Don't know what to do with those ashes? This is a tip for those who have ash from a wood burner or fireplace. Place it in your garden or flower beds over winter, not all in the same place, just here and there. In spring as you till/working the ash in the ground, you'll find how it makes your ground so much more lose and easy to work with.
I also think there is some added fertilizer that naturally comes from the ash. It really does good things to your ground. Can't wait for spring, have had enough of winter. Here in WI.
If your house is equipped with a wood-burning fireplace or you have a fire pit in your backyard, put the left over ashes to work in the garden. As long as you follow a few simple precautions, wood ashes can be used to benefit the garden in three ways: as a fertilizer, as a soil amendment, or as an insect repellent.
Use Wood Ashes as a Fertilizer
As a fertilizer, wood ashes are a good source of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and aluminum. They typically contain less than 10% potash, 1 % phosphate, and trace amounts of micro-nutrients such as iron, manganese, boron, copper, and zinc. (Wood ashes do not contain nitrogen.) The exact chemical make-up of ashes varies according to wood type (hardwood ashes contain higher potassium levels than softwood ashes). If compared to a commercial fertilizer, wood ashes would probably read about 0-1-3 (N-P-K).
Use Wood Ashes to Raise pH
Wood ashes contain approximately 25% calcium carbonate and behave like a liming agent when added to your soil (raises the pH). Because ashes are soluble in water, they can quickly correct pH levels when added to acidic soil (pH less than 5.5).
If you're unsure of your soil's pH, don't add wood ashes to your soil until you have it tested. Raising the soil's pH above optimum levels can adversely affect the health of your plants. When pH levels rise above 7.0 (neutral), important nutrients like phosphorus, iron, boron, and potassium start to chemically bond to the soil and become less available to plants.
Use Wood Ashes to Repel Insects
Because of its ability to absorb water, wood ashes can also be sprinkled around plants to prevent attacks from snails and slugs. Once wet, the ashes lose their effectiveness and must be reapplied. To avoid causing chemical burns to your plants, sprinkle small amounts of ashes evenly around the base of the plant, and rinse off any that comes in contact with the foliage.
Tips for Safe Application
Soils that are slightly acidic (pH 6.0 to 6.5) should be able to safely handle an application of 20 pounds of ashes per 1000 square feet annually (approximately one 5-gallon pail) without changing the pH. This is the equivalent of 6 pounds of ground limestone per 1,000 square feet. If you're trying to raise the soil's pH, you'll need to add more.
Wood ashes act quickly once added to the soil. If you use them, have your soil tested regularly (every two years) to make sure the proper pH levels are being maintained.
Wood ashes intended as a fertilizer or used to correct pH should be applied in the winter, or worked into the soil several weeks before planting. Apply the ashes to the soil evenly. Avoid piles and mounds, which can cause salts to build up in the soil.
Never use ashes near acid-loving plants like potatoes, rhododendrons and blueberries.
Handling & Storage
Wood ash is a strong alkaline (like bleach) and should be handled with caution. Wear eye protection, gloves, and a dust mask while handling it, and avoid scattering ash when windy. Make sure ashes are completely "burned out" and cool before collecting them for use. To reduce the risk of fire, store them in a metal container with a secure lid.
Ashes From Charcoal Grills
Ashes from charcoal grills should never be used in the garden due to the chemical residues left by processed charcoal. The same is true of ashes obtained from cardboard, and ashes from wood that has been pressure-treated, painted, or stained. All contain harmful chemicals that could potentially contaminate soil and inhibit plant growth.
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Here are questions related to Uses for Fireplace Ashes.
I need some ideas on what I can do with all the wood ash from our wood furnace and fire place. In the winter we use it like salt on the snow and ice. But what can I use it for now? Is it good in the garden?
You can actually buy Real Wood Ashes on Amazon. Just found it! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002TMTCY2/?tag=frebooexc-20 1 Pound of Oak Wood Ash (Ashes Natural Fertilizer, Change PH Levels in Soil, Ward Off Slugs, Protect Plants Over Winter, Control Pond Algae, Boost Your Organic Tomato Plants, Compost, Make Soap, Shine Silver)
Q: I have heard that you can put fireplace ashes on certain plants. Can someone tell me what plants this works for and what plants I shouldn't put them on? Are there any other uses for ashes?
Fireplace ash (wood ash) can be safely added to most garden soils, with a few exceptions. Depending on the type of tree burned, wood ash varies in alkalinity and will act as a liming agent in the soil, raising the pH. This makes it a useful additive if you have acidic soil or compost heaps that you want neutralized. Root crops, bulbs, annuals and most perennials will find it beneficial. Tomatoes seem to love it. Because of its alkaline nature, you should avoid giving it to acidic loving plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, cranberries or blueberries. It may also promote potato scab when applied to potatoes. Store fireplace ash safely in a metal garbage container and apply it to plants in the spring. Wood ash is easily absorbed into the soil so you only need 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch to dress flowerbeds. Wood ash from treated wood contains the residue from harmful chemicals and should not be used in the garden.
Other ways to use wood ash are as a slug repellent around plants, a glass cleaner (use on fireplace glass-rub with newspaper) or as a melting agent (provides traction on snow and ice). It's also used as a boiling agent to break down cellulose plant material when making homemade paper.
