Return to the Soil Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Too much wood ash...Now what?

Posted by telemaster Pennsylvania (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 23, 11 at 9:21

Overall my garden is doing really well, but my beans and peas are not.

It seems they have stopped growing... I dunno if it got too hot for them (something I read can happen), or if I over did the wood ash. I dumped two five gallon buckets of ashes on two beds (each bed is 25' x 4'). I dumped one five gallon bucket on the beds, then about a month later I dumped another one. Top dress only. I know the soil was acidic to start (lots of pines around), but never had it tested. Yes, I know.... then I am really just guessing.

According to an article I read.... that is enough ash to do 2000 square feet. My entire garden is 1250 square feet. Do you think I ruined my legumes? Is there something I can do to mitigate all the wood ash, or should I just leave it alone and see what happens? I have access to chicken manure and lots of urine (mother earth news has me saving it for a fertilizer tea I have yet to mix up).

The woes of a gardener.... did I ruin it, did I ruin it?

I really need to do a soil test to see what I am working with. A little late this year! ha!

My gut feeling is to leave it alone and see what happens, but wanted to see if anyone had any advice on ways to amend the soil after dumping so much ash on a bed.

http://www.hort.uconn.edu/ipm/homegrnd/htms/woodshes.htm

After the long winter many New Hampshire residents are faced with a different type of problem. What does one do with the wood ashes left from their wood burning stove or fireplace? An average cord of wood, depending on the efficiency of combustion and wood type, will yield approximately twenty pounds of ashes or the equivalent of one five-gallon pail. Over the winter, this can add up to quite an accumulation of wood ashes.
Wood ash acts on the soil much like limestone in that it raises the pH or alkalinity of the soil. Consequently, many wood stove burners dump the ashes on their garden site with the thought that they are improving the soil condition of their garden. Yet unlike limestone, which can take six months or more to take effect, wood ash has high water solubility and quickly changes the soil pH. This can cause a problem with raising the soil pH over the optimum level of 6.5 to 7.0 if we spread too many ashes in the same area. A soil pH over the optimum level can affect plants as adversely as a pH that is too low. High pH will limit the uptake of important soil nutrients needed by the plant such as phosphorous, iron, and magnesium.
A safe rate of wood ash application for a garden or lawn area would be twenty pounds per thousand square feet or a five-gallon pail full of wood ash. Twenty pounds of wood ash is equivalent to six pounds of ground limestone per thousand square feet. If the soil is in the proper pH range, this rate of application is considered appropriate for yearly treatments. After wood ash application, we should need no additional lime, with nitrogen and possibly phosphorous being the other plant nutrient requirements. The wood application will also supply potassium. We should mix the application of wood ash to the garden soil well.
The UNH soil-testing laboratory, in Durham, has recorded very high pH values from soil samples that we have treated with wood ash. Having a soil test taken once every two years from your garden and lawn is wise. The recommendations for soil treatment, including any adjustment of soil pH, will give one a more accurate means to care for their garden and lawn.
We should make careful consideration when applying wood ash to lawn and garden sites. A measured application can be beneficial to increase soil pH. Over applications of wood ash will increase the likelihood of soil related problems.
George W. Hamilton, Extension Educator, Agricultural Resources, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension-- Hillsborough County


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

If they sprouted and started growing and then stopped, it isn't wood ash. If they never came up at all, then the ash would be suspect.

I'd suspect the heat - it certainly is true for peas, that's what stops their growth here. Likely be the case for some varieties of beans.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

Define hot. I have never had it too hot to grow beans in SE WI.

"...My gut feeling is to leave it alone and see what happens..."

I'd heed that advice.

tj


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

Lots of pines around is not necessarily an indication of an acidic soil, pines grow just fine in alkaline soils. The only way to know your soils pH is with a good reliable soil test. Contact your counties office of the Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension Service to have that done so you know.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

The plants were already coming up when I dumped the ash on the beds. We did have a bit of a hot spell (90-100) a couple weeks ago. This week has been quite nice (75-85). I even noticed a bunch of blossoms on a few of the larger plants last night. I am going to let them go and see what happens.

Someone told me to rip them all out and start again.... not sure what that would accomplish, but I'd rather not be so drastic.

Thanks for calming by fears of a ruined legume crop. Still much to learn in the gardening realm. Just need to remember plants want to grow and mother nature will take care of them.

Yes, a soil test is a good idea. Will do at the end of the season so I know what I am working with for next year.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

But, what to do if the previous owner dumped wood ash in the garden? This is northern Utah, alkaline, salty soils to start with. How do I get rid of this, other than just throwing the dirt away? Any pioneer plants I can try?

Oh, and they also dumped their dog's crap on the same pile.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

You could try and leach it out with tons of water.. Or jus dilute it with adding more soil.. Your problem is probably alot worse than woodash, they probably burned all kinds of stuff! Is anything growing their now?

You could try growing mushroom/mycelium there, it is known for chelating toxins, and cleaning up the soil...

Is there anything growing there now? By pile, do you literally mean a woodash pile as in something like a burnt house, or just a campfire?


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

They dumped ash from the fireplace there, it's white lumps and flecks in the dirt. Not a campfire. I will need to leech it anyway, because the soil is generally saline here anyway. A bit of Veronica grew, but not much of that, and a few odd weeds. I will try mushrooms, worth a shot. But it gets very hot and dry here in the summer.

