The Benefits of Wood Ash in Your Garden and Compost

Bonfires are a salient way to get rid of perennial weeds, grass, diseased leaves, and twigs and branches that are too thick to put through a wood chipper. You can easily get rid of your garden debris if you are not one for a compost pit. And, the best part is after your bonfire dies and the embers fade into obscurity, you get a valuable byproduct that can be used in your garden. This byproduct is ash.

Importance of Wood Ash

Wood ash is replete with potassium and is an important nutrient for your plants, trees, and shrubs. It helps regulate water in the plant cells and plays a role in food transportation and creation of starch and sugar in plants. If plants don’t get sufficient potassium from the soil, they are more susceptible to diseases, pests, drought and frost.

Wood ash for gardening and composting

So, don’t dispose of the ash from your bonfire. You can put it to fantastic use in your garden.

Substituting Wood Ash for Lime

If you want to make the soil more alkaline, use wood ash instead of lime. However, the amount of alkalinity it causes will vary. Hardwood tends to have more nutrients compared to softwood. So, depending on the type of wood you burn, you can raise the soil pH. However, since the bonfire will have a mix of organic matter, the pH may not rise as much as you anticipate.

However, make sure you test the soil’s potassium content before you decide to use ash as a substitute for lime. Too much potassium can adversely affect your plants’ abilities to absorb other nutrients.

Makes Great Mulch

If you want to ensure the soil stays moist and weeds don’t crowd around a plant, you can use mulch, which also slowly releases its nutrients into the soil. You can easily use wood ash to mulch your garden plants without worries. However, avoid using ash for plants, such as raspberries and blueberries, which thrive in acidic soil.

Keeps Pests at Bay

As a gardener, you know how much damage slugs and snails can wreak. You can easily get rid of these common garden pests by sprinkling ash on the soil. Just make sure the ash does not get wet, as its pest deterring ability vanishes. Many gardeners also use wood ash to dust their freshly grown turnips after harvesting them. It acts as a deterrent to turnip flies.

Adding to Acidic Compost Heap

If you compost a lot of fruits, the resulting compost will be quite acidic. You can reduce the acidity of the compost by adding wood ash. The worms love ash, but be careful not to add a lot, as it will immediately change the pH of the compost, thereby adversely affecting the bacteria and worms in it. Sprinkle on every layer of compost as you add it to ensure the acidity reduces. This way when you use the compost, you will not have to add lime to the soil.

Wood ash can prove to be a valuable asset to a home gardener. Just make sure the ash is dry before use and don’t forget to check the soil’s pH before spreading large amounts of ash. It can work wonders for root vegetables, apple trees, beans, and peas.

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