Who doesn’t love a warm, roaring fire? Unfortunately, burning a cord of wood generates about 20 pounds of wood ash; it adds up quickly when you have a cozy fireplace. Discover how to compost wood ashes and use them as a nutritious, effective soil amendment in this DIY gardening guide.
A wood burning stove or fireplace is full of untapped compostable resources. Wood ash is nutritious, containing approximately 20% calcium carbonate and 10% potassium, plus trace amounts of iron, manganese, calcium, and zinc. Saving wood ash is a great, eco-conscious way to recycle a nutrient-rich byproduct into the soil.
Composting wood ash is a popular way many home gardeners correct overly acidic soil. Many common vegetables enjoy soil pH of around 6.5 to 7.0. A quick soil test can help you determine if the pH is below 6.0 and requires amendment. Learn the basics of wood ash composting and get ready to recycle.
Your Guide to Composting Wood Ash
Is wood ash good for compost and plants? Wood ash can be used as an easy compost booster and helps soil fertility, adds nutrients, and reduces acidity. Discover how to compost wood ashes and use them effectively for the proper plants. Pick up helpful ideas to expand your composting expertise.
Compost requires a balance between green and brown materials. Be sure to follow a list of food scraps for your compost pile to get the right balance of materials.
Where to Get Wood Ash
If you use wood ash in compost, you need to know where to get it. Wood ash comes from a variety of sources. Your wood stove, fireplace, and outdoor fire pit are all suitable for wood ash harvest. When burning wood for soil fertility, keep these guidelines in mind.
Young wood from pruning turns into ash with a slightly higher nutritional value than old wood. Generally, hardwood ash like beech, maple, and oak are more nutritious than softwoods like fir, spruce, and cedar. The difference is negligible, and using what you have on hand is acceptable.
Be cautious about using fireplace ash of unknown origins. Don’t use ash from treated lumber, cardboard, coal briquettes, or charcoal ash. Heavy metals and chemical residue may harm plants. Always check for and remove the occasional helpful garden slug clinging to the log before burning.
Benefits of Using Wood Ash in Compost
Are wood ashes good for compost? Wood ash is alkaline on the pH scale; composting wood ash helps balance the acidity of the compost heap. Plants have trouble absorbing nutrients when soil pH reaches extremes. A healthy mix of alkaline soil and acid soil keeps plants happy and flourishing.
Recycle wood ash in your compost pile to encourage beneficial garden worms and speed up the natural decomposition process in your compost bin.
Garden soil benefits greatly from nutrient-rich organic matter, and wood ash is an excellent addition. One thing to note is that wood ash does not contain nitrogen. Never use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer with wood ash; it causes a chemical reaction creating ammonia gas.
How to Compost Wood Ashes
Composting wood ash is simple and works best in a well-established compost heap. However, we’ve included the ideal ratios of green and brown materials to help you get started. Common green materials include grass clippings, vegetable waste, and coffee grounds. Brown materials are things like sawdust, cardboard, or small branches.
A thriving compost pile is all about balance. Wood ash in compost is helpful in small amounts. If you don’t already have a thriving compost heap, choose a 3×3 space in your yard to get started.
Layer your materials in 6-inch sections, starting with the brown materials first. Add wood ash to the compost in thin layers or one small shovelful for every six inches of organic material.
Keep a compost thermometer on and monitor the heat generated by the decomposition process. Once your compost pile reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to turn it. Keep your compost slightly moist and well-aerated, and your compost should be ready from one month to 12 months, depending on weather and available nutrients.
Plants That Benefit From Wood Ash
Wood ash compost or a sprinkle of straight wood ash is good for the garden. Wood ash or potash is ideal for Brassicas, fruit trees, and tomato plants. If added to the garden in the winter before spring planting, wood ash prevents a condition called clump root (when soil is too acidic).
Proper soil acidity levels are essential for all plants because they directly affect plant growth and health. Avoid using wood ash on acid loving plants like blueberries and rhododendrons. Don’t use wood ash on potatoes because alkaline soil contributes to potato scabs.
To apply wood ash compost to your home garden, spread a half inch of wood ash on the ground and rake it in. Or, steep a few cups of wood ash compost in a container of water for a week to create compost wood ash tea. Water your plants with this healthy brew and watch them bloom.
Ash wood can also help deter pests in your compost bin. Try our guide for using natural waste to kill fruit fly eggs in the compost bin to dissuade maggots and flies.
Storing Wood Ash Properly
Balanced ratios are vital for a compost heap to prosper. Often, it’s unwise to add the ash bucket’s entire contents all at once. Before putting wood ash in compost, you need proper storage for the leftovers. Where do you put wood ash that can’t go right into the compost bin?
Wood ash is water soluble – nutrients disappear into the surrounding surface when it rains. Keep your wood ash supply dry and cool in a plastic tub with a sealable lid. Look for steel weatherproof containers at your local garden center, and keep the container out of the elements. Ensure the wood ash is completely cool before storing.
Wood ash is a wonderful way to add an alkaline element to highly acidic soil and acts as an inexpensive fertilizer for thrifty gardeners. Add an inch to your topsoil and mix it in, prepping the soil for next year’s harvest. This treatment is ideal for tomato plants, Brassicas, and fruit trees.
Wood ash is the soil amendment you didn’t know you needed. It is high in potassium, encouraging fruiting and flowering and helping potassium and phosphorus-loving plants, too. Recycling wood ash leftovers contributes to the overall well-being of your home garden.
We hope you enjoyed our guidelines for how to compost wood ashes for the most potent nutrient delivery. Store your wood ash in a dry place, and add a thin layer between every six inches of compost material. Don’t ditch the contents of your ash bucket; burn untreated wood and help your garden blossom.
If you loved this garden guide explaining how to compost wood ashes, share these tips with fellow compost enthusiasts on Pinterest or Facebook, and watch the gardens flourish.