Wood ash/Epsom and worms

tomtuxman(6bNY)February 2, 2010

Will adding wood ash and/or Epsom salts to my compost pile/pit have a good or bad effect on my worm population?

My finished compost tends to be quite acidic, resulting from lots and lots of leaves and pine needles. I need to sweeten it up a bit, and wood ash and Epsom were suggestions.

However, I have a very fine large worm colony in my pile/pit, and I would not want to do anything deleterious to these special helpers.

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If the compost pile is healthy and producing compost, I personally would be reluctant to add anything like wood ashes or epsom salts. However, if I was trying to grow something that required alkaline soil, and a pH test showed the soil to be on the acid side, then adding wood ashes to the soil makes sense. It happens that our native soil is alkaline, around 7.6 pH, so we never have to raise the pH with ashes or anything else. Keeping a compost pile working through the Wisconsin winter is a challenge in itself, and therefore I would not want to add anything that might slow it down.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 2:33PM
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Earthworms are not significant digesters of compost, and compost is near neutral when finished even if it is composed of mostly Oak leaves and Pine needles. Wood ashes tend to cause the bacteria that do digest the material you put in to compost to slow down and none of the studies I have seen indicate wood ashes do anything worthwhile to the composting process.
Epsom Salts are Magnesium Sulfate and the only reason to add them would be to correct a lack of Magnesium in your soil, but that would require a lot of Epsom Salts and there are much less expensive ways to do that.
If you have a lot of worms in your compost that may be an indication the material is too wet, since the earthworms need a fairly moist environment to exist.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 10:06AM
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Why not use crushed egg shells?

That should raise the ph a bit. I have also heard it helps the worms lay eggs.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 3:25PM
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I have not played with this question to form an answer. I keep the wood ash in pails only for dipping my new potato quartered seedlings before planting. The crushed egg shells work good for the grit in the worms digestion. Like stones in a birds gizzard. As mentioned above, I would not think that you would have to add anything special. Although the stalls have lime mixed in with the other that gets piled onto the compost as well.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 9:41AM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

If you have wood ash I wouldn't be scared to add some as with everything in moderation

Compost ideally is neutral not acid when its done but that doesn't mean yours isn't to acid

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 9:13PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Before you add anything, why not have some of your compost tested to see what it's pH is? Microbial activity will sometimes change acidic ingredients to neutral, and if that has happened to your compost, adding ashes might be counter-productive. A little Epsom salts may be beneficial, IF your compost needs it. Since you have lots of leaves in your compost, it's possible that their roots have 'mined' some magnesium from deeper in the soil (if it's there), so adding more might be overdoing it.

Contact your local Cooperative Extension (Agriculture) and ask them who does soil testing, or just look in your Yellow Pages under 'Soil Testing'. Call and ask if they test compost, and the proper way to collect a sample.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 1:34AM
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Hello ! I was wondering, if I burned all of the needles and oak tree leaves during my "Spring Cleaning" what exactly would the ashes be good for?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 10:57PM
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A lot less then would the leaves and pine needles would be becuase you would burn many of the nutrients that are in those leaves and meedles, a waste. In addition burning them produces prodigous quantities of air pollution.
Compost those leaves and pine needles instead of burning them.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 6:34AM
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Kimm, coud you tell me about the much less expensive ways to raise low Mag? I need to raise it a lot in some of my soils, so I am all ears.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 8:18AM
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