Smart plan­ning will pro­vide good fer­tiliser too says Toby

Amateur Gardening - - Contents -

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

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