Man Fined $600 for Garbage Bags Filled With Leaves


This just in from the NYT. It's another one of those deals where you want to rush to his defense, because he is, after all, gardening, but on the other hand, it does sound pretty damn weird. I mean, some people have vegetable gardens that don't require the use of trash bags.  Just saying.


  1. Well, I’m all for organic gardening & embracing innovative ideas in the pursuit of such … but, like my Daddy says, the guy sounds like he’s a few rows short of an acre.

    “International criminal” ?

  2. Uh-oh.
    Each fall, I sneak around my neighborhood collecting garbage bags filled with leaves. I stop when I get about 45. Then I use the dry leaves to alternate with grass clippings in the compost pile, during lawn-mowing season. I knew it embarrassed my kid, but I didn’t think it would get me fined!

  3. My town has laws covering how many square yards of non-garbage-dump property visible from the road can be covered with trash. If I were to scrape together the various oddments of garden my projects in an unsightly heap in the front yard, then under those laws I would be fined, and rightly so. This could be how this fellow ran afoul of the law. I suspect that there are perfectly legal ways for him to store bags of leaves on his property.

  4. Lordy! I too collect bags of leaves in the fall so I’ll have plenty of brown matter to add to the grass clippings in my compost heap. But hundreds?!? He must have a very large property!

  5. I couldn’t get the link to bring me to the article. Any way of reading it…??

    As for the tires: I just started using use old tires for raised beds(non-food plants). It has been great. Getting on in years it’s good to have things a higher to work with. Making a raised bed from scratch is not work I can do anymore. Just fill the tire with good soil.. They don’t collect water any differently than the ground does being the base is on the ground.

  6. Pictures of Mr. Zeller’s property are available. The NYT story gives his name and city. If you go to and type in that info you get his address. Copy the address and use Google maps to find the house. Zoom in as far as possible. Yard looks pretty unpleasant from a bird’s eye view. No street view available. Ahhh the ever-intrusive Internet.

  7. Wouldn’t the leaves be more effective as mulch after being liberated from the bags? That said, I’ve also heard of composting them in black plastic. Still, I think it is hard to make an organic claim if you have what may amount to plastic residue in the compost or mulch… Neither here nor there.

    I started collecting tires to use as raised beds. No, they’re not attractive. But they save me from breaking my back and my cultivator on some patches of very hard earth in the yard.

    My guess is he was going to use the tires for raised beds.

    All it takes is a neighbor who doesn’t get what a body is doing, or disapproves, and then you get visits from the police, etc.

  8. This is a lazy, exaggerating scofflaw who can’t be bothered to clean up. If he is, in fact, a remotely saavy gardener, he’d know that garbage like that increases the likelihood of insects, fungal infections, and other nastiness. Maybe the fine is too steep, but that’s for the court to decide.

  9. I use black trash bags to collect leaves in the fall, then add them to my compost the following summer. I even stack them on patches of back lawn to kill the grass and turn it into a new garden patch. It is an eyesore. I hope my neighbors don’t complain! But then, I never have more than twenty bags out at a time, and move them into the shed as soon as my grass-killing project is done. I’d have to think hundreds of bags would make the yard look really ugly!

  10. I would like to point out that the definition of trash is “Useless things to be discarded”. These items, though they may be made partly of bag normally used to store trash, are quite useful, and not meant for discarding. They are helping produce thousands of pounds of organic produce. So really, I don’t see how you can argue that they are trash at all, trash is something don’t want/need anymore, just like weeds are plants you don’t want, even if other people plant and love the same type of plant.

    That it may look trashy is a separate issue.

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