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Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

Posted by Slimy_Okra 2b (My Page) on
Tue, Feb 25, 14 at 18:21

Kind of a follow-up question to my post from a couple months ago. Here's the deal: I'm not sure exactly how much wood ash (from dead trees) the previous owner disposed of in the plot in question. It was in thin piles (about half an inch deep) and plants surrounding the piles were growing normally. The ash piles accounted for about 15-20% of the total growing area. The area was disked which distributed the ashes everywhere. I rototilled in sulfur (1100 lbs/ac) in the fall. I'm still worried about the buildup of salts from the wood ashes. What do you suggest I do? Leach the soil? Will that help? The site has good drainage.

A soil test at that time revealed a pH of 8.3 and a buffer pH of 6.8. Does this reveal anything? Uncontaminated soil in this region has a pH of 7 to7.5.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

Most of what wood ash is is very water soluble so the problems that might create are fairly quickly washed out of that soil, although it does go into the ground water causing pollution. The only way to know whether this has happened is with a good reliable soil test.
What "salts" are you concerned about? Sometimes "salts" refers to common table salt and sometimes that term refers to the results of an ionic compound resulting from reacting an acid with a base.
Some salts are not good while others are essential to good growth. Being concerned about the buildup of "salts" may be good or it may be unnecessary depending on which "salts" are being discussed.


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RE: Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

The U of Mass soil test lab will do a general test for $10 and test soluble salts for an additional $5. Maybe that's the best way to know what's going on with your soil now that you've amended it.
I have never had a problem with SS, and I add plenty of wood ash to my garden and to the compost pile.

More anecdotal info: I have a gardening friend who adds every bit of ash he produces all winter every winter to his garden and he gets great production. I've seen discussions on here about adding all your ash to the compost, and a lot of folks do that. Personally, I wouldn't think of it as a contaminant at all.

Your soil test reveals what would be expected -- that the ash raised the ph. (I throw in a band of it with my peas in the spring, since they like high PH). So adding sulphur should have helped bring it down to where you want it. Just don't plant blueberries there :)

This post was edited by elisa_Z5 on Thu, Feb 27, 14 at 9:48


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RE: Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

OK, it's spread out, plants are growing well around it, and you added sulfur. Those are the right things to do. Sulfur takes time to work, I'd keep an eye on the pH (and make sure you sample correctly, i.e. a composite and not just one trowel full from one spot, and use a good calibrated meter or a lab). If it needs more sulfur you can do that.

I would not try to leach anything out without testing to determine whether anything is actually in excess. Otherwise you're chasing shadows.

This post was edited by toxcrusadr on Fri, Feb 28, 14 at 10:23


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RE: Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

The original poster is in Canada and sending a soil sample across international borders is just not done, so suggesting
UMASS for a soil test is out of the question.

This post was edited by kimmsr on Fri, Feb 28, 14 at 7:31


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RE: Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

Curses! My plot to encourage international soil smuggling has been uncovered . . .


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RE: Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

We have narrowly averted being insidiously invaded by the Tundra Turnip Termite! The regulations have reason you know.


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RE: Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

Yes, but now my contract with Turnip Assassins, Inc., has been terminated.


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RE: Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

I'm guessing their assassinations are perfectly bloodless.


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RE: Reclaiming wood-ash contaminated soil

Thanks for the answers. I guess I may be overreacting to the wood ash, but since our native soil pH is already borderline too high, I'm afraid of how this year's crop is going to turn out. As a gesture of international friendship, I offer to send one thousand tundra turnip termites to each of you :)


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