Compost Making

by the Quick Return Method


Maye E. Bruce

with a foreword by

L.F. Easterbrook

Faber and Faber Limited
24 Russell Square

First published in Mcmxlvi
Faber and Faber Limited
24 Russell Square London W.C.1
Printed in Great Britain by
Latimer Trend & Co Ltd Plymouth
All rights reserved


'The Divinity within the Flower
is sufficient of Itself'

Plate 1: Portrait of the author

This book describes a way of making compost, i.e. humus, which is simply, labour saving (no turning) and quick, both in ripening the compost and in getting results in the soil. It is adaptible to all conditions and to every size and type of garden, allotment or farm, the process being based on nature's own methods.

Miss Bruce tells how to make use of the natural heat of disintegration, which liberates the vitality of the plants; how to retain that vitality within the heap, and how to quicken both the disintegration of plants and the energizing of humus by treating the heap with a simple activator. This is a herbal solution which contains in living plant form the chief elements necessary to plant life; formulae are given.

From Vegetable Waste to Fertile Soil affirms a belief in the universality of Life, this Life being manifest in varying 'rhythms' in the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms. Health, productivity and perfection of growth in the vegetable kingdom, says the author, can best be achieved by feeding plants within the 'rhythm' of this kingdom.


Table of Contents
Foreword by L.F. Easterbrook
1. Introductory Note
2. The Story of Quick-Return Compost
3. The How and the Why of the Heap
4. The Compost and the Garden
5. Effect on Human Health
6. The Activator
7. The Conviction

1. Table 1. Building the Garden Heap

-- Table 2. Building the Straw Heap
-- Table 3. Manure Tubs
-- Table 4. Leaf Heap
-- Table of Failures, Causes and Remedies
2. Formulae for Herbal Powder
3. Directions for Treating the Heap
4. Price of Powder Activator
5. Herbs -- and Where to Find Them
6. Alternative Plants and their Constituents
7. Some Useful Hints
8. Plan for a Small Bin
9. Plan for a Movable Bin


How to use Q.R. Compost Activator
-- Chase Organics pamphlet

Photography by W. Dennis Moss, F.I.B.P., A.R.P.S.,


by L.F. Easterbrook

When Dr. Rudolf Steiner was pressed to lecture publicly on agriculture, he eventually agreed, but with reluctance. 'All right', he said, 'this is what I think. But for Heaven's sake experiment for yourselves.' That is precisely what Miss Bruce has done, as the fascinating story she tells in Chapter 2 reveals. With her usual modesty, she puts forward the method that she has developed as merely one of three, each of which may be suited to particular circumstances. Hers is especially suitable to gardens and allotments and to the increasing number who find adequate supplies of animal manure hard to come by. But Miss Bruce would be the last person to claim to be the sole repository of knowledge about compost-making, and her readiness to recognize the claims of other systems is further proof of the spirit of disinterested public service in which she has undertaken this work. She seeks neither prestige nor financial reward.

Had I not been already convinced of this, I could not have taken the responsibility of giving a full description of her methods in a national newspaper. The result was staggering. Over 4,000 people wrote in the next few weeks to ask for further particulars. The fact was that it appealed to their common sense.

That seems to be the most remarkable thing about this business of fertilizing the soil by completing the circle of growth and returning to the earth organic matter that has served its immediate purpose. It is Nature's way, and although Nature is far less doctrinaire than many who fancy they can ignore her, and although she will permit liberties to be taken, yet she is inclined to be implacable when it comes to going against her first principles. The lack of health and the growing catalogue of diseases in plants, animals and men seems to me evidence of this, and in our hearts I believe we know it is true.

For when I first encountered the theories of Dr. Steiner and the methods of those who believe that only living things can produce life, I was frankly incredulous. That was some fifteen years ago. But somewhere there lurked the uncomfortable feeling that 'there was something in it'. This led me to try it, rather tentatively, about ten years ago. 'But I'm not going all the way', I said to myself, 'One mustn't become a crank'. I found myself going further and further, however, and even when I have metaphorically shaken my fist at Dr. Steiner's photograph and said that anyhow nothing would make me believe that one, sooner or later I have had to make an equally metaphorical apology. So far as I can discover, this has been the experience of everyone who has set foot upon this path. Perhaps, therefore, this should have been headed 'Warning' and not 'Foreword'.

To-day, after ten years' experience, all too literally at 'first hand' during the war years, I am completely satisfied with the result of Miss Bruce's system. Since the war, we have added poultry and rabbit manure to the vegetable waste, and it seems to have improved the compost. Our soil, inclined to be rather sticky on top of marl rock and unweathered greensand, has improved beyond all knowledge, and we can get on to it, and work it, for at least an additional six weeks during the year. The flavour of what we grow is at least noticeable enough to provoke invariable comment from visitors. It is true we pick the white butterflies off the cabbages, dust some of the young brassicas with derris and spray the roses with soft soap, but apart from that we use no spray or insecticide of any sort. Yet potato blight is unknown to us, likewise the other curses of the gardener, and if the peach trees suffer from the attentions of red spider, they have the vitality to throw off the effects. As regards other fruit, I wish I knew where we could buy apples to equal those that we grow, although no spray ever pumps lead and arsenic into them; and while the diseases of strawberries and raspberries have wrought such havoc that the national acreage has decreased by about 50 per cent, our main trouble is to restrain their exuberance in throwing out runners and suckers. I have never seen a sick strawberry plant or raspberry cane in the garden.

Our health has been good enough to make people ask us how we manage it. When I take my small boy who has eaten compost-grown vegetables all his life, to the dentist, the dentist asks what we have done to him to give him such an exceptional set of teeth. We hope to be even healthier now we have discovered where we can buy flour from organically-manured wheat.

Not the least of the blessings of this 'common-sense' gardening is to be free of the slavery of measuring out and administering endless doses of this or that dope to the square yard, making one feel more like a chemist's assistant than gardener. Nature leaves wide margins for error, and will never quarrel over a few tons of compost to the acre one way or the other. Provided reasonable care is given in making the compost, it is as near to being a fool-proof system of manuring as anything can be. It makes the minimum demand upon intelligence and labour.

All this, I am quite ready to agree, is only 'evidence' and not 'proof'. Those 'scientists' who so stoutly fight the losing battle of chemical manuring and are retiring from one position to another, will not even regard it as 'scientific' evidence. But with the rising tide of practical evidence that refutes their theories, the onus has come to be upon them to prove their contentions, and until they can produce proof that artificial manures will give me food of the quality, health and succulence of compost-gown food, and with such little trouble, I shall be content to keep to compost, save my money, and retain my well-being.

1. Introductory Note

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