Composting makes use of organic matter by returning it to the soils in a usable form. Using wood ash helps to maintain a neutral condition in the soil by helping microorganisms break down organic materials. Plant growth is improved by the stimulation of favorable microorganisms and by the added nutrients of wood ash that are essential to the soil. Wood ash should be sprinkled on each layer of compost as the pile builds up.
Wood ash is the inorganic and organic remnants of burnt wood or unbleached wood fiber. The chemical and physical properties of wood ash differ considerably depending on many factors. Hardwood trees such as maple, oak, and hickory generally produce more ash than softwood trees such as pine, fur, and cedar. The bark and leaves of trees normally produce more ash than the inner wooden parts of the tree. Typically, the burning of wood results in about 6 to 10 percent ashes. Recycling wood ash has many benefits for gardens, plants, and crops.
Wood Ash Used in Compost Piles
Wood Ash Used as an Insect Repellant
Wood ash is a safe alternative to insecticide use in the garden. Wood ash repels insects, slugs and snails by drawing water from their bodies until they are dehydrated. Sprinkling ashes around the base of plants will control surface feeding insects. The wood ash will have to be replaced if it gets wet, as this causes it to lose its deterring abilities.
Wood Ash Used as a Fertilizer
Adding wood ash as a fertilizer will drastically improve the health and growth of plants. Wood ash contains several minerals, including potassium which is a significant plant nutrient. All of the minerals except for nitrogen and sulfur, which are lost through burning the wood, remain in the ash. Potassium, calcium, and magnesium carbonate or oxide exists in substantial amounts which gives the ashes a strong alkaline reaction and neutralizes the acids in the soil. Applications should be limited to once per year so that the salinity and alkalinity of the soil does not get too high.
Wood Ash Used as Agricultural Lime
Wood ash contains an abundance of calcium which makes its characteristics similar to agricultural lime. Ash also contains an ample source of phosphorus and aluminum. Ash is made up of many elements that were extracted from the soil and atmosphere during the growth of the tree. These environmental elements are also fundamental in producing forages and crops. Before crop planting begins, proper soil testing should be done to determine the nutrient level and pH level of the soil. While wood ash and lime will both increase crop productivity, wood ash has the advantage as it also supplies extra nutrients to the crops. Care should be taken when applying either lime or wood ash as both are alkaline and if over applied or misused, crop damage can occur.
- Oregon State University Extension: Wood Ash Can Be Useful In Yard If Used With Caution
- Ventura County University of California Cooperative Extension: Wood Ashes as Fertilizer
- Ohio State University Extension: Composting at Home
- Clemson Extension: Best Management Practices for Wood Ash Used as an Agricultural Soil Amendment
- Photo Credit flame image by Daria Miroshnikova from Fotolia.com
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