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I garden in an "arid desert" zone, with almost no rain and little vegetation. We have a number of fig trees, which I recently cut back. I separated the leaves from the twigs.

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I've read that desert soil generally tends to contain little organic matter (obviously) and tends to be on the alkaline side (I should do a pH test, I know!)

Under these circumstances, does it make sense for me to crumble the fig leaves after drying them a couple of days, and mix them in next time we start a bed? Would it be beneficial for the soil, and would the soil have to be permanently moist for it to have any effect?

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    You should also put the twigs in the bottom of your next bed. – Ecnerwal Jun 17 '16 at 17:46
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    make sure you chop them up, because when we collect horseradish, and peel it, it never seems to come back in that spot for some reason. – black thumb Jun 17 '16 at 18:14
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You should definitely do that to enrich your bed. The dead leaves will give back the nutrients to the soil. I call that natural composting. As an alternative, you can also start a compost bin and dump leaves and other plant matter into the bin to create compost which you can then use in the bed to enrich the soil

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In the climate you describe, you need to cover the soil to prevent moisture loss, and by increasing the water content of your soil, you are promoting microbial life which then leads to greater organic material for your plant roots. Rather than mixing the leaf and other material into the soil where it interferes with water flows, you need to layer it on top of the soil as a mulch. This emulates what nature does. Let the worms and arthropods take it into the soil after it is has been broken down by saprophytic fungi.

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