By Ellen Brown
I don't know about fireplace ashes on plants, but I do know its the absolute best for putting on icy sidewalks and stairs. Its also great for putting behind and in front of your car tires when the roads are icy or snowy to give you car more traction. (12/04/2000)
Wood ashes add potash to the soil. They also help to keep soft bodied insects off plants (aphids and such). This time of year I add them right to the garden soil. (12/04/2000)
By Stan - Michigan
Ashes can be used on walkways when they are slippery. Put some in a box and carry some in your car and it will give you traction when you are stuck on ice. (12/04/2000)
By D - Lancaster, PA
Here's a link that might be helpful to you: http://ruralwideweb.com/tufwashes.htm. There are about ten different uses for the ashes, most of which are applicable to those in rural areas. As a bit of advice, avoid putting fireplace ashes around roses or other plants that are acid-loving. If you mix the ashes with your regular compost (or bag of fertilizer) it will stretch the product and feed your plants as well! (01/29/2003)
When I work in my yard and burn leaves, tree limbs and any other wood trash you'll find in the yard, I let sit for about two days to cool (scattering thoroughly) then I put the ashes on my azaleas. They thrive on acid soil and this it the best I've found to make my garden do well. You can actually see the difference in the dark green leaves in about 3 days! (10/18/2005)
What is the best way to discard ashes from your fireplace? Is there another use for this ash? Any suggestions are welcome.
Wood ash has a lot of uses. Here are just a few suggestions.
A fertilizer for the yard and garden. Wood ash contains 10-25% calcium, 1-4% magnesium, 5-15% potassium and 1-3% phosphorus. This makes it a good (0-2-10) fertilizer for the garden. The type of wood you burn does play a role in the amount of nutrients it contains. Hardwoods generally produce 3 times more ash that contains 5 times more nutrients than softwoods. Ash will temporarily change (increase) the pH of garden soil, so you should only use it sparingly and not at all if your soil pH is already over 7.0. Two pounds of wood ash equals about 1 pound of ground limestone. When used as a fertilizer, wood ash should be applied at least two months before high nitrogen fertilizers because it promotes the loss of nitrogen from ammonia-based fertilizers. Don't use wood ash on acidic-loving plants like rhododendron, blueberries or azaleas and don't add wood ash to the compost pile.
As a glass cleaner. Wood ash is a key ingredient in lye soap. It can be mixed with a bit of water (or dabbed on a damp sponge) and used to clean dirty fireplace doors.
As an pest deterrent. Sprinkle small amounts around the perimeter of your garden to deter slugs and snails.
As a spot remover on wood furniture. Mix it in with a small amount of water until you create a paste. Rub over rings left by water glasses or hot beverages, and follow up with a furniture polish. Test on a small area first.
As traction. In the winter, sprinkle wood ash on slippery walkways or driveways to improve traction. Wipe you feet before going inside, because the ashes will easily track indoors.
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RE: Uses for Fireplace Ashes
I put mine on the garden and in the chicken yard (keeps down the smell and insects) chickens will dust bathe in them too. They are better for icy walks and steps than salt, as they don't kill the grass or eat the cement like salt can. You do have to keep a rug at the door or take off your shoes at the door. Ashes and melted ice make for great tracks. Carry some in the trunk of your car in a milk jug. iI you get stuck or have to walk on ice you have your handy ashes. (09/28/2006)
RE: Uses for Fireplace Ashes
When I have wood ashes I pour them on the soil where I will be planting radishes. No worms. Epsom salts works too. (09/28/2006)
RE: Uses for Fireplace Ashes
I also put them on my vegetables in the garden to get rid of aphids, worked last year on collards and Swiss chard. (09/28/2006)
They used to make soap from animal fat and wood ash. Probably a stretch for 2006, but then there are worse hobbies, too. (11/17/2006)
By Dan - Iowa
RE: Uses for Fireplace Ashes
I have used ashes and mayo on wood - it works great when you have a lot of wax buildup, but I would not try and use to for polishing. Note: make sure the ashes are free of debris, for that will only scratch the table. I sifted mine before using it to eliminate the problem. Also, scrub very gently when first applying; you can always scrub harder later. (12/02/2006)
If you want to mix it with your compost pile it will delay the decay reaction, but I mix it with some 10-10-10 first in a bucket with water to make sure there are no live embers. Mixing it with the fertilizer helps make a more potent compost. (11/01/2008)
Ashes, insects, slugs and snails.
Ashes can also be used as leavening for bread by putting the ash in a box, mixing plenty of water in and catching it in a pan below the box. This was a colonial method, but is still done in parts of the Appalachians and elsewhere in the world. Another way is just catching the wild yeast from the air of a room with the fireplace. This method is found on the internet by searching "wild yeast roundup".
Ash from coal especially has reflective properties that will melt ice and snow super fast if the sun is out. That is more cinders than just ash I guess.
I use it mostly to make walking safer and my path easier to see when I go out to milk the cows and check the greenhouse and chicken coop. Most of the time I am doing it in the dark on the way there in the morning and in the dark on the way back at night. Really helps a lot. (01/29/2009)