Wondering what to do with the wood ash left over from the long cold winter, while wondering how to have a healthy, plentiful garden this summer? Kill two birds with one stone by “recycling” wood ash from your fireplace and using it in the garden to yield an abundance of blooms, growth and fruit/vegetables! As mentioned in a previous blog, Wonderful Ways to Use Wood Ash, farmers and gardeners alike utilize this fuel by-product to fertilize soil. However, there are some things to consider first.
Consider the Soil
Wood ashes contain calcium, potassium, and other trace minerals important for plant health. It also works as a lime substitute to raise the pH of acid soils. This is why some soil is better suited to wood ash than others. Take care to find out about your soil first and foremost.
When determining whether or not to use wood ash, find out what the pH (potential of Hydrogen) level is present in the garden soil. Soil pH is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity present.The levels range from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. The best pH range for most plants is between 5.5 and 7.0. The lower the pH value, the more acidic the soil. However, unlike limestone, which can take 6 months or more to change soil pH, wood ash is water-soluble and changes the soil pH rapidly.
Since wood ash is used to lower the acidic level of garden soil do not use it if your garden soil has a pH of 7 or higher. Pass the organic goodness to a friend with more acidic soil.
Consider the Plant
Since wood ash lowers the acid levels in soil, avoid acid-loving plants at all costs, including:
If wood ash is used around these plants, the chance they will get scab disease is raised, since the wood ash can make the pH too high.
Consider the Wood
Use only wood ashes, not ash from coal, charcoal briquettes or fake logs. Never use wood ash around edible plants if the wood contains any type of fuel (e.g. lighter fluid) or wood preservatives. The best wood ash comes from burned wood that was properly dried (e.g. kiln dried firewood).
Not only does wood ash provide needed nutrients to garden soil, it can repel nasty pests like snails and slugs. It also smothers aphids when sprinkled lightly over the affected plants. Just rinse off when it does the job (so it won’t “burn” the plant) and enjoy aphid-free plants!
So, when the in-door burning season is over this year, don’t throw out those wood ashes! Use them in your garden and watch your plants thrive.
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