i know which bags are a year old and which are too fresh. I also did it in totes with holes drilled in the bottom… same result mostly.
If you dislike worms and waiting this is probably not a good thing for you.
Also to note is that adding this supercharges the living soil of what you are planting… for me that means that whatever woodchips i add disappear fairly quickly and i do have to deal with more weeds and grasses than i would like…as the woodchips do not suppress the light for very long. Likely not the same result for those that use pine bark mulch…as its not favored as highly in decomp from what i gather.
Perhaps this is wrong to do im not sure…but my things grow well and im using what is local and free to me that would likely happen if i were not here anyways.
The grasses in my walkways seem to enjoy the runoff of nutrients as well… which in turn lets me not have to worry about watering i think.
I mow a couple of times a year onto my rows which likely gives the nitrogenless compost a boost of nitrogen… which then turns into a more complete addition i think.
So leaf litter for me is a nice free resource… that has many benefits or downfalls…however you view things.
As a fun little experiment take a few shovels from various areas under leaf litter and spread onto a tray and let those seeds germinate… its pretty insane at the ferns and things that are lying dormant waiting for sunlight…maybe for eons. This is good for areas of your property that you want to re-wild just throw handfuls of that soil and things grow that you likely havent seen in awhile.
I found this out by adding those soils to my garlic beds. Which was ok to me.
You can likely buy similar product without the biome… and the worm castings… which to me is not the same. And not Free.