Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Using wood ash around the house & in the vegetable garden

A lot of people have slow combustion stoves and open fires that produce a lot of wood ash which they would love to be able to recycle in the garden. Wood ash is the residue powder left after the combustion of wood, such as burning wood in a home fireplace.
It is used traditionally by gardeners as a good source of potash for domestic gardens. Ash from burning paper, leaves or coal is not especially useful and may even be harmful in the garden.
 
Stains on pavers: Hide stains on paving by sprinkling wood ash directly on the spot.

Slippery pavers: it only takes a little to remove the slipperiness from pavers.

Enrich compost: Before the organic compound get applied to soil, enhance its nutrients by sprinkling in a few ashes as compost heaps tend to be rather acid. Don't overdo it - just sprinkle some on from time to time and turn it in. If you're composting leaves on their own to make a rich leaf mulch for the garden, sprinkle it in between layers to hasten the mulching process. This is especially good if you have oak leaves or pine needles in the heap.

Deter garden pests: Spread evenly around garden beds, ash repels slugs and snails. Just spread a low ring around individual plants to deter slugs and snails. They don't like the texture and won't crawl across it. Replenish it every few days, especially in wet weather, as rain will quickly leach away any nutrients that ash may contain.

Melt ice: It adds traction and de-ices without hurting soil or concrete underneath. Its alkaline nature makes ice melt, and then if the sun is out, the darkness of the ash creates heat, melting ice more and faster than regular ice melt.

Control pond algae: One tablespoon per 1,000 gallons adds enough potassium to strengthen other aquatic plants that compete with algae.  

Pump up tomatoes: For the calcium-loving plants, place 1/4 cup right in the hole when planting.

Clean glass fireplace doors: A damp sponge dipped in the dust scrubs away sooty residue. Mix with water to form a paste and use on the glass in your wood stove or fireplace.

Shine silver: A paste of ash and water makes a dandy nontoxic metal polisher. (I have not tried this, but it is said to work)

Lawn Fertilizer: Small amounts a good sprinkled on the lawn. Wood ash contains 10-25% calcium, 1-4% magnesium, 5-15% potassium and 1-3% phosphorus.

Fertilise stone fruit trees: sprinkle some around stone fruit trees and apples. If you have only a little potash, it should go to dessert apples, redcurrants and gooseberries first, then to cooking apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Plums, apricots, cherries and blackcurrants appreciate a regular sprinkle, but don’t need it so much. It’s also good for apples which suffer from 'bitter pit'.
 
Fertilise vegetables: Root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, peas and beans (pods are a better weight and colour) and fruit all appreciate potash. Since large quantities of ash can increase alkali levels in your garden beds, it's recommended to test the soil pH levels before dumping buckets of ash in your yard.

Removes lime scale: In areas with hard water, lime scale builds up quickly on exterior windows. Instead of using a lime solvent to remove the scale, reach for the wood ash instead. Wood ash applied with a damp rag cuts through the scale and will bring back the shine to your windows.

Pear or Cherry Slugs: If you have pear or cherry slugs attacking the leaves of your fruiting or ornamental pear or cherry trees, throw some wood ash amongst the foliage every few days. The dry ash dehydrates the slugs and they quickly 'drop off the twig'. You can also try sprinkling ash in the row when you sow carrots and dusting it on turnips to keep carrot and turnip fly away.

Remember:
  • Keep ash dry before use.
  • Test your soil before spreading large amounts around. Small quantities are better in the garden than large quantities.
  • Because of its alkalinity, make sure that you keep any wood ash away from acid-loving plants. Keep it away from ground to be used for growing potatoes and don't let it near any seed potatoes.
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