Wood ash is loaded with nutrients that are good for soil. But, this doesn't mean you should start shoveling wheelbarrow loads into your lawn and garden. There are many things to consider before putting any fertilizer in your soil; wood ash is not different. In this article, I will discuss how the good and bad of using wood ash in your soil.
First, is wood ash good for soil. Yes, if added properly, wood ash can be very beneficial to your soil. To be added properly, you must determine the current pH of your soil, what you will use the soil for, and what type of wood ash you should use.
Benefits of wood ash in soil
Wood ash contains potassium, phosphorus, calcium carbonate, and magnesium. All of the nutrients add in helping your plants grow, flower, and fruit. These nutrients are not all of the nutrients your plants need, but they are vital to their health.
Wood ash also contains other trace elements like manganese, iron, and zinc. Some of these nutrients will help your plants, but are is such small amounts that they may have no effect.
Potassium is needed by your plants for the production of food, also known as photosynthesis. It also is used in the production of blossoms. Phosphorous is a key nutrient in the absorption of water in your plants root system.
Wood ash and the pH of your soil
The pH of your soil is vital to the growth and development of your plants and trees. Many plants can grow well in soil that is acidic or alkaline, but some plants cannot. Before adding wood ash to your soil, you need to determine the current pH and what you will plant in it.
Wood ash is very alkaline. This makes is a good product to use to make acidic soil neutral or alkaline. If your soil is acidic and your plants need the pH to be raised, you should add wood ash.
To test your soil's pH, you can get a very inexpensive test kit from your local hardware store or Amazon. These kits usually cost $15 to $30. Most give you the ability to test the pH, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorous of your soil.
These testing kits are easy to use. You just take a sample of your soil, mix it with water, add powder for the specific test you are performing, and match the color to a color chart provided with the test. Some of the kits come with charts that show you the correct measurements for most types of plants.
You can also get a digital soil meter. These meters usually measure pH, moisture, sunlight, and temperature of your soil.
Which plants like wood ash
There are plants that will do well with wood ash and ones that won't do so well with wood ash. Any plant that likes neutral to alkaline soil will probably benefit from wood ash. I say probably because the acidity of the soil before wood ash is added will determine whether you should add wood ash or not.
Many types of roses like alkaline soil and will grow well in soil with wood ash added. Certain types of fruit trees and grasses also prefer neutral to alkaline soil. Many fruits do well with wood ashes, but there are some like blueberries and raspberries that will have trouble.
To determine whether you plants will perform well with wood ashes in their soil, you should look them up to see what pH levels are optimal for there growth. If you are planting different types of plants that prefer different pH levels, you can add wood ashes to the base of the plants that will benefit from them.
Don't put wood ash directly on your plants roots, leaves, or seedlings. Doing so could burn your plants, permanently damaging them.
How much wood ash should be added to soil
Many of the suggestions you will find tell you to add about 5 to 25 pounds per 1000 square feet. If you are working in a smaller area, you can break this down to 2 ounces per 1 square yard. These numbers are not set in stone. The most important thing to do is to test as you go along.
Test your soils pH before you start. Then test it after each application of wood ash. This is the only way to be sure of the results you will get with your plants.
Be sure to where gloves at a minimum when adding the wood ash to your soil. Also be sure it doesn't come into contact with your skin, eyes, or that you don't breath it in. If you are working with a lot of wood ash, you may want to wear a long sleeve shirt, pants, safety glasses, and a dust mask.
How to apply wood ash to your soil
To apply wood ash correctly to your soil, you need to spread it as evenly as possible on the top. Then use a metal rack or hoe and work it into the soil. If you have soil with no plants then you don't have to worry too much about where it is in the soil. If you have plants already in the area, then be sure not to get the wood ash on there leaves or roots.
When preparing a new area to plant, you should add your wood ashes weeks or even months ahead of planting. This will allow the nutrients to become part of the soil and will give your plants the best possibility of absorbing them. If possible, you should add your wood ashes to your soil in late winter or early spring when it is dry and not windy.
The final step in adding wood ash to your soil is to cover it will a layer of top soil or compost. This will keep any of the ash still on the surface from blowing away.
How wood ash may be bad for your soil
As previously mentioned, if your plants need acidic soil, then adding wood ash will not be beneficial and may even harm them. In addition, even if your plants like alkaline soil, if your soil is already highly alkaline and you add wood ash, you could stunt the growth of your plants. You may even kill them. High alkalinity will cause the root system to not absorb water correctly. This will leave your plants deficient in vital nutrients.
Also, to much wood ash can cause salts to build up in the soil. These high amounts of salts can are what causes the roots to not absorb water. It will also cause your plants to absorb high amounts of salt. This will injure the plants cells and affect its ability to grow.
The quality of wood ash is also very important when adding it to your soil. Wood ash from natural grown trees and organic by products are good to add to your soil. But adding ashes from treated lumber, cardboard, paper, and other toxic products will introduce these toxins into your soil. These will ultimately affect your plants.
Insect and pest repellent
Another benefit of adding wood ash to your soil is that is keeps insects and other pest away. The effects will be minimal if the wood ash is buried. Adding some wood ash around your plants and on top of the soil will aid in deterring snails and other pest that like to eat your plants.
Also, wood ash will only work as a repellent up until it becomes wet. Once it is wet the salts present in the wood as will be washed away. These salts are what deters the pests.
Your soil and wood ash
Your soil is in many ways a living organism (though it is not). It can contains or not contain the vital nutrients your plants need to grow. The environment can be conducive to good growth or can be what causes your plants to falter and die.
For best results, start early and determine what you will plant in your soil. Then test the soil and see if wood ashes will be beneficial. If wood ash will help your soil, meticulously follow the steps in applying. Be sure to follow all of the best safety practices.