When the weather turns from winter to spring, the lifestyle of many of us also changes. In winter many of us stay indoors to avoid the blistering cold weather. However, come spring and many of us can’t wait to leave home to enjoy the sun.
Families who pursue a heavy schedule outdoors may like to have family cook outs, gather around a wood fire pit strategically placed in the backyard, or gather up the outdoor gear including fishing rods or hunting rifles and getting a little hunting or fishing in during a family camping trip.
And when fall turns to winter we all return indoors and may burn a fire in the fireplace to keep warm.
All of these activities result in the creation of a lot of wood ash. Most people may just ignore it or reluctantly try to clean it up from the backyard fire pit or the fireplace. However, many experience gardeners advise that you save that ash. Why? Because is can serve as a great soil fertilizer for your garden.
Wood ashes contain potassium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, all of which encourage strong root and stem growth in plants you happen to be growing in the garden. It also helps to increase the soil’s alkalinity if you happen to have acidic soil. Adding wood ashes to your soil is like adding lime to the soil. However, since ashes are more water soluble, they tend to act faster. However, if your soil is alkaline, it is advised that you don’t spread wood ash on it. It is advised that you test the soil first if you are not sure about its alkaline content.
Wood ash is also a great pest repellent. Bugs including slugs and snails don’t like scraping their bellies across the ashes. So they will tend to move away from areas that have been treated.
How To Use Wood Ash In Your Garden
Take the ash and sprinkle it on top of tilled dirt and then rake it into the soil. Break down any clumps you may encounter because a heavy concentration in one spot can result in a potentially harmful salt spot when it gets wet.
Apply the ash when the dirt is dry, when there is no wind and it is at least three weeks prior to planting time so it has time to break down and work its magic.
Expert gardeners have been known to use no more than 25 gallons of ash per 1,000 square feet per year. It is also advised that you test the soil before each application.
If you have already planted, then you can still apply wood ash to the garden as long as you side-dress around the growing plants. The ash can be used in vegetable gardens, flower beds, around shrubs and even on the lawn.
Treat rose bushes and other shrubs with half a pound of wood ash a year. Apply no more than 10 to 15 pounds of ash per 1,000 square feet of lawn as long as the soil pH is less than 7.0 and don’t use if potassium levels are high.
To fight off pests, spread a fresh batch of wood ash around the plants after each rain. A light sprinkle will suffice.
Be aware that wood ash can burn the leaves of plants. So be careful to apply it to the soil around the plant. Not on top of it. Rinse the plants’ leaves well after dressing them.
You can add a light layer of wood ashes to a compost pile about every 6-inches or so. This helps reduce odors and increase the rate of decomposition
Do not use the ashes that result from burning chemically treated wood.
Keep in mind that the ash is a substitute for lime. So it will decrease a soil’s acidity. Don’t use around plants that thrive on acid. Also be aware that ashes from hardwoods contain more nutrients than ashes created by burning softwoods. Moreover, ashes resulting from young wood contain more nutrients than ashes coming from older wood.
There is no need to collect wet ashes because the nutrients will seep out with the water.
Gardeners who have worked with wood ash advise that you wear eye protection, a mask and gloves when handling it because it can be harmful if breathed in or gets into your eyes.
Store ash in a tightly sealed container to keep it dry until you use it.