Wood ash is created when you burn wood. That could take place in a home fire pit or indoor fireplace, its all created the same. There are various types of wood that people burn, some specifically for the ash that’s left over. Hard woods such as maple and oak when burned leave an ash that has far more nutrients than soft woods like fir or pine wood. The more nutrients that you have available the better the wood ash will work in the garden for you.
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Why does adding ash help your garden?
Ashes are packed full of nutrients for your soil and plants, its essentially used as an organic fertilizer. Its job is to enrich the soil to allow seedlings and growing plants to grow well and produce fruitfully. It contains both calcium carbonate and potassium. Which are both vital nutrients for crops.
Just as it does in humans, potassium regulates plants’ water balance (so tissue is firm and juicy), and has a part in transporting food within the plant and creating sugars and starches. Without enough, vegetables are more vulnerable to drought, frost, pests and diseases.
Calcium carbonate neutralizes acidic soils similar to a liming agent. When soil is too acidic plants will grow poorly and likely not produce much during their prime growing season.
Are fire pit ashes good for your garden?
Wood ash provides these nutrients in a water soluble form. Meaning that each time the plants get watered the ash will seep into the soil and release the nutrients to the plant roots.
Keep in mind that you want to use wood that has not been treated as the chemicals in treated wood can cause issues for plants and shouldn’t be burned up.
The best ways to use wood ash
There is a history of it being used for many purposes including pottery, food preparation, and in even in soaps. The garden is the primary location where wood ash provides benefits.
Just because you had a bon-fire doesn’t mean that you can use all of that ash in the garden. If you were burning things that were treated or paper/cardboard make sure that you know what things are made of what will be safe. If it was just firewood as usual, that it normally good to go.
You can’t just burn the wood and add the ashes to the garden. The ashes need to be cooled first. This might be a no-brainer to some, but when people say put some wood ash in your garden there are those out there how just might try to use hot ashes. Hot ashes can burn plants and heat them up too much creating a poor environment for them to thrive in. Let them sit a few days to cool off, even if they get wet they will work the same.
Plants that like wood ash:
- stone-fruit trees
- greens like collards
What plants do not like ash
Some plants do NOT like wood ash. Plants that like acidic soil such as blueberries, potatoes, and strawberries will not do well if you add the ash to them. It will remove the acidity in turn ruining your plants. Do your research and be sure you know exactly what plants should and should not have wood ash added.
How to use wood ash as fertilizer
To use wood ash in your garden it’s very simple. Take dry ashes and sprinkle them around the plants that do not like acidic soil as mentioned above. Water the plants to get the ashes into the soil well and then let nature do its thing. You can reapply the ash over time but you don’t want to over apply it. Soil should have some acidity to it.
Purchase a PH test or acidity test for your soil and check it before moving forward. If you have a PH of 7 or higher, you are fine for now and really don’t need to use the ash at all. You can however still use them by composting them.
Can you compost ash?
The answer to that question is YES! Composting is always a fantastic idea when you have a garden. From kitchen scraps to yard waste the compost will create some great soil for you to add in each year. Wood ash is absolutely able to be composted. It will break down into the compost creating the perfect environment for most plants. Again, if you have a lot of acid loving plants, be careful not to put TOO much in your compost, or have separate compost piles for wood ash additive and a regular pile for everything else.
The wood ash also aids in odor control for many purposes. A main one being for composting as it can sometimes have a stench to it depending on what you threw in or if you just returned it all up to rotate it. Throw some wood ash on top and let it do its thing to get rid of the smell. This also works well if you have animals such as chickens. Sprinkling it in their run and on top of the manure helps keep smells to a minimum.
How can you store it?
Let’s say that you have a lot of ash from having fires over summer and you want to store it to add some to the garden as the season goes on, or even for next year’s spring garden. If you are in a colder climate, you like haven’t been having fires all winter that resulted in wood ash. Either way, you can store wood ash for future use.
Its best to store in in air tight containers that pests cant get in to. It was once suggested to use cat litter buckets and put them in the garage over winter so that they don’t get wet. You could store them in a basement if you don’t have a garage as well. Anyone with cats who uses that kind of litter is usually happy to give you the buckets. They come with covers to make it nice and easy on your end!
FAQ about wood ash in the garden
You should only have about an ⅛-inch-thick layer of ash in each 9-inch section of brown material, alternating these brown layers with 3-inch layers of green material to maintain balance. Adding too much ash to the pile can be detrimental to the makeup of the compost because of its alkalinity.
One way of improving the texture of a clay soil is to add ash. This raises the pH of acid clay soils, making them more alkaline and in doing so it encourages clay particles to stick together in small clumps. This results in larger particles and makes the soil more friable and easier to work.
3-6 months before you plan to plant. A chemical change needs to occur and you want to do that well before you plant.
It is not recommend to use ash from charcoal briquettes as there may be other contaminates like lighter fluid in them.
Lawns that need lime and potassium also can benefit from wood ash. Apply no more than 10 to 15 pounds of ash per 1,000 square feet of lawn.
Use wood ash on alkaline-loving plants to keep various pests at bay. Cooled, untreated wood ashes directly from a fire and applied as mulch, or wood ashes mixed into compost, are useful around cabbage and onion plants to keep away root maggots. Wood ash mulch or compost also keeps slugs and snails from overrunning alkaline-loving flowers and ornamental plants.