Compost was apparently the culprit in a New Jersey case where, according to this story:
a blind 69-year-old Cliffside Park man, who weeds and plants by touch, buries in his soil a compost of decaying egg shells, coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps most folks send to the landfills as trash
is being persecuted by his neighbors and local officials for trying to do the right thing. The sad thing is that it’s all too believable. For whatever reason, we here in the U.S. have an unnatural passion for garden neatness. I’ve had personal experience with this: a perennial public garden I worked on with a neighbor was bulldozed by the property owners because it looked unkempt—i.e., didn’t have continuous color in the form of petunias and cannas from May through September. It had foliage without flowers.
But you don’t have to go to the extremes. Too often, I hear from people who cut their hydrangeas to the ground (killing all buds) because they look “bad.” Or I hear from fellow gardeners concerned about anything that has turned brown or has too many seedheads. “I should cut this down, right?” “Leave it alone,” I implore, but I know I don’t stand a chance in the face of dozens of garden “fall clean-up” columns.
And that’s not to mention the front gardens that eschew lawns for vegetables or meadow-like perennials, and then face recriminations from neighbors and officials. We have a garden policing culture here that is hard to conquer.
Let there be messy!