Leaf Pilfering!

gardenfaerie(z5b Michigan)November 9, 2004

It's the most wonderful time fo the year.... (imagine Gardenfaerie dancing and throwing leaves around).

I love putting the garden to rest in fall and I love winter... a time to dream, do indoor sowing, never suffer lower back pain...

Part of my fall hording is getting lots of dry leaves to save for next season's compost bin. (In spring/summer I have way more greens and i always need browns.) I've mulched my own leaves into my current compost... but need more, more, more!

So I've taken to curbside leaf shopping! I just store the yard waste bags in my shed and then add them to compost throughout the season. I especially love how someone else has raked and bagged for me! All I do is shred before putting in the compost and even that isn't technically necessary.

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HiDiane(Z9 Tampa Bay FL)

I gather bagged leaves left for the yard waste collectors, too but do more gardening from now till June than in the summer months.

Have you read "Mulch" by Ann Ripley? The main character gets into quite a bit of grief for her leaf scavenging! There is more in the bags than the leaves...

    Bookmark   November 9, 2004 at 12:11PM
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gardenfaerie(z5b Michigan)

I haven't read "Mulch," but I've found stuff in bags other than leaves... though probably not along the lines of what's in the book. :) Mostly expected things I sort out like twigs and end-of-season-annuals. Once I did find five sedges still in their pots ranging in health from fine to not-quite-dead-yet. Only one has survived in my garden, but it was a thrill finding them! They were from a sale at our botanical gardens (I recognized the tags) and marked $9.99. :)

I guess if FL you don't have quite as dormant a winter season as we do in Michigan! :)


    Bookmark   November 9, 2004 at 1:39PM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

In parts of our town there are lots of roadside plantings and the leaves fill the gutters. It feels like a civic duty to collect them, and like early Christmas to unload them liberally around the garden.

I had a Japanes maple that was committed to dieback after a long drought, but after mulching deeply with a pot pourri of leaves it thought better of it and back-budded with enthusiasm. (Oak, maples, Banksia - whatever.)

Now spring is here I'm enjoying the rewards: richer soil and healthy plants. Worth all the effort and the little lakes in the back of the stationwagon. (Can't think of the north-end term for this type of vehicle. It's not a ute/pick-up.)

And swishing through the leaves - instant childhood. Mmm.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2004 at 3:41AM
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alex_z7(7 AL)

Uh-oh, now I'm inspired. There were some clear bags of leaves on my way to town yesterday.....Oh no, tomorrow is garbage day. I may have to "swing by" there in a few minutes. ::giggle:: Yes, it's just after 1 a.m., but recycling and composting are civic duties, after all....

    Bookmark   November 12, 2004 at 2:11AM
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alex_z7(7 AL)

HiDiane, you have me curious--what is in the bags in the story?

I too am doing more now than I did during the summer. The summer heat is miserable, too miserable to be out in it much. Now I am working hard building new beds for all the plants that could 'let it all hang out' all summer. Now they really need a place to go, instead of staying in their nursery pots. And I am planting bulbs, bulbs, bulbs....

I scored 19 clear bags of leaves a little while ago, just hours before the garbage men are due. It took 3 trips but I managed to cram them all in. Two houses provided all those bags, one from an "average" neighborhood and one from a very pricey neighborhood. Any bets on if the leaf quality from the pricey neighborhood will be any better? lol The pricey house had a gardener who tied very careful knots in their bags, I will say that. No rain had seeped into the bags past those knots, lol. I saw a 3-G nursery pot in one of the bags, I wonder if there is something in it. I'll find out eventually.

Six bales of straw last night, 19 bags of leaves tonight....I too feel like Christmas has come early.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2004 at 4:05AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

I found two large hardy mums that were bloomed out for the season, planted them out in my yard. Why would anyone throw away something so good. And they were in two free pots!!!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2004 at 7:10AM
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njcher(Zone 6)

Oh, the stories I could tell you about what I've found in bags of leaves!

Probably the best thing you'll find from the idjuts who use leaf blowers is topsoil! Yes, beautiful enriched humus, all blown away in the name of the impeccable landscape.

A couple years ago it was forecast that we would have a summer of drought so I maniacally collected leaf bags for mulch that spring. Fully one-third of the leaves collected by leaf blowers had beautiful, humus-y rich topsoil in them. It was quite a find!

Everytime I go past the houses where I collected those leaves I smile, wave and say, "Thanks for being stupid!"

I wrote a letter to the NY Times about it and they published my letter. It was about the topsoil being blown away by leaf blowers and the subsequent nutritional "starving" of trees and plants due to these practices.

