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Uses for Fireplace Ashes

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Wood Burning in Fireplace

Keeping your fireplace ashes mostly cleaned out makes for better air circulation around your fire, and the ashes can be useful in the garden. This guide is about uses for fireplace ashes.

Solutions: Uses for Fireplace Ashes

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Article: 3 Ways to Use Wood Ashes in the Garden

Wood ash.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.

By Ellen Brown

Tip: Using Fireplace Ashes In Your Garden

Use ashes from your fireplace to sprinkle in your garden. It wards off slugs, as well as many other harmful insects. The ashes act as shards of glass as they crawl on the dirt.

By Palma

Tip: Save and Compost Fireplace Ashes

During these winter months when fireplaces are in high use, you will generate quite a bit of ash. We clean out our fireplace into a paper grocery bag. The bag is then rolled shut tight down to the level of the ash and placed into a storage tub with a secure lid. One tub will hold quite a few bags.

These bags will be periodically be added to our compost heaps throughout the Spring and Summer. I even take one or two out the pile now and simply place the bag in the pile. Wet weather will break down the bag and keep the ash from blowing around.

By

Tip: Ashes for Garden

If you have a fireplace or wood stove, take your ashes and put them around your plants. Your plants will grow better, and less or no weeds will grow there.

By enola from WI

Tip: Use Wood Ash for Cleaning

Have a chimney? Here's a different use for your wood ash. It could be used for any household cleaning needs that requires scouring. It can also be used in the garden as fertilizer and if you have a pen for livestock, the ash can be sprinkled on the floor and animal droppings before sweeping. Saves you a few pennies that would have been used to buy cleaning detergents. (Did you know that wood ash, specifically that of the palm tree, is one of the two ingredients for making native soap (the other being palm kernel oil) in some parts of Africa)

By NY from Upper Darby, PA

Tip: Add Fireplace Ashes to Fertilize Planting Beds

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.

By Adele from Sheboygan Falls, WI

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Questions

Here are questions related to Uses for Fireplace Ashes.

Question: 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?

By Diva53d from Foymount, Ontario


Most Recent Answer

By ForestSpirits11/29/2009

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)

Question: Using Wood Ashes on Pineapple Plants and Apple Trees

Can I use wood ashes on my pineapple and apple tree?

Hardiness Zone: 8b

Robert from Montverde, Florida


Most Recent Answer

By old cookie (Guest Post)12/06/2007

No one said pineapples grew on trees. If you look it says
pineapple and apple tree, not pineapple tree.

Question: Uses for Fireplace Ashes

What can I do with wood ash? Besides tossing in the woods. What garden plants or veggies like it?

By Linda


Most Recent Answer

By mln01/28/2001

We put our wood stove ashes in the garden. My husband roto-tils it all in and it is good for all vegetables.

Archives

Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

Archive: Uses for Fireplace Ashes

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?

Diane

A: Diane,

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

More Answers:

Fireplace Ashes

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)

By roxsierose

Wood Ashes

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

Traction

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

A Link

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)

By beachcitymom

Azaleas

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)

By Greeneyesmom

RE: Uses for Fireplace Ashes

I always put them in my yard and not the trash, so I won't add to the landfill. (10/19/2005)

By Ziggee

Archive: Uses for Fireplace Ashes

What is the best way to discard ashes from your fireplace? Is there another use for this ash?

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