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