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.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

2 comments on “Compost

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

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