Most of the other things I've found have been worthless but only to me. Like a little girl's ragdoll, for example. Leafblowers put out winds of something like 146 mph so you know they are going to tear away anything not battened down.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2004 at 3:37AM
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muddy2shoes(8B Houston TX)

Gardenfaerie, I always "steal" my neighbors' leaves in the autumn. In fact, one Halloween, DH & I went to a costume party across town and spotted a huge pile of bags full of pine needles. He hesitated when I suggested we liberate the bags but I asked him, what will they tell the cops? that Raggedy Ann & an Indian Chief stole their bags of trash? We hauled a truckload home & laughed all the way.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 1:00AM
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Markp6(6 OH)

I always need leaves to use as mulch around my bonsai treees when they sleep for the winter. Oak leaves are best for this but I've never had an oak tree in my yard. My solution has been to pick up a neighbor down the street's oak leaves after they had been raked and bagged.
I awlays felt that to really earn the use of those leaves I should have raked them up myself, but I was always busy with the maple and apple leaves in my own yard.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 1:49PM
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alex_z7(7 AL)

muddy2shoes, ROFLMBO!

It seems rather strange to take garbage bags if you aren't the garbagemen, but I am working on overcoming that fear, lol. Last week I started off w/ clear garbage bags, soon that won't be much of a challenge anymore. Then I'll probably progress to black garbage bags, but only when there are so many of them that they are obviously leaves.

Actually, I passed by a few of those earlier today..... Maybe I need to go back, G.

( I can just hear my mother now, " ::gasp:: What are you DOING? Are you are picking through people's trash now????" Yep, gotta do it now, lol, I have a reputation to uphold.)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 3:19PM
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Alex, in Ann Ripley's novel, there was a body buried in the mulch!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2004 at 9:40PM
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drasaid(zone 8)

having walked my dog and added surripitously to many a bag on the curb.
The person that figures out what to add to dog dirt to make it a valid compost will truly be a friend to man

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 8:18AM
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hag49(Tx z8a)

Last yr. I picked up 50 bags of "leaves". I put them aside and this spring I started unbagging them. 'What I found was huge twigs,garbage,pots,rocks,etc along w/the leaves. It took me forever to go through them and clear out the leaves. I didn't find it worth the effort. So this yr. I'm taking my rake and bagging them myself. I just stop at a house w/people and ask if I can have their leaves. They usually help me and that way I can control what's in there. I did not find anything I wanted to keep, that was for sure. You guys are lucky if you're finding treasures. Most people just put everything in those bags thinking they're going to the trash anyway. Buyer beware!!!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2004 at 9:10PM
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gardenfaerie(z5b Michigan)

Hag49, I've found it pays to do a quick inspection of the bags before loading them into my car. You can't guess everything deeper down in the bag, but you can get a generally good idea of the contents just by looking at the top layer. I also do a quick test lift of the bag to see how heavy it is and "frisk" its outer edges--you can feel if there are bulky things inside. This only takes seconds. I bring a flashlight if "shopping" at night, or angle my headlights at the bags.

True, even with "prescreened" bags, I sometimes have minor sorting to do (a few branches here or there, some errant annuals), but I find this WAY easier than raking and bagging myself. (Big lawn + sensitive lower back = mulch mowing.) I live in a suburban area so the curbside pickin' is easy. I'm spoiled for choice and tend to only "shop" at houses I've had previous good experience with. :)


    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 9:50AM
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limhyl(z8 NC)

This is common practice on the composting forum. In fact they look down on you if you havn't snagged bags of OPL's. It's sort of a rite of passage. Theresa.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2004 at 7:02PM
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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

Theresa, now it's time for Other People's Christmas Trees for mulch!!! Bwwaahaahahah!!!!

'I also do a quick test lift of the bag to see how heavy it is and "frisk" its outer edges--you can feel if there are bulky things inside. ' GardenFaerie, what a wonderful image!

Happy Gardening,

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 8:59PM
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gardenfaerie(z5b Michigan)

cantstop, well, heh heh, I usually go after dusk to pilfer leaves... though I can just imagine someone peeping through their kitchen curtains wondering just what the heck I'm doing! :)

Ann Arbor has fairly stringent garbage, recycling, and yard waste pickup standards, e.g. yard waste is only picked up during part of the year and they have regulations for what you can put in yard waste bags. Lawn clippings are no longer acceptable as they recommend putting them back on your lawns. I don't get grass clippings from others, but if I did, I'd have to go to Ypsilanti (the next city over). However, this also means people are more aware of what kinds of materials to put in yard waste bags, so while I might get a few twigs or annuals in with leaves, I do not get rocks, pots, or other nonorganic things people have mentioned.

