Blaze of glory: Building a bonfire is one of autumn's great joys

It's also a useful way to prepare the garden for winter

November is a month for tidying, for putting to bed. The garden now turns dark and primal: fire and fungi go to work, each adding their own distinctive scent to the air. (And when it gets really miserable out, remember that this time of year is also sometimes for staying inside: The Curious Gardener, the new book from The Independent Magazine's Anna Pavord, is organised by months, and November alone has six delicious essays for a rainy day.)

A dry day, though, and a bonfire is one of autumn's greatest joys. Watching little flames from rolled newspaper balls as they grow higher; feeling the air heat and rise in the darkness; knowing you're being, er, a bit dangerous with that stick you keep poking it all with. Yep, there's nothing like a fire to make you act like a five-year-old. And you instantly make that huge pile of branches and leaves you were dreading taking to the tip disappear in smoke.

An incinerator is a good buy, as the fire is contained, and there's no problem with starting it on wet ground. It also means the fire is visible as a grid of Damien Hirst-style spots through the undergrowth, a map of the metal container's aeration holes, which I really like. But other people's aesthetics make them plump for an old-fashioned fire retained by bricks, or even a home-dug firepit. Either way, the next morning, there's an excellent by-product for gardeners: a pile of ashes full of powerful nutrients ready for your use. (Unless it rained after you went to bed, in which case you may just have a Pompeii-style lump of indeterminate grey matter. Put the lid on your incinerator before going to bed to avoid this outcome.)

Meanwhile, fungi will go to work in your compost. There's more incentive to compost now than ever, when many local authorities provide tiny worktop bins for kitchen waste, generally leaving a rotting mess by the end of a week. Make compost in the garden instead, and you avoid any of the stink. Though you might need to run out in bare feet with the potato peelings if you're running the system rigorously.

The final weapon in the armoury is leaf mould. You can, in theory, put your garden leaves in with the compost, but they will take much longer to rot down than peelings. Try a separate bin for leaves, or pile them in knotted black sacks that you can leave somewhere to rot down without anyone complaining about how ugly they are. Add some of that bonfire ash for even more richness. The leaf mould that comes out after 12 months is beautiful, dark stuff that you can spread straight on to flower and vegetable beds with great results, with not a weed seed in sight. A great payoff for your diligence.

'The Curious Gardener' by Anna Pavord is published by Bloomsbury, priced £20

The big tidy-up

Composting bags

There are many biodegradable compost bin "liners" on sale now, but Alina's brown-paper bags are the only ones that don't start rotting before they hit the compost heap. I now keep one open in one of my fridge drawers, and brave the outside once it's full. £1.57 for six, tesco.com

Jute leaf mould sacks

These elegant, spidery bags will have you looking like something out of Vogue as you sweep up the leaves (well, probably), and will then themselves rot down along with their contents. £1.95, gardenboutique.co.uk

Incinerator

My favourite incinerator, which is also the cheapest I've found, is from Wickes (inset right). Simply screw on the legs and away you go. Just a note of caution: please do remember to unreel the hosepipe before you start, in case of escaped flames. £19.99, wickes.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Junior Web Developer- CSS, HMTL

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

AX Developer With EPOS Experience

£450 - £500 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Dynamics AX / Developer / AX2012...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz