The quality of your fruit trees depends on the soil they are planted in. From the strength of the trunk and branches to the texture and flavor of the fruit, the nutrients and condition of the soil affect every aspect of their growth.
An introduction to alternative fertilizer methods
If you regularly use a wood-burning stove or fireplace in your home, you very well may consider wood ash as a pesky waste product more than anything else. In fact, it might be a bit of a mess and hassle to discard after every use. But due to its element composition, it is often utilized in the same ways as lime products. If you’re keen on natural alternatives or simply looking for something to do with the burnt remnants of your stove or fireplace, definitely continue reading.
What even is wood ash?
Well, exactly what you think it is; but surprisingly, it’s also quite the resource. As you’d expect, various wood types (e.g. hardwoods, softwoods) and their components produce different amounts of ash that possess unique qualities. Even the geographical sourcing and processing of said wood can determine aspects of ash composition, and therefore, its efficacy as a soil additive.
A University of Georgia publication states that “[on] average, the burning of woods results in 6 to 10 percent ashes,” so a sizeable amount of the total fuel-wood used in your home can be repurposed. Of course, its physical and chemical attributes wholly depend on the wood itself, as this inevitably plays a significant role in the quality of the wood ash.
In essence, is wood ash any good for fertilizing fruit trees?
Incredibly high in calcium carbonate, wood ash is an essential tool in regulating soil pH levels. As an alkaline substance, it can very effortlessly be applied to craft the perfect conditions for growing fruit trees.
With that said, many kinds of fruit trees prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil levels. Different soil types, of course, start with varying pH levels, and many organic soils tend to lean towards the acidic end of the spectrum. Most plants grow best and are healthiest when their soil conditions fall somewhere between 6.0 and 7.5 on the scale–meaning slightly acidic to neutral–and fruit trees are no different.
All in all, wood ash can be a helpful tool in transforming most acidic soils into the ideal grounds for your fruit tree garden.
The many benefits of wood ash for fruit trees
Wood ash is chock-full of macro-elements such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese, all of which are essential to trees’ growth and vigor, as well as their overall well-being. Less vital but equally as beneficial to fruit trees, the micro-elements boron, chromium, molybdenum, and zinc found in wood ash help to ensure proper growth and higher yields.
Wood ash can be swapped for lime in order to increase soil alkalinity, but it takes nearly double the amount to achieve the same effects.
Types of fruit trees that thrive with wood ash additives
There are quite a number of fruit trees that fare well with wood ash as a fertilizer, but it is incredibly important to be just as conscientious of the amounts used in their respective soils. For example, trees like cherries and plums are best suited in soils with slightly acidic to moderately alkaline pH levels, meaning wood ash can provide nutrients without the likelihood of disrupting soil alkalinity.
The kinds of fruit trees to keep away from wood ash
Apple, citrus, peach, or pear trees require slightly acidic to neutral pH levels, and in order to maintain an adequate growing environment, it’s best to use wood ash in sparse amounts or not at all. Though if the soil is highly acidic, wood ash fertilizer can be added a bit more generously.
How much wood ash to use
With a slightly basic pH level of 8 to 9, wood ash can be used as an alternative fertilizer to lime in order to increase soil alkalinity. It’s highly advisable to test soil pH levels before experimenting with new fertilizers, as it’ll serve as an indicator of what to use and just how much is needed to achieve such an optimal balance.
Home Steady advises using a gallon of wood ash per square yard of ground under your trees annually, but only half that per yard if you’re fertilizing sandy soil. For smaller trees, only about two pints of wood ash around the base is necessary.
Types of wood ashes safe for your garden
More nutrient-rich than lime, wood ash as an additive can make more acidic soil alkaline, an important condition in promoting fruit tree growth. These high nutrient values will certainly vary depending on the ash source. Whether it’s store-bought or made in your own home, the safest wood ash for fruit trees is clean and/or organic, meaning it is not a derivative of chemically-modified wood.
It’s also wise to test the soil you plan to treat for pH levels before adding any wood ash. The proper wood ash can be used in tandem with usually acidic, organic soils to provide nutrients and the best environment in which fruit trees can thrive.
The types of wood ash to avoid
While it’s perfectly acceptable to use ashes from a wood stove or fireplace, it’s very important to avoid using any from treated wood, including wax logs and other similar products. Tainting soil with these kinds of ashes could do more harm than good to any plants there.
In short, wood ash is a pretty effective option to tailor soil conditions for fruit tree growth. It so conveniently serves as a natural alternative to lime, allowing you to alter the vital pH levels of soil as deemed necessary. Lime is an additive commonly used to increase the alkalinity of soil; while more wood ash is needed to achieve the same effects, its composition of macro and micro-nutrients is impressive and just as sufficient for growing fruit trees.
Research affirms that recycling wood ash is a safe and practical method in tending for fruit trees and other plants. While it only performs just as well as lime in higher quantities, wood ash “can increase plant growth up to 45 percent over traditional limestone.” And when it comes down to it, wood ash’s accessibility, convenience, and natural sourcing ranks it highly as one of the few resourceful alternatives to conventional practices.