Because of the timeline of leaf pickup, pilfering AFTER the deadline is actually a favor (yeah, that's it) for the few people who still leave out leaves that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 9:23AM
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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

hehe!! See, we're helping them out ;-) On Compost, Soil, and Mulch, this is type conversation referred to as enabling, as in we are enabling each other with our Compost Addictive Disorder (names vary.) It's a good thing.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 9:03PM
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Years and years ago, when I discovered the joys of composting and mulching with leaves, I would faithfully rake the fallen maple leaves from the century old maple trees that divided mine and my bachelor neighbour's properties. After a few years, I decided that the leaves that were falling on his side of the trees were being wasted, so I began sneaking over with my rake when he was at work. Eventually I asked and received permission to rake them legally. Then it began to occur to me that the leaves falling on the church on the other side of his property were also going to waste, so I began raking there too. I used to haul the leaves home on plastic tarps, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, trip after trip after trip. After all, I didn't want my neighbours to know I was stealing leaves from the church. Eventually, I made my peace with God and the church trustees, who were pleased to let me rake away.
Then I began marauding towns. I'd go during the daytime, especially weekends, look around for stacked bags stuffed with leaves and beg, borrow and steal them. It got so bad that I began to search the local newspapers, looking for leaf pickup day in many of the small town near me, so I could get there before the garbage men did.
The first time I took a car, the second time I took our van, and eventually, I'd take the van with a wagon behind it.
But that still wasn't enough.
This year, I had a brain storm. I knew that a town near me was paying a trucking compacy to have its leaves picked up and transported to a landfill. I convinced the roads department employees to bring the leaves here. I now have a pile of leaves that measures approximately 720 cubic feet. (Lord, what's a cubic?) The pile is approximately 6'high, 20'deep and 60' long.
I may now have enough. I'll be curious to see how long a pile of this size takes to compost.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2005 at 8:16PM
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I now ride the streets looking for suitable piles of leaves. When Ivan blew through Alabama he took all the leaves off my trees and sent them to TN or somewhere. Up until now, all the piles have included too many limbs and trash, but now some good piles are appearing so I keep a box of big garbage bags in my car - ready to stop at a moments notice. OHHHHH ninamarie - what a great pile of leaves.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2005 at 5:12PM
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Here are a few tips I've learned picking up "OPBL" (Other People's Bagged Leaves):

Look at the shape of the bag.
If you can see corners & bulges, it's probably trash!
Leaf-filled bags look like squishy cylinders.

I, too, "frisk" the bags.
It ain't perfect, but it helps.
I have brought home liriope, dusty miller, nursery pots, beer cans & soda bottles (hey, they rake 'em up & bag 'em, I think they can have some beer or soda!), and, one memorable time, a dead mouse.
Still in the trap.
Now returned to nature.

Saturday evening through Sunday night are good times to lurk for leaves:
people do their yard work on the week-end, but Saturday morning is too early.

I turn on my flashers & have the radio playing audibly, so that homeowners don't think I'm trying to be furtive!

I always speak to any dogs who feel obligated to sound the alarm,

and I always wave big & grin & say, "Hi! I'm getting leaves for my garden!" to anyone I happen to see.

I try to swing through "my" leaf-pilfering neighborhoods on my way home from picking up coffee grounds at Starbucks.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2005 at 3:30PM
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I love composting my leaves too. I had about 4 acres of wooded property and used my riding lawn mower and attached Trac Vac system which absolutely shreds the leaves into very small pieces and holds them in the enclosed wagon. I then compost them inside of a 8Âx8Â wire bin. But I sold that property last month, so I am planning on going back in the fall and asking if I can rake their leaves.

I also live near a town which composite their leaves and Âgives away the composted leaves during the next year. It really beautiful stuff, like black dirt and they give it away. They start giving it away on March 23 this year and I will be there on the first day, will my truck and trailer

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 4:02PM
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gardenfaerie(z5b Michigan)

It warms my heart (we're having a looong winter so anything warm is good!) that this thread has been going so long and that bag "frisking" is now a recognized term. :) Well, on this forum, anyway.

This time of year, I'm scoping the recycle bins for gallon milk jugs which I use for winter sowing. I've been more active in that forum than here lately.

There are a lot of common factors to winter sowing and frugal gardening, so stop by that forum for a look-see.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2005 at 6:08PM
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If it is conveniently located to you, check out your local county compost site. You can usually get unlimited amounts of leaves, pine straw (needles), compost, and sometimes wood mulch.

During peak pruning times, evergreen bows and red and green dogwood cuttings can be found for winter decorations. I also pick up cedar bows to make rustic arbors, trellises, and furniture (this is relatively new to me).

I also have found a few cast-away plants at the compost site, and one of them turned out to be a relatively rare heirloom variety of iris.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 3:43AM
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