When the leaves begin to fall will you bag them and have them hauled to the landfill? Then will you buy compost or topsoil to add to garden beds? Why not use those leaves yourself and make your own compost? There are many methods to compost. See if there are one or more ways that will work for you.

Compost provides many benefits to the soil. Compost is fantastic for soil improvement - adding organic matter, nutrients, and microorganisms to your soil. Additionally compost can be used as a mulch to keep soil cool, slowing water loss, and preventing weeds.

A variety of items can be added to your compost pile including: spoiled vegetables and fruits and vegetable and fruit peelings, plant debris, prunings, straw, leaves, bedding from vegetarian pets, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, cotton fabric, cardboard and paper – not slick – although it may be better to recycle paper in another way. You can also add manures from rabbits, cows, horses, goats, poultry, or sheep.

Ideal proportions would be 2/3 brown or dry (dried leaves, straw, etc) to 1/3 wet or green (vegetable peelings, spoiled fruit). If your compost pile is smelly it is because the proportions are wrong, your pile is too wet, or you have added things that should not be in a compost pile.

There are some items that should not be put into a compost pile: meat, bones, fat, dairy, manures or litter from carnivores including dogs and cats. Ammonium sulfate is not needed for the composting process and I feel defeats the purpose because of the harm it can cause to microorganisms. Finished compost or organic fertlizers could be added to the pile.

Compost piles need air and moisture. Water may need to be added to keep a pile moist or your compost may need to be protected from rain to prevent your pile from becoming too wet.

Composting in a pile or compost bin:
Turning the pile helps provide air to the pile and will help the composting process to occur faster. Turned once per week your compost may be ready in a month or so.
Build your pile on a level soil surface with easy access. There should be space around for working around the pile and adding ingredients.
Ideal sizes for compost piles are 3 – 5 feet across by 3 – 4 feet high
Finer chopped or shredded ingredients will compost faster.
Layering brown and green as you build the pile.
Heat is created in a compost pile by the microorganisms as they work.
As it decomposes it will be reduced in size.
Adding small amounts finished compost to your pile helps provide the microorganisms for composting.
I put hardward cloth or chicken wire underneath stationary bins to prevent rodents from digging up into the bin

Bins can be constructed or purchased.
Chicken wire, hardward cloth, wood (not pressure treated or railroad ties due to the chemicals that could leach into the soil), stone, or brick can be used to build a compost bin.
Purchased bins are usually constructed of plastic or wood and maybe stationary or rotating. Rotating bins eliminate the need to turn the compost yourself reducing the effort to obtain finished compost.
Websites with instructions for building a compost bin:
University of Wisconsin Extension - several styles
Pierce County Washington Public Works - several
Three Bin Compost Bin
University of Missouri Extension - several
Instructables Compost Bin Plans
Bins can be purchased from garden centers, hardware stores, and online.

Some additional ways to compost:

Insert a piece of 2” PVC pipe down the center or your compost bin to add air to the pile and reduce the need to turn the pile as frequently. Purchase a piece of pipe longer than your pile will be deep. Drill holes around the sides of the entire length of the pipe except the top couple of inches or so. Set the pipe in the center and build your pile around it. Be sure not to put any materials down the pipe. The pipe allows air to reach the interior of the pile.

Trench composting
Dig a trench about four inches deep placing the soil off to the side. As you collect leaves, vegetable, fruit peelings, etc place them in a part of the trench and cover that section with some of the soil that was set off to the side. This is best done in an area that will not be planted for several weeks or in the fall and winter so the material will be finished composting by Spring.

In garden worm composting

Worm composting - Vermicomposting
A worm composting bin can be used by homeowners and apartment dwellers. The book Worms Eat My Garbage is a fantastic resource.

Indoor Composters
All Seasons Indoor Composter
Nature Mill Home Composter

Some other great composting books:
Let It Rot
The Complete Compost Gardening Guide
The Rodale Book of Composting

Author's Bio: 

As a landscape consultant and garden coach I have had the opportunity to consult with hundreds of clients. I studied Ornamental Horticulture and am self taught in organic gardening methods. I have been an organic gardener and Square Foot Gardener for over 20 years. I am Certified by the Square Foot Garden Foundation as an instructor. I have experience in landscape design, planting, and maintenance and love teaching people how to care for the yards and grow their own food. I also grow and use herbs for culinary, medicinal, and craft purposes.
Website: http://www.herb-arium.com