I am often asked: “Is wood ash good for the garden?”. So, today we’re going to answer that in this post.
If you have a wood burner such as a wood-burning stove, fire pit, or a fireplace at home, you likely spend much of the early spring shoveling out buckets of fireplace ashes.
But don’t just throw those pounds of ashes away in a trash bag like they’re a waste product.
What Are Wood Ashes
Wood ash is a byproduct of the combustion of wood fires in fireplaces, bonfires, and even in industrial power plants. It is a good source of many micronutrients. It is a good source of potassium and can have profound effects on your home gardens and your production of crops.
Wood ash is a good thing for your garden. It can help provide enough potassium for plants with a potassium deficiency and help them achieve better plant growth.
This powdery residue contains a certain percent potash, phosphate, and trace elements or small amounts of micro-nutrients including iron, manganese, boron, copper, and zinc. It also contains trace amounts of heavy metal concentrations lead, cadmium, nickel, and chromium.
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Uses of Wood Ash in the Garden
Because of its components, it makes for a useful soil amendment that can help improve the health of the plants in your garden. Here are some of the best ways to use wood ash:
1. Correcting Soil Acidity
Wood ash is a great addition to your garden since it contains a good amount of calcium carbonate. It works as a great liming effect for acid soil. It is an excellent soil amendment that can help adjust the garden soil pH levels of highly acid soils.
A good rule to know is to be sure to apply wood ash before planting anything since it has a tendency to burn tender leaves of young garden plants.
2. Supercharging Your Compost Heap
Wood ash not only helps with the pH of the soil, but is also is an excellent addition to any compost pile. It can add minerals and nutrients that support the microbial environment in compost. Furthermore, the porous nature of wood ash adds much-needed oxygen that keeps microbes happy.
3. Deters Nuisance Animals
Adding a layer of wood ash can keep away animals like bears, mice, rats, and deer. It can also keep away snails and slugs that can wreak havoc in your garden.
However, you don’t need too much wood ash. You only need to apply a light layer of ash and small amount of ash since it is extremely alkaline. You should also try to keep it from getting too wet because it can lose its pest-deterrent capabilities.
4. Preventing Blossom End Rot
Some plants like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and peppers can be susceptible to blossom end rot. This is caused by insufficient calcium in the garden soil. Adding a layer of wood ash at the start of the growing season can supply additional calcium to these plants to make sure that they can grow healthy fruits.
5. Saving Plants from Frost Damage
If you live in an area that gets too cold in the winter, your plants may be susceptible to frost damage. To prevent this, apply a light layer and small amount of wood ash at the start of winter. The mineral salts present in wood ash can lower the freezing point of water without harming plant tissues.
The Best Wood Ash to Use in the Garden
It’s important for a good use of wood to be sure that it’s appropriate for your gardening needs. Choose a type of wood from trees grown in natural areas.
Avoid using wood ash produced from trees grown near industrial sites or places that are exposed to toxins or heavy metals. Avoid using wood ash from wood that’s been treated or painted.
How to Apply Wood Ash
Land application of wood ash: Sift wood ash before using it in your garden. This helps remove large charcoal pieces and any active embers.
Applications of wood ash is as simple as mixing it directly in the soil. It is best applied in the spring before planting as well as in autumn. Make sure, however, to use the right amount. Use a maximum of 15 to 20 pounds of wood ash per 1000 sq. ft., per year.
Use it to boost the potash content of the soil properties for root crops and vegetables, including carrots, parsnips, peas, and beans. You can also apply wood ash on top of the soil surface where fruit trees stand, including apples, pears, plums, apricots, and cherries. You don’t need too much ash or large amounts to do this.
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Before applying tons or larger amounts of wood ash, make sure that the pH of your soil isn’t 7.5 or greater. You can do this by requesting a soil test here and sending in soil samples.
You should also avoid using it around acid-loving plants like blueberries. It’s also not a good idea to apply it in areas where you will grow potatoes since the increases of soil alkalinity can encourage the growth of potato scab disease.
Wood ash is best applied dry. Exposure to water results in a sludgy material that won’t add any useful essential nutrients to the soil.
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