With Bonfire Night fast approaching and falling on a Saturday this year, it’s time to start planning your November 5 party.
Safety should be the top priority, as the wellbeing of your guests is at stake.
Obviously, you want the best display possible (a 5 of November to remember), but your garden may need some preparation before you're ready to start shooting rockets.
By following these easy tips from Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at the Royal Horticulturist Society, you'll ensure your garden bonfire party goes with a bang!
1. How big should my garden be to have fireworks or bonfires?
“We follow the advice of the experts who advise that there should be 25m between spectators and fireworks or bonfires (http://www.saferfireworks.com/firework_code/index.htm). This rules out smaller gardens although, with care, little fireworks and sparklers may well be feasible.”
2. Is it safe to launch fireworks in a garden with tall, overhanging trees?
“Clearly fireworks that fly up or send up streams of fiery material are unsuited for use where there are overhanging trees. Bonfires are of course potentially very damaging if lit beneath trees, as the column of hot air kills vulnerable buds and leaves trees with large dead areas the following year. The same applies if there are overhead cables.”
3. What can be done to prevent fires damaging the garden?
“Leaving plenty of space around the fire so that plants, fences and sheds are not scorched is highly advisable. Ideally 10m should be allowed, but it is possible that with great care fires could be lit closer in the case of modest garden bonfires. In small gardens, fires could be raised in containers such as fire baskets. However, bark and twigs are very vulnerable to radiant heat and care should be taken that they do not get scorched.”
4. What materials are safe to burn on bonfires?
“Only quick-burning woody materials are suitable. Wet weedy materials will produce much unpleasant smoke. Plastics or treated wood can produce toxic smoke and such materials should only be sent to landfill. On the plus side, bonfire ash is useful fertiliser containing some potassium and also lime.”
5. How can I protect garden wildlife on bonfire night?
“It is best not to just set fire to heaps of material, but build the bonfire soon before it is lit to ensure no hedgehogs or toads, for example, have taken refuge in the dry shelter given by bonfires and might be harmed by the fire.”
6. Sheds and other wooden features are also at risk from fires. What can be done to protect these?
“Raising large bonfires within 10m of a shed, fence or other timber garden structure can be a very expensive mistake. It is well to have a hose pipe and buckets of water handy whenever there is a garden bonfire. Also, fires apparently well put out can come to life later and lead to unexpected conflagrations – always damp down spent fires thoroughly and make sure no flammable debris remains near the site of the fire.
"Using paraffin or other flammable liquids can make fire rage and then flying burning fragments could ignite nearby buildings or thatched roofs at a considerable distance.”
7. Is it safe to fix Catherine Wheels to fence posts?
“We would follow the experts’ advice to nail Catherine Wheels to posts about 1.5 to 2 metres off the ground, which will make them visible to spectators.”
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