Fire is an element that can cause great harm to the environment. However, natural wildfires can actually be quite beneficial.
Wood ashes in gardening hold many nutritious elements for plants. It is important to be careful in choosing wood ash because some may have chemicals or still be hot.
Among the uses for wood ash is neutralizing acidic soil since ash can act as a lime substitute. It can also act as a pest deterrent for slug and snails.
In this article, we will share some smart ways to use wood ashes to improve your garden and care for your home.
You might think that the wood stove and fireplace ashes are just messy waste, but you may be surprised to know just how wrong you are.
8 Wood Ash Uses In Your Yard & Garden
So, are wood ashes good for the garden?
#1 – Nourish Your Garden Plants
Wood ash has a very high potassium carbonate content, which makes it an excellent choice as a fertilizer. In addition to potassium, wood ashes are a rich source of phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. Additionally, it contains small amounts of:
All of these elements are essential for new plant growth, so it’s no wonder that wood ash has been a very popular organic matter and natural fertilizer for so many centuries.
#2 – Balance Your Soil pH
Wood ash is very valuable for neutralizing acidic soil. Conduct a soil test to determine the soil acidity levels.
If the soil test revealed that the pH measurement of your soil is below 6, it is too acidic for many plants. It will need to undergo soil amendment with potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. All of these elements are naturally occurring in wood ashes.
#3 – Lime Substitute
You can also substitute wood ashes for lime, which is often used to amend soil lacking in calcium carbonate. Adding wood ashes can lower and raise soil acidity, aka soil pH.
The benefit of using wood ash instead of lime is that it breaks down quickly and is more bioavailable to your plants. Generally speaking, you should use 25 pounds of natural wood ash per 1,000 square feet of garden soil.
Be sure to test your soil frequently to avoid overdoing it.
#4 – Deter Slugs & Snails
Keep slugs and snails out of your garden by applying a layer of wood ash to the surface of the soil.
You can either make a barrier around individual plants or sprinkle a line of wood ash around your entire garden. You will need to reapply this natural barrier after every rain.
#5 – Improve Potassium Levels In Compost Pile
Don’t fall prey to the notion that if a little bit is good, more must be better. Simply add a layer of wood ashes fertilizer for every 6″ inches of your compost pile or bin.
Adding more will elevate the pH level of your compost pile, and this can be damaging to your garden plants.
#6 – Calcium For Veggie Crops
Wood ashes add a welcome dose of calcium to your veggie crops. Fruits and veggies that love calcium answer the question of which plants, like wood ashes?
- Brussels Sprouts
- Apple Trees
- Tomatoes plants of all types
- Broccoli (Uses for broccoli stalks)
Feeding the soil with wood ash will help ensure a healthy garden and an abundant crop.
#7 – Make Compost Tea & Wood Ash Tea
Naturally, the compost tea you make with compost that contains wood ashes will be extremely beneficial to your plants. You can also make straight wood ash tea.
This is a very fine all-purpose fertilizer that can help cure plant problems such as yellowing between leaf veins, brown spots, slow plant growth, curling leaf tips, and low crop yields.
These are all signs that your plants are not getting enough potassium. Treating these plants with wood ash tea may help resolve these problems.
Making Wood Ash Tea
Making wood ash tea is simple. Just put 5 pounds of completely cool ash into a cloth bag. (This is a good use for an old pillowcase.)
Put the sack of ashes into a 50 gallon garbage pail and fill the pail with water. Let the ashes steep for a few days. You can deliver this tonic to your plants a cup at a time about once a week.
Related Reading: Ideas For Reusing Tea Bags In The Garden
#8 – Fertilize Your Lawn
Wood ash makes an excellent lawn fertilizer that is easy to apply. Just scatter a light dusting of completely cool wood ash onto your lawn and water deeply to help the nutrients sink in.
8 Uses For Wood Ashes Around The House
In addition to farm, soil, and garden uses, wood ash sourced from natural, untreated logs has many uses in the home.
