Best Municipal Dirt

Fort Totten Solid Waste Transfer Station
4900 John McCormack Road NE, (202) 673-6833
My backyard vegetable garden is one of my favorite things about my house. During the spring, summer, and fall, I can pop out the kitchen door, snip some lettuce, grab a tomato, or pick some broccoli, and make a meal around it (eat your bleeding hearts out, locavores!). But when it comes to transforming kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich soil, I’m still a dilettante. Getting the right balance of fresh waste and older organic matter eludes me. Fortunately, if you live in the District, you don’t need to master carbon-to-nitrogen ratios in order to replenish your garden with good dirt. That’s because the city composts the leaves it collects and allows any resident to take it, free of charge, every Saturday. Drive into the Fort Totten transfer station and you’ll find a hulking metal container filled with what the gardening blogs call “black gold.” But bring a shovel and something to haul your bounty away with; the District may do the composting for you, but picking it up is still DIY.