Fire pits are a great way to relax outdoors, but you can use them for much more than just gazing at their soothing flames or roasting marshmallows for delicious s'mores in the summer months. From cooking tasty BBQ to chasing away pesky mosquitoes to even making natural fertilizer, fire pits have all kinds of different functions and abilities.
This guide will walk you through five neat things you can do with a fire pit that you've probably never considered. If you're looking for new reasons to light up a safe, satisfying bonfire, you've come to the right place. (For more fire pit tips, you can read about the best way to clean your fire pit and how to save money when purchasing one.)
Pest control probably isn't the first topic that comes to mind when you think of fire pits. That said, they can be a powerful tool for warding off one of the most unwelcome outdoor visitors: mosquitoes. Burning herbs happens to be an age-old technique for keeping the biting insects at bay.
Research now confirms that burning popular seasoning plants, specifically thyme, is particularly effective. One field study found that directly burning thyme leaves provides 85% to 89% protection from mosquitoes for up to 90 minutes. The next time the bugs are out in force, throw a few sprigs on the fire.
2. Cook over it
It may be obvious to barbecue lovers, but cooking food over a wood fire usually leads to delicious results. Chicken, fish and all kinds of red meat benefit from time spent over hot coals. A fire pit is no different. Two big names in the smokeless fire pit business already acknowledge this.
Breeo sells its Outpost Grill kit that can function as a stand-alone campfire grill. You can also attach it to one of the company's fire pits.
Fire pit-maker Solo Stove takes a different approach. You can certainly MacGyver any Solo Stove fire pit into a cooking device. However, the outfit now offers a product specially designed for that purpose. The Solo Stove Grill burns either chunks of hardwood or charcoal. It also uses a high-convection airflow system that the company says burns less fuel than conventional charcoal grills.
No matter which brand you choose, the upside to using your own pit in the wild is big. It's always at the ready. You also don't need to rely on the condition, or lack thereof, of your particular campsite.
4. Make a Swedish torch
Deep in the heart of winter it's a tough sell to spend quality time outdoors. Change that logic by lighting up a Swedish torch. This traditional fire building technique calls for stacking wood vertically inside your pit. It burns from the top down and from the center outwards.
These conditions create a fire that produces a lot more heat than standard fire pits. Since you add all the wood you can in the beginning, your pit will burn for quite a while with minimal intervention.
5. Reuse the ashes
When the fire has burned out and the pit has cooled, you may be tempted to dump the remnants in the trash. Think again, because fire pit ash is an excellent fertilizer.
Packed with potassium and other trace elements, a sprinkle of wood ash is a boon to plant health. Studies have shown that application of wood ash to soil aided plant growth and resistance to drought conditions. It only takes a little though. The experiments used a low ratio of 1% ash to soil. For a typical 10-inch diameter (2.5- to 3-gallon) garden pot, you'd need just under a half-ounce of ash.
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