If you have a wood stove or a fireplace, one of spring’s rituals is shoveling out the ashes. And if you’re in tune with the philosophy of recycling plant residues back into the natural cycle of soil fertility, you’ll want a better destination for those ashes than the trash bag.
Unlike the decomposed remains of leaves, stems and other green plant parts, burned wood doesn’t contain nitrogen. But it does provide phosphorous, potassium, calcium, boron and other elements that growing plants need. It’s also very alkaline and useful for raising the pH in gardens. You’ll need about twice as much of it as lime, but it will supply nutrients at the same time, and if you’re a wood-burner it’s free.
Before you go scattering the ashes about, get a soil test done, so you know whether it will benefit you. If your yard or garden soil has a pH of 7 or higher, give the ashes to a friend with a more acidic soil. Don’t use it around acid-loving plants such as blueberries and azaleas, or on potatoes, which get scab disease if the pH is too high.