What are you bagging your leaves for? Since I began composting, I am tempted to pick up those bags of leaves before the garbage collector. Because in those bags lay the beginning of the best soil amendment and fertilizer around.
Composting can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. The bottom line of composting is that organic material, i.e. leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, manure, etc., breakdown into crumbly brown material that is like black gold for you soil. This breakdown is done by microorganisms. Temperature and moisture determine how fast these little guys get the job done.
This is where the composting can stay simple or get complicated. A simple pile of leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps can turn into compost in 6 months to a year. If you so choose, you can help it along by turning it over once a month or once a week. This is the simple method. If you are so inclined, you can build or purchase containers that will cause the organic materials to breakdown much faster. All of the more advanced methods require frequent to constant turning as well as keeping the moisture consistent.
For the everyday gardener, I recommend the pile. As you build your pile, layer dry materials such as hay or leaves and layers of green materials like grass clippings or manure. As you add layers, wet the materials down with a hose sprayer. You do not want the pile so wet that the water is running down the drive way, it should feel like a wet sponge that has been squeezed out. Once that is done just leave it alone. In several months, you will be able to shovel up the bottom layers and put that beautiful stuff on your gardens, flower beds or your lawn.
The benefits of using compost are many and vast. The most significant being that the compost is the ideal food for the microorganisms in the soil that feed your plants. Compost also conserves water by adding organic material to the soils that retains the water molecules in the root zones. When compost is used as mulch it keeps the roots of your plants cool. All of this adds up to more beautiful plants and lawns than you have ever known. To learn more about composting, visit your local library or buy you some books that cover the subject in detail. My favorite book on composting is Let It Rot by Stu Campbell.
Here at our farm, I have several composting schemes going. But the manner in which I or you get our compost does not matter. What matters is that we begin composting. So much of what is filling the landfills could be returned to the soil by composting. It is a win/win situation for all.