I had an unusual question from one of my readers while at the butcher shop in Jeromesville a few years ago. She was concerned about throwing wood ash on her garden and whether the practice of spreading it was something a person should actually be doing?
As the temperatures are about to take a nosedive my thoughts have turned to folks who are wondering what they can do with their wood ash. Thirty years ago, when I was married to my first wife, we used a lot of wood in our wood stove to heat our home. It really wasn’t anything to get a coal bucket out of our stove two to three times a week.
I worked in town and my ex would visit and take care of her parents. My folks would normally spread the wood ash from their fireplace on their garden faithfully. I’m not really sure my folks really experienced much improvement in their own garden.
My Amish neighbors normally spread wood ash from their cook stoves over their gardens in some way most of the year. The challenge is if there is nothing actively growing in your garden the chance of the wood ash just going to the stream and not sticking are very high.
Read up on nutrient retention
Nutrient retention to benefit the soil this time of year is questionable at best. Before I say anything, I believe if you know where you are at you will know how to add nutrients to any garden. Therefore, test your garden’s soil and get a base point from which you can add nutrients in an intelligent fashion.
Simply because there is a point some nutrients could become unavailable if you apply say a lot of potash from wood ash to your garden. Potassium or potash is an important component of the nutrients that plants take in for their growth, which regulates a plant’s water balance.
I learned potassium has a significant role in transporting food within the plant and creating sugars and starches. Vegetables are more susceptible to drought, frost, pests and diseases without potassium. Wood ash or potash, not coal ash, contains potassium.
What is very cool about wood ash is that a cord of wood, which is a 4-inch by 4-inch by 8-inch stack of wood, contains on average 25 pounds of ash. Most of it is ideal for the garden. Here is the challenge. A cord of oak will provide enough potassium for a garden that is 60 feet by 70 feet, whereas a cord of Douglas fir will produce enough potassium for a 30 feet by 30 feet garden, and both will raise the pH of the soil slightly.
Hardwoods like oak generally produce more ash and contain more nutrients potentially three times that of softwood and more trace nutrients than softwoods. The calcium carbonate content that is leftover in the wood ash also varies. This means when you use the wood ash in your garden you should not only test your soil before you start adding wood ash to your soil, but you should also test your soil after you have been adding your wood ash to your soil at least every six months.
CHESTNUT STORY:The Amish Cook: A tale of the chestnut trees
We go back to my initial statement that if your potassium is already high in your garden then you shouldn’t be adding wood ash to your garden. Same goes for the pH if you are above 7.0 you should add wood ash judiciously to your soil and not at all if above 7.5. If you have reached this point, consider helping your lawn at the rate of 10 to 15 pounds per 1000 square feet with the same guidelines.
As you may have guessed you really want to keep your wood ash covered and protected for ease of use and no loss of nutrients because of rainwater, which can wash away the potassium. Plants that like an acid environment like blueberries will be harmed by adding wood ash. Potatoes suffer from a disease called potato scab fungus when the soil is alkaline.
Ash can help to control slugs and snails
Wood ash does have a benefit in controlling slugs and snails when dry. As you sow carrots if you can use wood ash sprinkled in the rows can keep the turnip fly away before you apply any water. If you sprinkle wood ash in a dry form over turnips and carrots, you can also deter turnip flies.
Root crops such as parsnips, carrots, and beets as well as peas and beans and fruit all do better with wood ash. Brambles, strawberries, stone fruit trees, and non-acid loving fruit shrubs, which is about 1 to 1.5 pounds of wood ash, benefits from wood ash.
Seems like my oak leaves are holding on longer than normal. I was looking at my yard and wondering where the leaves are? I plan on recycling my leaves in the next few days.
Have you started shopping for Christmas? Seems like we may need to get busy soon.
If you have any gardening problems that are in-doors or out or bird issues, you can e-mail me at [email protected] My websites are www.ohiohealthyfoodcooperative.com. You can find links to the blogs to leave comments soon.