If you are a gardener, plant lover, and have a fireplace at home that you use during the winter or even have a bonfire in your backyard from time to time, you might want to consider using wood ash in the garden. Now, are ashes good for soil? Although it might seem surprising, it is possible to use fireplace ashes as fertilizer for your plants, instead of just getting rid of them. So if you are interested in learning how to use ashes in garden soil, and what are the plants that like wood ash, stick around.
When using ash in the garden there are a few things you’ll want to be aware of. Wood ash can be composted and can also be used as fertilizer, but it is important that you know how and where to use ashes in garden soil.
What Does Wood Ash Do to Soil?
The main benefits of using ashes in the garden soil are fertilizing it and making it less acidic by raising the pH levels. The pH levels of soil are measured on a scale of 14 points, 7, being the middle, which means the pH level is neutral. Values below 7 mean that the soil is acidic, whereas levels above 7 are classified as alkaline. So if your soil is already alkaline (a pH level above 7), you shouldn’t add wood ashes to it. It is important that you test the pH level of your soil before adding fireplace ashes to the garden. And you won’t want to spread them around plants that enjoy more acidic soil, like blueberries, gardenias, and azaleas for example.
Wood ash contains potassium, lime, magnesium, and calcium, which are great for your garden. More than that it also has other nutrients that help plants to thrive. The number of nutrients varies a lot depending on the type of wood being burned. In general, hardwoods produce more nutrient-rich ashes than softwood. So if the ashes of your fireplace are mostly from hardwoods, like maple and oak, the levels of minerals and nutrients in your ashes will be much higher. The ashes will have fewer nutrients and minerals if you use mostly softwoods, firs or pines, to make your fire.
The use of wood or fireplace ashes from painted wood, pressure-treated wood, and cardboard should be avoided because the chemicals that they carry will likely end up harming your plants. Now you might be wondering about charcoal ash, is charcoal ash good for the garden? No, BBQ charcoal residues shouldn’t be used in your garden.
Potassium helps to regulate the water balance in plants(which makes the tissues juicy and firm), it also plays a role in the transportation of food inside the plant and the creation of starches and sugars. When plants lack potassium they become more susceptible to frost, drought, diseases, and pests.
Although it brings benefits to the soil, wood ash for plants should be used in small quantities. They can be scattered lightly on the soil, or be added to your compost pile, so you can use them later together with the other parts of your compost. Lye and salts are produced by wood ash when it gets wet. They shouldn’t cause a problem when in small amounts, but in larger quantities, your plants may become burned by the salt and lye. When the fireplace ashes are composted the salt and lye have the chance to get leached away. When building your compost pile, adding wood ash to each layer by sprinkling it in can help keep the level of acidity closer to neutral. You can also choose to store the ashes of wood dry and, during the growing season, make a sort of tea with them and use it to water the plants, this will provide the plant with some nutrition.
Lawn in need of potassium and lime will benefit a lot from wood ash.
Try not to apply wood ashes to your garden around the times you plan on seeding.
You can also use wood ashes in your garden for pest control. When you sprinkle ashes directly onto the soil, it also helps to deter snails, slug, and some other kinds of invertebrates that are soft-bodied. This happens because of the salt that is present in wood ashes, but as soon as it gets wet this effect goes away and you will need to add more ashes, what happens is that the salt of the ashes gets leached away by the water. When you notice plants that are getting attacked by these types of pests, all you will need to do is sprinkle the wood ash around the plant’s base. Some people also say that when you are sowing carrots, wood ashes can be sprinkled in the drills, and dusted on turnips in order to keep turnip and carrot flies away.
When to Use Fireplace Ashes in the Garden
A good time for ash to be added to the soil is in the spring and in the fall, but you can also spread it in your garden at other times. The potassium is appreciated especially by root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, beans and peas, and fruits. The fruits that benefit the most from the potash are gooseberries, redcurrants, dessert apples, pears, cooking apples, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Apricots, plums, blackcurrants, and cherries will also benefit from regular sprinkling, but they don’t require it so much.
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