Composting Fever

by Daisy

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Fall my favorite season for composting.

The main reason is the curb pickings in my neighborhood are at their zenith this time of year.  Local realtors trying to lure buyers to our part of the county don’t emphasize this amenity (#lostopportunities) but we have some sweet conditions here for crazed composters like me.

For one thing, our neighbors are pretty intense about their lawns, which means they are out there every week making sure everything is mowed and the leaves are collected and all the bags are at that curb.  Although they probably aren’t supposed to do this, even the lawn services usually leave the bags at the homeowners’ curb, too.  Adding to my delight, the sanitation company requires clear bags for all compostable waste, so I can see inside all the bags to know where the best goodies are.

The best bags are the ones filled with mower-shredded leaves.  The smaller the pieces, the quicker they break down into delicious compost.  Plus you can cram more shredded leaves into one bag than non-shredded leaves.  They are heavier, but they are awesomer, too.

In early fall, I get COMBO bags–bags filled with a mixture of green grass and shredded leaves!  It makes my heart go pitter-patter.  And they put them right on the curb, like, like garbage!  Quel horreur!  Don’t worry bags!  I will come and get you and hug you and squeeze you and pet you and feed you chicken poo and water you and watch you decompose.


I also like fall because I can collect some bags completely full of grass clippings and some completely full of shredded leaves, and layer them lasagna-style in the compost pile.  It’s so beautiful.

This past weekend I gathered three station-wagon loads full of the best offerings from the neighbors’ curbs.  I can afford to be picky this time of year.  I drive past the fluffy, light bags of unshredded leaves, the small bags, and bags crammed with too many limbs and sticks and go straight for the good stuff.  I passed one dog-walker twice, another walker three times.  Unless they are gardeners, no telling what they think.  I kept my eye on the prize.

One load containing days-old bags of grass-only began to leak the most foul-smelling sun tea I’ve ever had the misfortune to have all over the back of my car.  I’m not sure what it is about grass clippings, but they start to smell like rotten bananas right off the bat, then the odor worsens from there to a really rank sweatsock/catfish bait smell that will set your eyes to watering.  And these people don’t even have dogs, so I know it was just the grass.  Despite the smell I consider it a score because the grass-only bags are starting to slow down as the days grow shorter.

My compost bin is full now, plus I have a bag of leaves and a bag of grass in reserve to top it off once it begins to settle.

I have that nice “full larder” feeling in terms of compost, knowing I’ve got my overwinter batch started that will be ready for the spring garden.

Simple pleasures.

Or is it, the pleasures of the simple?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

debra October 24, 2012 at 10:16 am

How do you know that they have not used pesticides or herbicides or other chemicals?

Daisy October 24, 2012 at 10:34 am

debra–What I’m hearing is this: According to the EPA (US): “The composting process has been shown to absorb odors and treat semivolatile and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including heating fuels, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and explosives. It has also been shown to bind heavy metals and prevent them from migrating to water resources or being absorbed by plants. The compost process degrades and, in some cases, completely eliminates wood preservatives, pesticides, and both chlorinated and nonchlorinated hydrocarbons in contaminated soils.” (

Emily October 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Good to know!

I’m certain my neighbors think I’m crazy for doing this too. I just bring them occasional goodies from the garden and no one says anything. 🙂

Linda October 25, 2012 at 4:25 am

What a timely post! My husband just asked for a compost tumbler for Christmas. It’s not sexy, but at least I know what he wants 🙂

jengod October 25, 2012 at 5:27 am

As a fellow compost nerd, I LOVE THIS POST. Fall is a wonderful time for compost-material hoarding!

Andrea October 25, 2012 at 7:39 am

Please tell me more about the tarp you have wrapped around the compost wire? Is that just to keep warmth in? Also what is the wire mesh called that you are using? Pardon me if you went over these in the composting series, I had to skim.


Daisy October 25, 2012 at 8:30 am

Andrea–The tarp is basically to keep it from drying out. I don’t plan to turn/re-wet this pile as often as the compost-along pile because I won’t be using it until spring anyway and I have time to let it cook by itself, so the tarp will help maintain the moisture needed without my having to go in and turn and hose it as much. The wire is welded wire fencing with 2×4 in. openings. I had some left over from a fencing project. You can use whatever you can get your hands on. I’m sure the tarp also keeps the heat up, too, and the heat is dependent on the moisture content, so it’s all connected any way you look at it!

