By Terrance Keller

Every year, when I turn my compost, I think of my mother, Mary Frances, who died four

years ago at almost 99. Mom grew up on the farm in Saskatchewan in the Dirty Thirties and knew how to use everything. She, and I, and compost are linked in a curiously spiritual way. Every fall, she, and eventually we, would go around our neighbourhood in Regina collecting the leaves that neighbours had put out in their garbage. Every kitchen vegetable scrap ended up in her compost. In the dead of winter, we’d see steam coming up from the pile: putting my hands in there was just fun, the heat warming them up a little bit. One of the first experiences of my mother’s somewhat short fuse came when the city garbage service picked up her compost pile, thinking it was to be thrown out. Talk about heat! She got a load of manure out of the deal. Mom took care of her compost, and dug it into Regina’s famous gumbo soil, producing prize-winning vegetables and flowers. She passed her love of compost on to me. 

Even if I haven’t had much of a garden for a few years now, I compost. My composter at the front door takes everything from the kitchen: I just love lifting it up and seeing the black, rich humus on the bottom with the new stuff on top. And the leaves from all the trees around my place? Well, despite what my kids have to say about it, I just spread them out behind my shed where they turn to lovely compost:  just being there is like being in a forest with the gorgeous, humid smells of a forest floor. This summer I’ll put a hammock there, and call it Frances’s Place. 


Collecting fall  leaves,

Journey to autumns past, Mom

and son connected.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Compost

  1. Christine Lemieux

    This made me think of my own mother’s compost pile hidden in the back corner of our small suburban yard. I was often instructed to throw the kitchen scraps on it. I was apprehensive, it was mysterious, but surely had something to do with Mom’s lovely gardens!

  2. I composted for years on the farm, the only information we had outside of Granpa. was Organic Magazine. According to Rodale Press, if you could tell what the compost was made from by looking at it, it was not conpost yet. I was shocked to find I was not completing the compost before using it.
    This is not the spreading of raw matrials to plow under, which was called SHEET COMPOSTING, long before hippies hijacked the term for something different. I now use coffee chaff & within weeks, it is finer than most peatmoss.

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