For burning large quantities of garden rubbish there is nothing to beat the bonfire, if it be properly managed. The success of a bonfire depends on a strong heart of hot embers being established, and on the heat which it gives out being prevented from escaping.
The material to be burned requires grading beforehand. Twigs and shrub trimmings should be stocked in one place, and leaves, weeds, lawn mowings, and other stuff which burns less readily in another. Branches, long twigs and large loppings will burn much more readily if first cut up into small pieces which will pack closely together.
If rain has fallen recently it may be necessary to begin with a fire of kindling wood, arranged in a pyramidal form round a centre of paper. Do not stint the wood if the rubbish promises to ignite unwillingly. When the wood is well ablaze, add the more combustible matter, a little at a time – encouraging it, if necessary, with a few occasional drops of paraffin oil, until it in turn is blazing well. Then the fire can be gradually covered in with green stuff, beginning at the bottom and working up to the top.
In the earlier stages, the covering must not be thick, or it may smother the burning matter inside unduly and finally quench it. The important thing is to prevent the fire burning through at any point, which will be heralded by the material there turning dark.
At nightfall the bonfire is banked up with a sufficiency of slow-burning fuel to last till the morning. If the bonfire survives and is still going strongly, it will probably have enough reserve heat to deal with any amount of wet stuff, including even clay. The last, when thoroughly burned to redness and afterwards left to weather, is a very good fertiliser and lightener of the soil when mixed with the vegetable ashes. But it should not be dug in while fresh.
But in towns care should be taken that the smoke is not blown in a direction which may make it a nuisance – on to a neighbours washing, or through bis windows, for example. Moreover, at night a smouldering bonfire may be noxious, when there is no wind to blow the fumes away.