Farmer Doug October 25, 2012 at 9:00 am

Great pictures, Daisy. You are obviously very organized! I’ve always been one to rake up the leaves prior to mowing the lawn because I don’t like – aesthetically – the look of green grass speckled with brown bits of chopped-up leaves. Your post has, however, convinced me to let nature do its thing for the betterment of my lawn long-term. Thanks for sharing.

Julie October 27, 2012 at 5:53 am

I also get SO excited at the fact it is ” Making FREE compost” time!! And i feel my chickens poo is like like GOLD! LOL!!! We live on Cape Cod and my hubby and i do alot of shellfishing and fishing adding all the fish ” leftovers” to our comost…right now he is potting for eels…my garden and flowers and herbs always look amazing w/out alot of work thanks to rockin compost…have you even made chicken poo stew for a pump sprayer???? My Hubby has this thing about green lawns…and since we are an organic family….he leaves and chicken poo in a potatoe sack and hangs in in a big barrel of rain water(we start this in march and use a rain barrel) and let it sit in the water throughout the growing season letting the rain replenish itself….but we put some in a pump sprayer and add to the lawn and it becomes so green!

Sybil October 27, 2012 at 6:51 am

Very cool ideas…. Been thinking about collecting some extra bags of leaves and grass around my neighborhood. I am in a new neighborhood this year and even though renting, I just ‘must’ garden!!! Love this website!! You are close to my heart 🙂 I am a mom of five home-schooled wonderful kiddoes… I was Home for 18 years, now back in workforce – 2 teens and 20 year old still at home. Was a home ec teacher — now in science education… Live to spread the thrifty, sustainable, be healthy-mentally, physically, spiritually, message as much as possible. Thanks for the wealth of ideas:) keep up the good work!

Erica October 27, 2012 at 7:14 am

Hi there 🙂
I got your post in my email this am and I thought “ah ha! Composting information!” Then I saw your photo of your composter (the fence with the green tarp around it…and I wondered if it was as easy as that to make a composter? I’ve been wanting to make one (we just moved and now have a yard big enough to do that) I don’t really know where to start with making one…when I google plans I get some really complicated stuff….Anyway, if I could make something like yours would it work?

Daisy October 27, 2012 at 8:36 am

Erica–Absolutely. I’ve made some beautiful compost in mine. You do not have to have a fancy or hard to build composter. You don’t even need what I have–a pile on the ground is fine, too. Go for it!

Erica October 27, 2012 at 8:38 am

Thanks Daisy! That’s great 🙂
I love reading your blog (I just lurk and never really comment!) 🙂

Georgene October 27, 2012 at 10:26 am

I just started a compost at our home this year. I put it in big Rubbermaid tubs. Was this a mistake? Should I poke holes in the sides? I’ve been doing some reading and saw that someone did use the tubs for composting and I had them on hand. Do I need to add water every once in a while since I keep a lid on it?

Jason October 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Such a relief to learn that I am not the only person to carry off the neighbors leaves. My immediate neighbors will save their leaves for me if I ask. Further out, I patrol the alley behind my house where other neighbors put out their bags of leaves. I try to get out early in the morning when I won’t be noticed, and drag the bags back with me. Sometimes I’ll stop the car, jump out, grab some bags of leaves on the curb, throw them in the trunk and speed off, feeling like a bank robber. A lot of the leaves I don’t even compost, just leave in a pile to use as mulch the following year.

Haven’t really had time to do leaf rustling yet this year, but clearly the time is now.

Daisy October 27, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Georgene–It will compost like that. It may get smelly/slimy, though. If you want it to drain and get some air, you may want to put a couple of holes in it either in the bottom (so you can leave the lid off) or in the sides (so it will be able to breathe) or both. If you keep it completely enclosed, it probably won’t need water, but if you give it some drainage/air, water it whenever it is dry. It should be “squeezed out sponge” moist.

Lydia October 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I used to drive around and collect bags of leaves. Till I found the gold mine. People can drop off their bagged leaves at the township building. Now I just go “one stop shopping” in my husbands pick up and get a truck load all in one place! Love it

Jane November 17, 2012 at 9:31 am

What do I do with my kitchen scraps in the winter? I live in CO and we can have some pretty harsh winters. Do I throw my scraps in the compost pile like I do in the summer?

Daisy November 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

Jane–I found a lot of resources by searching “winter composting.” Here’s one of the items I found: Interesting stuff.

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