A lot of people have backyard fire pits or fire places in their homes. A nice warm fire is great on chilly nights and can be a great focal point of a gathering especially if you add s’mores to the mix but what do you do with the ash left over afterwards? Can you recycle it? Do you just put it in a plastic bag and throw it away?
Wood ash can be used in many ways and how you use it depends on what you burnt. It you burnt any plastics or glossy cardboard, it will be toxic to plants so when burning try and use only normal paper (non-glossy) or newspaper as kindling. Hardwood ash will have more nutrients than soft woods. Charcoal is toxic to plants and should be disposed of separately from wood ash. Commercial particle logs may contain additives and chemicals that could be toxic as can treated woods and wood that is lacquered or stained. The best ash to use is natural wood and plain paper.
Wood ash contains calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus and will cause the Ph. of soil to rise when added to it. If the soil has been tested at Ph. 7.0 or above, you probably don’t need wood ash added. Here in Florida, the sandy soil can use it added in and tomatoes love the calcium boost and will grow like mad.
You can add it by either direct application (putting a ¼ cup into the hole you are planting tomatoes for example) or by emulsifying it into water and spreading it over a lawn or garden. Putting it over you yard in this way you should limit the amounts to about 5 lbs. per year per 100 sq. feet of lawn. For roses and shrubs you can add about ½ to 1 lb. per year per plant, again depending on your soil Ph. and needs.
Wood ash also can be used to line a barrier around a garden and will keep slugs and snails out as those pests hate the ash. It can be used added to soap to help de-skunk a pet that has had an unfortunate experience with a little striped friend. It can also be used with soapy water to scrub concrete as a very mild abrasive to remove algae and mildew.
Using wood ash in this way keeps the ash from being deposited into a landfill and the nutrients being locked away. If you have a lot of fires then you can recycle wood ash that is completely cooled with garden and plant wastes if this is offered in your area. If you have a compost bin, adding wood ash to the compost helps boost the nutrients of the final product so it’s a great way to use the ash for your garden and landscaping.
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