You can burn wood in a garden incinerator when the fire is burning hot enough. Start the fire in the incinerator using plenty of dry paper or cardboard. When the fire is hot enough you can add wood to the incinerator. As the wood burns you can burn more wood. In a hot fire, wood will burn until it’s all gone.
Before we go any further, we need to consider the type of wood that we’re thinking of burning in the garden incinerator. Some types of wood mustn’t be burned in an open incinerator. Among these are off-cuts of wood that’s been treated with preservatives.
Very often, when tidying a garden, we find broken down pieces of wood from an old wooden fence or a post which may be partly rotten; preserved wood will rot eventually.
We’re, then, tempted to put these pieces into the burning fire in the garden incinerator.
We need to think about the chemicals that the preservatives contain. Among the chemicals in preserved wood is arsenic. Regardless of how old treated wood is, the chemicals in it will still be there.
When treated wood burns chemicals become liberated as an airborne gas or vapour. There is a risk that we and others could breathe it in. So, don’t burn wood that’s been treated.
Most of the time the wood that we want to burn in the garden incinerator will be woody trimmings from hedges that need to be managed by cutting down. You can burn wood that’s been cut from a hedge or tree.
How do you burn wood in a garden incinerator? Get the fire hot.
You will need to cut hedge wood or tree wood into manageable lengths so that they can fit, end-on, into the incinerator. Don’t allow long pieces of wood to hang out over the top of the incinerator as this may tip it over.
The best way to burn wood in a garden incinerator is to allow time for the wood to dry. Green, sappy wood will burn in a garden incinerator if you have a hot fire going but the wood, when added, will slow the fire down.
This is because wood needs to be dry before it will burn. Green wood will take heat from the fire to dry it out before it will burn. You will notice that green wood will generate smoke when burning in an incinerator.
If you’re burning large pieces of wood in the garden incinerator, be mindful that these can be heavy. Dry wood can be heavy even after drying. It will also take longer for large pieces of wood to burn away.
If you know that you are going to be burning large wood, you need to start earlier in the day to make sure that the fire is only burning during the day. This will avoid the fire burning into the darkness of the night.
When the incinerator is burning well, you will be tempted to fill it to the top. There shouldn’t be a problem with this. Modern, well built incinerators can take a full load but it’s important that it’s on stable ground. Make sure that the incinerator is on level ground with no risk that the legs sink into the ground on one side or the other.
It’s no good trying to upright a blazing garden incinerator when it’s trying to fall over.
If your garden incinerator has a lid, it would be wise to fit it when you’ve filled it with woody material. As the fire burns the pieces of wood will break down and collapse. This will generate sparks which will go skywards.
This is something that you need to be aware of when burning anything in a garden incinerator during prolonged dry weather.
Wear gloves when handling wood. There will be sharp pointy bits and splinters. You need to wear non-flammable gloves while you load wood or anything else into the burning incinerator.
Can you have a fire in your garden during the day?
You can have a fire in your garden during the day. There are no laws that inhibit having a bonfire or use a garden incinerator by day. A fire in the garden will only cause an offence if the smoke or smells from it, inflicts problems on others. Local authorities will only get involved if there are complaints.
If you have a fire in your garden during the day you avoid the potential problems of burning at night. The flames from a fire will show up for miles when it’s dark. There’s a chance that some helpful person will call the fire brigade.
When we have a fire in our gardens it’s an opportunity to show that we can be responsible and considerate of others. Avoid starting a fire that will produce a lot of smoke. Aim for a quick fire that flares up and dies down before anyone notices it.
This can be achieved by only burning dry material. A fire that’s burning hot with plenty of flame in a garden incinerator will be almost invisible during the day. If you’re tempted to add any green material to a hot burning fire, then, expect to see smoke.
Mention to your neighbours that you intend to get a fire going. Ask them if they’re likely to be putting out washing. When they know that you’re going to have a fire, perhaps, they will have material which they want to get rid of and add to your fire.
Can you have a fire in your garden during the day? Yes. Better than at night.
It’s better if other people know that you’re having a fire for several reasons. Fire is a good servant but a poor master. It needs controlling and contained. A garden incinerator is the best way of achieving a controlled and safe fire.
If people around know that there’s a fire in a neighbour’s garden, they can keep a look-out for any incidences where there may be stray sparks. If you have a fire in your garden during the day, there is more chance that people will be around to help out should they be required. If precautions are taken to contain and reduce sparks from a fire in a garden incinerator, there should be no problems at all.