#1 – Provide Chickens With An Excellent Dust Bath Material
All birds like to roll around in the soil to clean their feathers and discourage mites and lice. A combination of wood ash and sand makes an excellent chicken dust bath.
Additionally, as the chickens preen themselves, they will take in some of the nutrients in the wood ashes, resulting in more nutritious eggs and stronger egg shells.
#2 – Make Old-Fashioned Lye Soap
Using wood ashes is the old-fashioned way to make lye soap. Good homemade lye soap consists of a combination of animal fat and lye. Lye is made by boiling hardwood ash in soft water. This produces potassium hydroxide (lye water).
When potassium hydroxide is combined with animal fat, a soft soap results. Salt can be added to this mixture to make a more firm soap.
Before trying this, be sure to study the process thoroughly. Making soap can be a bit complex, and it can also be dangerous. Don’t undertake this unless you know what you’re doing.
#3 – Using Wood Ashes Instead of Salt On Walkways and Steps
If you live in a cold area that gets snow, consider using wood ash instead of salt to melt the ice and provide traction on your walkways and steps.
It will not corrode concrete surfaces like rock salt, and it will not damage your dog’s paws when he or she walks across it. Wood ash is better for the environment, better for the soil, and it’s free!
#4 – Mild Abrasive To Polish Glass, Silver & Dull Metals
You can use wood ashes as a mild abrasive to polish glass, silver, and dull metals. It can also be used as a mild abrasive to take water spots off wood furniture.
Simply add a little bit of water to a cup of wood ash to create a thick paste. Put on some rubber gloves and spread the paste over the item you wish to polish.
Allow it to set for several minutes, and then simply wipe it clean with a soft, dry cloth. You may need to rub a bit to bring out the shine.
#5 – Absorb Odors
Try using wood ashes instead of baking soda to absorb odors in your refrigerator or another environment where you notice a bad odor. For best results, you should replace the ashes every few days.
#6 – Soak Up Grease Spills
Wood ashes can be used to soak up grease spills in your garage, soil, or driveway. Just sprinkle it over the oil stain, allow it to sit and soak up the oil and then sweep it away.
#7 – Clean Paint Spills
You can also use it to clean up paint spills. When you spill paint, quickly cover the spill with wood ash and allow it to soak in. Sweep it away and then clean it as needed with soap and water (or the recommended cleaning solvent).
#8 – Make Clean-Ups Easier
Covering a very disgusting mess (e.g., vomit) with wood ash can make it easier to clean up.
Just as with paint or oil, allow the ash to soak up the liquid and then sweep the mess up or scoop it up using a plastic bag.
The deodorizing qualities of the ash, combined with the fact that the mess is hidden, will make it that much easier to deal with!
Update: After reading the article on supplementing with wood ashes in the garden, here’s a response we received from one follower:
I am always so grateful for the suggestions and tips found at PlantCareToday. Some time back I read that putting wood ashes on peonies would help make them bloom – and I mean really putting them on, not with a salt shaker.
I am happy to say that since applying wood ashes last fall after the foliage had died down, all but one of my peonies bloomed — some had not so much as a bud in seven years. However,
I had some ashes left in the bag and shook it over my only chrysanthemum. This year no mum! This experience might avoid some sorrow for others. Rebecca
Select & Handle Wood Ash Carefully
Be sure to only use ash from natural, untreated wood. Avoid CCA-treated wood dust from falling over your garden plants or compost. Hardwood is the best type of wood to use when sourcing wood ash for your garden.
The reason for this is that maple, oak and other hardwoods contain far more nutrients than softwoods.
In fact, it is important to note that wood ash is so nutrient-rich that it is not advisable to use it on young seedlings because the salts it contains can be damaging to young garden plants.
Additionally, you should not combine wood ash with fertilizers containing nitrogen. This wood ash and nitrogen combination creates dangerous ammonia gases.
When sourcing ash for use in your home and garden, be sure to follow proper safety procedures.
Allow the ashes to cool completely before handling them. Store them in a metal container with a tightly fitting lid to prevent spontaneous combustion.