Using Wood Ashes in Your Garden

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

Handling & Storage

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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I have several old maple trees on my property. I'll hate to see them go. They are a comfort to me. Being old they drop lots of twigs. I was recycling the branches and twigs on the street until I realized wood ash could help with blossom end rot; they now have a purpose.

watermelons with blossom end rot

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January 1, 2005

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.

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February 13, 2008

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.

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November 3, 2004

A coffee can makes a handy shaker for applying ashes to your garden. Simply punch holes in the plastic lid with a leather punch, fill the can with ashes, and you're ready to go.

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June 28, 2011

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.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

November 21, 2007

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

Hardiness Zone: 8b

Robert from Montverde, Florida


By Sallie (Guest Post)
December 5, 20070 found this helpful

I didn't know pineapples grew on a tree.
Or is that a name for an oramental tree?

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By old cookie (Guest Post)
December 6, 20070 found this helpful

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

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Answer this Question

January 15, 2012

Can ash from a log burner be used in the garden?

By Tony


January 16, 20120 found this helpful

It depends on two things-what you are burning, and what you are growing. The following link describes it much better than I can, but essentially, using the ash in your garden is a good thing-adding potassium to raise PH in too-acidic a bed, and providing some pest control as well:

My husband and I live in Scotland and burn primarily oak and larch (acidic). We do put the ashes from our wood stoves into the compost heaps and it seems to be a help to our garden beds.

Hope this helps.

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