How long does an incinerator last?
An incinerator should last two to three years. The quality of the incinerator-build will determine how long it will last. Metal that’s exposed to the fierce heat that’s produced in a burning incinerator, tends to rust. It’s possible to treat the rust between sessions. This may help to make an incinerator last longer.
How long does an incinerator last? Two or three years with care.
When you get your new garden incinerator it will be so clean and new-looking that you may be reluctant to start a fire in it. The first time you burn anything in it you will, almost certainly, burn off the paint.
After the fire has burned out, you will see the areas of metal that have become exposed by the burned-away paint. Expect these areas to go rusty. Rust never sleeps. It’s very important to put your garden incinerator under cover to avoid it becoming wet.
Rain water on bare metal will accelerate rust. Your garden incinerator won’t last long if you leave it out in the rain. You have to be aware that garden incinerators are being subjected to the toughest conditions of all. The effect of fire on a garden incinerator will stress the surface of the metal.
This won’t affect the garden incinerator’s performance straight away. A patch of rust on it doesn’t mean that it’s going to fall to pieces after the first time you use it.
How long your garden incinerator will last for you will depend on what you do to slow down the rust. You won’t stop the rust on an incinerator but there are things that you can try that will hinder it.
How to treat rust on an incinerator and make it last longer
There are ways of removing rust from an incinerator or any other metal surface. This usually involves acid. Industrial acids can be used but you need to know how to handle these types of acids. It’s probably better to leave industrial acids to the experts in that field.
For the rest of us, there is an acid that we all have access to as a household substance. We can use vinegar as a rust remover. Some will tell you that you need to use white vinegar. Any vinegar can be used. It all has an acidic element.
Ideally, you need to immerse the entire metal piece in vinegar and leave it soaking for a while. I’m not sure how long the piece needs to be left in the vinegar. It depends on the amount of rust involved but it appears that it takes a few days.
The vinegar treatment will be different when we try to treat rust to make an incinerator last longer. It would take a large vessel full of vinegar to be able to submerge an incinerator, it wouldn’t be practical.
An incinerator with large areas of rust can be wiped over with a cloth soaked in vinegar. Don’t dilute the vinegar. It needs to be at its fullest strength. Leave it on the rust for a day or two, then wipe the rust away with a cloth.
You may need to wipe on some more vinegar to remove any remaining rust. When you’ve removed as much as you can, the general advice is to spray the surface of the incinerator over with WD-40. This will help to loosen any remaining rust and slow down the return of any new rust.
If you can do this regularly, after using your incinerator, it will give you the best chance there is of making your incinerator last longer. Dealing with rust is a running battle which you won’t win but giving it the vinegar treatment followed by spraying over with DW-40 will slow it down. It could double the life-span of an incinerator.
What do you do with incinerator ash?
You can spread incinerator ash on the ground in the garden. Don’t throw it away. Garden incinerator ash has a value. There are a number of useful basic elements in incinerator ash, e.g. potassium (potash). Your vegetable patch will always benefit from the potash that incinerator ash provides.
You must wait for your incinerator to cool down before you start handling the ash. It won’t be a problem if it’s still warm. It’s important to remove the ash from an incinerator before it rains. Even if there’s a lid on the incinerator, moisture will get in. Wet incinerator ash will be harder to handle compared to dry powder.
Avoid breathing in the dust. If you handle it carefully there shouldn’t be much dust. Incinerator ash tends to be very fine, due to the high temperatures during the burn.
What do you do with incinerator ash? Your veg patch awaits!
Be particularly careful if you’ve been burning treated timber. Wood that’s been treated with preservatives shouldn’t be burned in a garden incinerator. There are chemicals in the preservative that are better left alone. One of these is arsenic. If you have burned any treated wood, you need to know that this is likely to be in the incinerator ash.
Some traces of arsenic will be in the fire-fumes that were generated when the incinerator was burning. It’s better to find another way of disposing of treated wood.
Dry incinerator ash can be stored. It won’t deteriorate over time. When you use it in the garden, spread it thinly over a wide area. Too much in one place may lead to raising the alkaline level higher than you want.
Incinerator ashes from burned twigs are high in potash
Some say that a good place for incinerator ash is the compost heap. There is nothing that ashes have that can play any useful purpose in compost. It could be argued that the alkaline effect that ashes offer, may neutralise the acidity in compost. This will be minimal. To neutralise acidity in compost, the best ingredient to add is hydrated lime. Placing incinerator ash in compost will only take up valuable space in the compost bin or tumbler.