As a polytunnel gardener, you will soon find that a successful garden can deliver a huge range of resources over and above just food. Natural materials for a range of hobbies (and perhaps even the space to undertake those hobbies) are amongst the things a polytunnel can give you. In this article, we’ll discuss pyrography – which could be a great new hobby to try.
When you are sowing and growing in your polytunnel year round, you will soon find that there are a great many yields a polytunnel can provide. Natural materials can be used to make a wide range of useful things. Wood, for example, may be gathered from your polytunnel or from elsewhere in your garden. Decorating that wood is where pyrography comes in.
What is Pyrography?
Pyrography is the art of burning words or designs – generally into wood. It literally means, ‘writing with fire’, from the Greek ‘pur’ and ‘graphos’. It involves taking a heated poker, or other hot object, and using it to apply a series of burn marks.
Pyrography has likely been an art form employed since the pre-historic times. Early humans are likely to have made designs using the charred remains of their fires almost as soon as fire was discovered. But it was not until the Victorian times that the process became known as pyrography. Before that, it was most commonly referred to as ‘poker work’.
What Do I Need To Take Up Pyrography?
While you can use any hot poker to burn designs into wood, pyrography today mostly employs electrically powered burners. These are generally either:
Solid point burners (like a soldering iron).
Wire nib burners (sometimes with variable temperature controls and different nibs to create a wider range of different effects).
Or Laser cutters (modified or set to scorch the material rather than cutting all the way through it).
These can be purchased online or from a specialist store. If you have an old soldering iron, you can use that, though it is generally easier to buy a pyrography pen, as these are specifically designed for the purpose. It is relatively cheap to get the basic equipment that will allow you to get started with this interesting hobby.
Sourcing Wood For Pyrography
Of course, in addition to choosing a burner, you will also have to have the wood to burn. Fortunately, as a polytunnel gardener, or a keep gardener in general, it is likely that you will easily be able to source wood for the purpose in your garden. You can use:
Fallen branches or twigs from your garden.
Scrap pieces of firewood sourced from your property.
Pruned wood from your fruit trees or other trees or shrubs on your property.
You can use a wide range of different woods to try out this hobby. Those with finer grains can allow you to make more intricate and delicate designs. However, you can experiment with the properties of various different types of wood so see what works best for you.
In addition to using pyrography to burn designs into wood, it can also be used to burn designs into hard-shelled gourds or squash grown in your garden for decorative purposes. It can also be used for leatherwork.
Why Could Pyrography Be Helpful for Polytunnel Gardeners?
Pyrography can be a fun and artistic hobby. But more than that, it can also be a useful thing for polytunnel gardeners. Here are some of the ways that pyrography could come in handy in your polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden:
Making Burned Wood Plant Labels
When you are sowing and growing all year round, it can be important to stay organised. Labelling your seedlings and young plants with easy to read labels can be key to growing success. There are a wide range of different ways to make plant labels for your seed trays and seedlings. But some of the methods used are more eco-friendly than others.
Using natural wood from your garden, and pyrographic techniques, can be an eco friendly way to create plant labels. This is especially true if you are using renewable sources of energy to supply the electricity you use.
Whittling a flat surface into sticks or twigs can give you an area on which to write the names of your seeds or seedlings. Rather than using a permanent marker, however, which can be damaging for the environment – both in the ink used and in the plastic receptacle – you could burn lettering into the wood.
You could also consider using reclaimed materials – like old wooden clothes pegs, wooden lolly sticks, wooden spoons or similar. These too can all be used as surfaces on which to write the names of seeds or seedlings and make your plant labels using pyrography.
If you were feeling more adventurous, you could also use pyrography techniques to draw images on your plant labels. For example – you could draw a tomato to show that the plants labelled were tomato plants – some peas in a pod for pea seedlings – or a broccoli floret for broccoli seedlings… You plant labels could be more than just functional. They could also be a way to show off your creative side.
Making Garden Markers
Larger branches or logs, planks or round log slices could also be used to create markers for rows or growing areas in your polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden. Having garden markers can be important if you have directly sown seeds and want to mark their location so you do not accidentally weed them out. Garden markers can also be useful as they can show you where herbaceous perennial plants are located, and will come back next year.
Again, you can use pyrography to write the names of plants onto a range of different pieces of natural wood or reclaimed timber. You can also let your creative juices flow by creating pictorial reminders to enhance the visual appearance of your growing areas. Using images rather than words could also be a good idea for a garden used by young children below reading age. It will allow them to see at a glance what is growing and where.
Making Garden Art With Wood Burning
Plant labels and garden markers are, of course, not the only ways to enhance your polytunnel or garden using pyrography. If you use your imagination you will no doubt come up with a range of different, artistic ways to use these techniques to beautify your garden.
Pyrography could be used to beautify a seating area, dining area, storage area, shelving unit or shed. It could be used to create hanging wooden art to decorate a wall or fence. It could also be used to create a wide range of free-standing art installations for your garden. So no matter what your overall garden design scheme may be – pyrographic art could be utilised to enhance the overall look and feel of the space.
Pyrography art could also be used to decorate your polytunnel for a particular time of the year. A polytunnel can be useful not only for growing food but also potentially for entertaining friends and family at a particular time of the year. For example, around Christmas time, you could use pyrography to make some hanging Christmas decorations and hold a Christmas party in your polytunnel (especially if it is a heated space).
Making Gifts for Gardening Friends
Pyrography could also help you make gifts for gardening friends. For example, you could personalise the handles of wooden-handled tools with their name, an image, a favourite quote or motivational message. You could make a personalised box filled with seeds. This could be great for someone keen to develop their own year-round growing system at home. Or you could personalise a wooden spoon, other wooden utensils or a wooden chopping board for someone who enjoys cooking with home grown produce.
Developing new hobbies and skills alongside gardening can be a lot of fun. But like polytunnel gardening, hobbies and skills like pyrography can also help you to live a more sustainable way of life. This could be one more way to go greener using your polytunnel or the things that you grow in it. So why not give pyrography a go?
Have you tried pyrography? Have you created your own eco-friendly plant labels, garden labels or garden art? Share your hints, tips, comments and suggestions on this topic below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.