If this is the time of year you start thinking about firing up the firepit or chiminea, or if you’ve invested in a wood-burning stove for your home, you’ll no doubt be thinking about what sort of fuel you can burn. Choosing the right supplier of eco-friendly fuel can be tricky, but if you’re a keen gardener (or even if you keep a small vegetable plot), you might already know that there is a lot of free fuel around.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Burning wood and garden waste is effectively carbon neutral, as the amount of carbon the plants absorbed while growing is equivalent to the amount of carbon released when burned, so as long as you’re getting your fuel from a sustainable source, then you won’t be contributing to global warming. If the wood comes from your own garden, there’s no ecological damage from harvesting, packing or transportation, and you can come by a surprising amount of green waste from general garden maintenance, and if your garden happens to be overlooked by a large deciduous tree, you’ll be inundated with free fuel in the form of falling leaves in autumn.
So going back to your roots and relying upon your garden for fuel rather than buying it can not only save you money, but reduce your carbon footprint.
Producing your own fuel
There are a few guidelines that should be adhered to when using garden waste as fuel. Green garden waste contains a lot of nitrogen and should be dried before burning. Drying transforms a lot of this nitrogen into carbon and results in a more efficient burn and a lot less smoke.
If you’re pruning or clearing a tree, you can season the wood yourself. Make a wood store, keep it dry, ensure good circulation, and let the wood dry for up to 6-9 months for timber, or a couple of months for larger branches.
There are some things that should never be burned, such as leylandii clippings (the sap is very resinous, so it will catch very quickly, and smoke a lot!), and wood from coniferous trees will spit, so use with caution.
It’s also best to steer clear of driftwood. Although it’s tempting if you live by the coast, burning driftwood releases a lot of pollution and toxins into the air, and may corrode the inside of your stove or chiminea.
Reaping the benefits
- Fallen leaves – simply gather up dry leaves and pack them loosely into a paper bag for the fire.
- Green garden clippings – e.g. woody shrubs, trimmings from the herb or vegetable plot, twigs and soft green foliage. Simply put cuttings into a clear plastic bag in the sun for a day or two, or spread out on a dry surface in the summer.
- Seasoned wood – large cuts of timber should be stacked out of the rain and allowed to dry. A little wood ash is also good for the compost heap since it contains high levels of potassium, but only use a little since it’s very alkali.
- If you have a lot of thick, woody cuttings to dispose of, you can dry these briefly before burning. This includes branches from woody plants, such as bushes or hedges, or smaller tree branches.
- For smaller pieces of garden waste and household waste – you can buy log makers which will compress household and garden waste into a handy log. Less mess and more convenient.
In short, for fuel for firepits or chimineas, you could do a lot worse than rely on the free fuel around in your garden: it’s cheap, eco-friendly, and depending on what you burn, it can smell great, too. And don’t forget junk mail, boxes, and newspapers. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint and discover a renewable source of fuel for your garden heater at the same time.
About the author: Laura Phillips is an outdoor and green living enthusiast and writes for chimineashop.co.uk.
Content syndicated by Nathan Brown, targeted recruiter for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage’s organic gardening jobs.
Photo Credit: Sean Loyless