How to Use a Garden Incinerator
Garden incinerators burn garden or allotment waste at very high temperatures quickly and efficiently. They are certainly a popular accessory at my local allotment.
Before you burn, check the regulations and rules that apply where you live. You don’t want to cause a nuisance to your neighbours, or burn anything that causes air pollution.
The key point is that garden incinerators burn hot. Actually, very, very hot. Once they get going, they can burn through garden debris quickly, even wet material, saving you the time and mess of taking the material to a tip.
Watch How to Use a Garden Incinerator
See the video, or scroll down to continue reading.
Things to do:
- Ensure that your incinerator has legs
This allows the air to be pulled into the incinerator through the holes at the bottom of the kiln.
- Stand your incinerator on bricks
To help with the air flow
- Ensure your incinerator is stable
To minimise any risk of it falling it over, especially when burning hot
- Allow the incinerator to burn hot before adding organic matter
Try starting with paper and kindling
- Use dry organic material
This will burn the best and produce the least smoke
- Use the lid
This will help keep the incinerator hot and aid burning
- Observe local regulations
Smoke can be a nuisance – if in doubt check your allotment policy or your local government website
- Take precautions against accidents
Where thick gloves, long sleeves, sturdy shoes and eye protection
Things to avoid:
- Household waste (paper is okay)
Burning household waste may be considered a health hazard
- Over filling your incinerator
This will slow burning and increase the chance of your incinerator toppling over
- Burn in very dry weather
Minimise risk of accidental fires
- Burn in enclosed spaces
Could there be a risk of fire spreading if hot embers came out of your incinerator?
- Use wet materials
This will create a lot of smoke. This may be fine at the allotment, but nevertheless, check the direction of the wind. Also, consider if wet organic waste could be composted instead.
- Leave your incinerator unattended
Minimise risk of accidental fires
- Remove hot ash
Using a Garden Incinerator
If you’ve pruned your fruit trees or fruit bushes, cut down your old raspberry canes, gathered together your Brussel sprout stalks or potato tops that you don’t want to throw on the compost heap to avoid spreading disease, bagged leaves in autumn, have old wood left over timber from diy projects, or any other woody matter not suited to a compost heap, then a garden incinerator can be just what you are looking for.
The reason garden incinerators burn so hot is their excellent air flow. They have a big hole in the bottom, and holes in the side, that help a fire get really hot. Once they get going, and that is really the key to burning most things, the heat is sufficient to dry out wet matter and burn it through.
When buying a garden incinerator, make sure that you have the legs, nuts, and bolts that come with it. In DIY stores, these things can go missing, and it is annoying to have to go back to the shop and ask for them. Also, don’t forget the lid of the incinerator!
It does not take long to assemble an incinerator. I started with the legs which are screwed on to the base of the incinerator using the holes pre drilled in the bin. The legs are really important to ensure that there is good air flow through the base of the incinerator.
My incinerator also had an inner flu which is screwed to the inside base of the drum. The purpose of the flu is to prevent the hole at the bottom of the incinerator getting blocked when you fill it with what you want to burn. This seems like a great idea, but on my bin I’ve found the metal supports quite flimsy so that they bend easily under pressure, so it is less effective than I’d like it to be.
To get a good fire burning, I screw up newspaper into balls and place this at the bottom. Around this I place some dry grass or small twigs, and then larger sticks and branches on top. Basically, just like you would when making a bonfire.
If filled correctly with dry material, the incinerator will only take a few moments to light. I use long matches that can be poked through the holes in the side of the incinerator to light the paper.
My tip is to make sure you have some large pieces of wood to add when the incinerator gets going. You want to create a really strong hot fire before you start adding anything wet or green. This heat is important to keep the fire going. If the fire is not strong enough, wet material will burn very slowly, or even put the fire out completely.
If you have a roaring fire in your incinerator, it will burn through things very quickly. Preparing in advance incinerator sized pieces of what you want to burn is helpful. Otherwise, you may find the incinerator burns faster than you can refill it.
Be aware that wet material can produce much more smoke than dry material. You may want to consider your neighbours, especially if the wind will blow the smoke in the direction of their houses.
Finally, a word on safety. These are not safety instructions, you should always read the instructions that come with your incinerator, and check any local rules, regulations or laws that apply where you live.
However, this is what works for me.
I always wear thick gardening gloves, strong boots, and have my arms covered. This is to avoid the risk of burns.
As the fire inside the incinerator is very hot, so are the surfaces of the incinerator. Therefore I don’t touch it when burning. The lid goes on at the end, I don’t remove it during burning to add more content.
I add new material when the flames have died down sufficiently to avoid any risk of getting burned. Having a big poker on hand to push the material down into the incinerator is helpful, and I choose a poker that won’t burn!
I choose the location of the incinerator very carefully. There should be nothing below, around, or above the incinerator that could catch fire. I stand the incinerator on paving slabs or bare earth. It needs to be flat, I don’t want my incinerator falling over. I make sure that nothing is around the incinerator that can burn, including the stack of material that I want to burn. This includes checking upwards to make sure there are no overhanging trees, or branches that can catch alight.
This is all because it is very easy when loading the incinerator for burning material to fall out of the top or bottom of it. These can set light to anything around it. Also, sparks can fly out.
On windy days, these can travel quite a distance. Therefore, I avoid burning on windy days. Also, I will never burn in very dry weather, to avoid any risk of vegetation around the incinerator catching fire. Fire can spread through dry grass. If in doubt, I don’t burn.
I never use accelerants, like oil or petrol. If I prepare the fire properly with dry material. There is simply no need to use them.
I like to keep a couple of full watering cans on hand, just incase accidents happen.
Lastly, I follow the principle of never leaving a burning fire unattended. An incinerator can fall over, or suddenly start to burn much hotter with flames jumping out the top. I like to start burning early when I get to the plot, to make sure I burn what I need to before I want to go home.