saving wood ash

lucyfretwell(ireland)January 9, 2014

What is a good way of keeping (a lot of )wood ash usable?

I don't want to buy a container and would prefer to keep them outside . as I have seen suggested.

But they will inevitably get damp if I dig them into a hole in the ground and cover them.

Will a bit of dampness matter so long as they are not subjected to direct rain- or will I have to ensure they remain powdery dry for when I want to apply them in the spring ?

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pnbrown

It is more difficult to spread when damp. Covered in a hole probably you won't lose a lot of the nutrients, and the edges will get clumpy while the inner part will stay dry - if it's well covered. If you garden area is small you can simply spread the ash at planting time by mixing it in water and pouring into the rows.

I keep mine in those galvanized metal trashcans. You can probably find a container free at recycling center, I would think.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 9:08AM
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ericwi

If the wood ash gets wet, it will slowly release leachate to the surrounding soil, and the leachate will be very alkaline. The advantage of storing and applying wet ashes, as opposed to dry ashes, is that there will be little or no dust generated, so one could argue that keeping them wet is a good thing. I would not put down ashes on our garden, because the soil here in Madison, Wisconsin, is already high in pH, around 7.6, and ashes would raise the pH even higher.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 9:13AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Wood ash is an excellent source of potassium and other nutrients/elements. So if your soil pH is under 7, you can use it safely and benefit from it.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 10:00AM
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Natures_Nature(5 OH)

I use any metal container with a lid. I never really apply a lot at a time, Just a light dusting on the entire garden. I just carry the tin can, walk the garden, throwing a thin dusting by hand.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 10:09AM
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lazy_gardens

Before your do this, are you sure they will be good for the soil? Have you had a soil test that indicates the ash will make up for a deficit?

(I ask because it's an unquestioned assumption that all soils can benefit from wood ash, and they don't.)

If you store them in a pile or pit they will leach out into the surrounding dirt and make a very alkaline dead spot.

And they will solidify and turn into clumps.

Why don't you want to apply them as soon as you clean the fireplace or stove - work your way around the garden with the application, one small area at a time.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 11:25AM
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lucyfretwell(ireland)

thanks for all the replies.
@lazygardens I thought if I applied it now that it would leach away with the heavy rain we get and that by the time growth started it would have sunk below root level.

I always throw them around the base of the fruit plants I have -like the currants and the apples.

I never considered I could be overdoing it.To tell the truth I have never noticed any benefit from the practice seeing as I don't get around to treating them all -I cannot tell which ones have been treated from which haven't. .

But it is such an accepted advice to throw the wood ash around the base of fruit trees that I do it practically automatically .

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 12:37PM
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ericwi

There is a good chance that you have typical soil for Ireland, and that you can find out more about the native soil by visiting an appropriate web site, such as a university soil test lab. There are soils that benefit from applications of wood ash, and soils that are already high in pH, and will likely not benefit.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 8:21PM
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toxcrusadr

If you're sprinkling and not dumping, it may not change the pH much at all. The alkaline part will dissolve and leach away rather fast, leaving insoluble minerals behind. Some useful minerals like P will stay around longer - P tends to bind to the soil. So putting it on in the winter is not a bad thing, it gives a chance for rain and snow to leach out the alkali.

People have sprinkled ash for centuries, so as long as you do it in moderation, it's probably just fine. It is good to know about your soil conditions though - if your pH was already high or you had excessive phosphorus, cutting out the ash would actually be a positive.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 11:02AM
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