Smart planning will provide good fertiliser too says Toby
Build a bonfire and get great fertiliser too!
IKEEP a trug behind my garden shed filled with dry wood and twigs for use as a bonfire-starter kit. This tinder stockpile costs nothing and not only saves the smoky embarrassment of a fire that won’t light, but nips any temptation to reach for turps (or worse, petrol) in the bud.
This always ends in disaster as I know from bitter experience. As a callow youth working in a client’s garden, I poured petrol onto a reluctant fire only for it to catch on a hidden ember causing flames to leap in a deafening ‘thrump’ back into the plastic can.
In shock I hurled the can into the air spilling a blazing arc of fuel all around. I was lucky not to have been injured, which can’t be said for the nearby lawn that looked like it had played host to a careless and incontinent pack of huskies, once the flames had subsided.
So to repeat, never light a fire using petrol. If you don’t have dry material to burn, all is not lost as some common garden plants make excellent and natural firelighters even when they’re wet. As fans of Bear Grylls know the papery peel of birch bark catches quickly, while the chopped stems of ornamental grass (Miscanthus are particularly good) make excellent kindling.
Once a small fire is going, eucalyptus, pine, bay and holly, added a little at a time, create heat that then helps larger twigs and branches dry and catch too.
One other thing that helps the burn is to stack your wood etc next to where you want the fire, so it can be fed bit by bit onto the flames, giving the fire a hot heart right at the base. If a pyre of damp stuff is
stacked and lit in one go the flames bypass the middle and find their way to the top where they peter out.
Perhaps more importantly, stacking to one side means that any hedgehogs that mistake your fire heap for a safe place to spend the winter can escape to safety.
“Never light a fire using petrol”
Post fire, the resulting wood ash is potassium-rich potash and is great plant food It helps to stack your wood next to where you want your fire