old leaves are the best. i take all the leaves i can get and turn a lot under and spread what i have left on top. i harvest small red worms for trout bait from the leave the rest to airate the soil and eat all the compost. i bought 1 pack of a couple of thousand red wigglers around 30 something years ago and still have them. my worms lasted longer than my wife. thats not a bad thing because my kids lived with me until they did their own thing.
How did the fresh chips hurt your plants? I know a community gardener who taught me the method I use, and the vegetables he grows seem to come out pretty well. He covers the dirt with cardboard, then covers that with wood chips to suppress the weeds, then turns it all in at the beginning of next season and goes again. Good soil build after a while. I manage a garden at work, and we did the same thing with decent results for the most part. Am I missing an important chemistry point?
I don't buy newspaper, I have a lot of leaves, gathering them sucks. I till between my rows and then weed eat with a walk behind when it gets bad. No solution here for an easy fix , but good luck. I have tilled my patchs twice and they are already green again before planting. Third and fourth time will be the charm. I haven't planted anything yet, too much rain.