October may well be the most poetic month in Deià. Summer is coming to an end for another year. Autumn is creeping in. A sense of anticipation is mixed in with the bittersweet, wistful feeling brought on by the change in the air. The veils of blue smoke that drift across the valley accompanied by the aroma of burning garden waste embody this.
The fragrant blue smoke appears because the ban on burning garden waste in force in Mallorca from 1 May to October 15 every year has been lifted. From 16 October onwards, Mallorcans can burn organic garden waste. But, if your garden is less than 500 metres from a heavily wooded area, you still need a special permit which you can apply for online through IBANET.
According to Alexander Warren-Gash of our expert Mallorca garden and terrace design friends Mashamba, ‘For people with large fincas, burning is the easiest, cheapest and most logical way of getting rid of garden waste. But you always need to think safety first when it comes to burning in Mallorca. After a long hot summer, a fire will grow fast. Once when I was lighting the first fire of the season, I put a fire lighter at the base of what I was about to burn. It didn’t light with the first match, but a loose twig did. Before I had time to put in another fire lighter, the flames were already 10 feet high!’
Alexander recommends that you always clear the area around the fire. Have some sand or loose soil nearby and only build a fire you’re confident you can control.
If you’d rather not burn garden waste, you could always use a chipper. These can be hired from machinery suppliers like Potencia or there may be someone local to you who has the necessary kit.
There’s something primally satisfying about sitting around a fire on a cool night. A permanent fire pit in your garden also provides a wonderful excuse for inviting friends round for an autumn or winter gathering.
Mashamba offers beautiful pits that range from classically Mediterranean to sleek and contemporary. Some even include a lid so they can double up as a coffee table.
The company has also designed permanent fire pits for clients in Mallorca as well as surrounding seating made out of stone or robust timber. But you may want to consider flexible seating, which will allow you to move closer when it’s colder and away when the fire gets going.
If you’re going to the trouble of creating a fire pit, it’s also important to position it somewhere that’s perfect all year round. This should also work with your garden design and Alexander is happy to advise you.
Incidentally, when you are burning, you might like to try this little trick: sweeten the aroma with dried oranges or, as we get closer to Christmas, cinnamon sticks.
As with everything concerning gardens, there are practical considerations to take into account. Always build a sand or gravel bed beneath the fire pit to keep it level and enable the water you use to put it out to drain away.
If this all sounds like too much work – and mess – or you don’t have a vast amount of space, you could always buy a lightweight portable ethanol fire pit you can move around as the fancy takes you.
Although burning garden waste is practical and can be aesthetically pleasing, it is literally wasteful and potentially damaging to the environment. So, you might want to find out more about biochar.
Biochar is rather like charcoal but much cleaner. It’s made by burning garden waste like wood chips, dead plants or leaves in a container with very little oxygen. When material burns in this way it gives off little or no fumes. The heat or energy created can be used as a kind of clean energy.
We’re fortunate in Deià in having Christer Söderberg and his biochar creation initiative not so far away in Bunyola. Christer is a dedicated social entrepreneur and the driving force behind Circle Carbon Labs S.L. which makes biochar and offers courses in how to do this for yourself.
‘The benefits of biochar for gardens are many,’ says Christer. ‘It helps manage the disposal of organic waste and pruning. It reduces or gets rid of smoke fumes, nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The need for chemical fertilizers that can be harmful to soil health is reduced or eliminated. Water is retained in the soil. Growing vegetables in biochar-enhanced soil makes them more nutritious. And biochar is an excellent source of renewable energy.’
It is, in theory, simple to make biochar. ‘But, Christer explains, ‘we’re learning every day that it’s not easy to produce high quality biochar. It requires considerable skill on the part of what we call a Char Master. Having said that, it can be learned, and we offer workshops combining theory and practice for groups of 10 to 20 people.’
From 10 am to 1 pm, Monday to Friday, Biochar in Bunyola happily accepts organic waste. Here it’s made into biochar mixed with compost to make a super soil called “TerraLlum” or EarthLight. Why not combine a visit to beautiful Bunyola with putting your organic garden waste to good use?
If you’d like to learn how to become a Char Master for the benefit of your garden and our environment, email Christer at email@example.com