Burned earth can be a big benefit

Lots of sun and dry weather, the perfect time to get rid of those ugly piles of stuff that have accumulated for the past few months.  You know, Victoria Torleythose downed branches, twigs, and leaves that you piled up within sight of the house and are tired of looking at.  I certainly have them.

Of course, if you made your piles over there, and they are not an eyesore, you can leave them to become compost.  But not mine.  Mine are within sight of the house.  They have been within sight of the house for over 16 months and show no sign of deteriorating, mainly because they contain huge chunks of very, very hard wood that couldn’t be used for another purpose (trust me, I am a fanatic about using what can be used).

What to do, what to do.

Back in Georgia, you had to have a burning permit, the burning pile couldn’t be larger than prescribed, and the fire had to be out by 6 p.m.  Ha! My pile is bigger, I have no permit, and it will probably smolder for days before it is officially out!

It really is a large pile of just about everything.  We lit it Monday, rekindled it on Tuesday and Wednesday and it is still burning. This fire, however, has a dual purpose. It is not just burning waste; it is making something called burnt earth.

The burnt earth method is a way of making clay into a sterile material suitable for use as an additive, or even a main ingredient for, potting soil.  It’s not really difficult.  What you need are large chunks of clay which you deposit on the pile before you start the fire. After the burn is done and the pile is cold, you will find that the clay has become porous and easily crushed. It literally breaks into granules in your hands.

And the granules?  They are completely sterile, not sticky like clay, and can be mixed with compost in a ratio of three parts burnt earth and one part compost for use in planter pots.  Larger chunks of the earth are put into the planter first, and the mix is added.  The granules hold moisture beautifully, they don’t clump, so the soil is very open, and granules are large enough to allow easy growth of roots. If you use a liquid fertilizer like manure tea, the granules will soak it up and release it when you water.

There you have it; burnt earth from the simple act of cleaning up the yard. What could be easier?

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