There are several ways in which garden rubbish can be disposed of. Waste material may be incorporated in the compost heap or it may be dug into the ground during the autumn and winter soil preparations. There are, however, many occasions when it is advisable to burn rubbish, and the garden bonfire has an important part to play in the routine management.
One of the most important uses for a bonfire is for the disposal of diseased material. There are occasions, for example, when a particularly bad attack of potato blight, leaf mould, and black spot is experienced. This affected foliage must not be left lying around, nor should it be dug in when preparing the beds and borders. Affected material should be burnt as quickly as possible, and this is not always easy when the foliage is wet and green. It is surprising how much can be done if this material is quickly dried out by placing it carefully on top of a fierce bonfire, supported by netting or other suitable non-combustible material.
A bonfire comes into its own where a new or neglected site is taken over. There is often a good deal of waste material, such as pieces of timber and old or dead foliage which can be got rid of very quickly. Quite often there is a problem with waste disposal in the very small garden where the siting of a compost heap would either take up too much valuable growing room, or would look unsightly wherever it was positioned in the garden. Here, the use of a bonfire has much to commend it.
Bonfires are efficient only if they burn fiercely with a good red fire so that the amount of smoke produced is kept to the minimum. This can only be achieved if a constant draught is provided or plenty of air is allowed to enter the fire. The commercially produced incinerators are specially designed to provide this essential draught by having open sides and base. Most of the cheaper types consist of a wire framework which is so arranged that the bars are wide enough to hold a wide range of waste without dropping through. Unfortunately, some of these incinerators burn out after they have been in use for a few seasons. The more expensive types are moulded in thicker sections, are more substantial and have longer lives.
A bonfire made in an incinerator is easy to start and manage. Dry waste, such as old newspapers should be used to start the fire, and some dry foliage and pieces of old timber should be placed on
top. Once a good red fire has been established, the remaining waste should be placed in the incinerator a little at a time. Quite a lot can be packed inside these incinerators without the danger of choking the fire, as the all-round open structure ensures that every part of the fire is constantly supplied with sufficient draught.
A successful bonfire can be made without an incinerator. It is essential to have an open base which can be provided by the selection of the coarsest and driest of the waste. Old branches and twiggy wood are ideal for this purpose. Old newspapers should also be worked in. Once the fire has gained a firm hold, the remainder of the waste should be added a little at a time.
It is of the utmost importance that a bonfire is sited where there is no danger that it can set fire to neighboring property such as a shed, greenhouse or fence. It should be appreciated that a great deal of heat is created which can badly scorch plants, including trees and their foliage, if the bonfire is made too close to them.
It is a mere matter of good neighborliness to refrain from lighting a bonfire when the wind is blowing towards neighboring property, particularly when there is washing hanging on the line or in warm weather when the windows of nearby houses are open. This is of less importance, perhaps, when the bonfire is well made and the waste material burns quickly, without producing much smoke. Unfortunately, a bonfire that is not burning efficiently
and on which damp vegetable matter is being burned may burn slowly for hours, producing much evil-smelling smoke.
Where the Clean Air Act is in operation, provided that no undue smoke or nuisance is caused, there is usually no objection to the lighting of bonfires. The best course where there is any doubt, is to clear the matter up with the local town hall.