I don't want to completely undermine the wood fence posts, but will do what I can.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

Ash and Burnt lumps(biochar) are two different things.. Did you just move in the house, how long ago? How big is the "pile"?


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

I moved in last year (Jan 2012), dealt with some ash in a different area last fall, with a lot of mulch, and that is where the compost pile is. This area is near a fence - with better sunlight, and is just full of white ash, some in clumps. So, yes, both. Flakes and lumps. Not a huge area, it's a small garden. This is a 2-10 foot spot maybe, but with sun.

The main part of the garden is much better this year, although I got very little from tomato plants last year, high phosphorus and saline, which I am correcting. This smaller spot I didn't even touch last year, and nothing grew at all, not even weeds. But as far as light, seems good for the strawberries. As soon as I started digging, I found the clumps and flakes of ash.

The rest of the soil sent for testing, showed loamy clay. This separate area I did not send. Seems much the same, but with dumped ashes and some turds. Last year was pretty bad for weather, very hot, a lot of gardens suffered, so I didn't feel TOO bad.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

Man, that would suck, only good garden area and it has piles of ash! You could do a couple things:

Try and leach it with water
Dig it up and replace soil
Make a raised bed and plant in that, I would think overtime it would be ok

I'm sure there are a lot of ways you could deal with it, start researching...

Only thing I can think of off the top of my head is mycelium... Who know if that would work even...

Joe


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

Joe,
Actually, this is not the main part of the garden. Thankfully. I have a good 10x25 foot area that I mulched with leaves from all over the neighborhood last year. Sun is an issue in this surrounded spot, but I hope not too much now that we have the trees down.

This seems to be the answer though, dig it up and get rid of the ashes. I will also plant clover, which will help mulch - as it has done in the front hard clay. And will try the mycelium as well. I asked here because I hit a wall with the research. Which might be because there isn't really a good answer, except, discard it and try again.

Thanks so much.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

I would try to scatter cheap seeds and see what happens before digging up anything... After a rain, collect mushrooms and throw them in that spot, maybe in-between pieces of cardboard, you will have white fuzz(mycelium) forming on the cardboard, you can then rip the coardboars and inoculate other spots, no need to buy spores/liquid culture... Although there probably are specific strains that take care of different problems better than others..

Good luck,
Joe


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

You don't want to introduce random mushrooms to soil unless there's a lot of OM you want "burnt" off and your soil is acidic...which would be unlikely given we're talking about Utah and a lot of ash applied to a soil. I kind of doubt you'll get mushrooms growing here, anyway.

The type of fungi that form beneficial relationships with plants and nutrient exchange/sharing are not the same fungi as the ones that like to break down OM.

Given the location and supposed high pH, this is a job for microbes...but more likely than that, this is a job for pH remediation via sulfur (or various acids, depending on how hardcore you want to get with it).


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

I live on similar soils, and bought a house where the previous owners burned their trash - from the description of where this is along a fence, and the fact that nothing is growing, I suspect that might be what you're dealing with. They likely had a one or two 55 gallon drums used as incinerators, then dumped out the ashes along the fence. You could confirm that if there are bits of glass and foil and such. My previous owners loved to dump cat litter there as well.

I just watered the heck out of it for a season, then planted grass that fall. That leached out what ever toxins were there, and now, you'd never know that the area was a foot deep in burned crud.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

I doubt that a lot of fungi are going to thrive in hot dry conditions in Utah. But, I like the bio approach. Although I can't see it, it doesn't sound so horrible. I would rehab it with compost. Remove ash where it shows up in amounts that you can shovel up (i.e. piles or layers), and build compost piles over the soil. In the fall, or next spring, turn it all over and mix the compost with the soil. Next spring you can plant.

This will moderate the pH, improve texture, organic matter and nutrients all at once.

This post was edited by toxcrusadr on Wed, Apr 17, 13 at 13:11


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

I live in slc, utah.

My recommendation is to get a good weed free source of horse (or cow) manure that has been composted for a year or more (fresh will work best in the fall). Horse stables and dairies often feed alfalfa hay primarily; if the animals do not graze on weedy pasture, their manure should be excellent.

Fresher manures release ammonia; it will damage tender plants if used as mulch. Manure that is tilled in and watered keeps plants safer.

Remember, ashes contain about 30% calcium carbonate (lime). The object is to buffer its effects.

First, till your entire garden area down to a depth of at least 8". Then spread a 6" layer of manure over your entire garden and till it in. Finsh with a 2" mulching layer, each spring and fall, turning the previous layer in spring and fall. This mulch will keep your shoes and knees clean and add everything the garden needs for nutrients.

Your soil ph will buffer down below 7.5 (culinary water ph) and you will have the best loamy clay garden soil of the neighborhood in the spring of the second year!


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

I live in slc, utah.

My recommendation is to get a good weed free source of horse (or cow) manure that has been composted for a year or more (fresh will work best in the fall). Horse stables and dairies often feed alfalfa hay primarily; if the animals do not graze on weedy pasture, their manure should be excellent.

Fresher manures release ammonia; it will damage tender plants if used as mulch. Manure that is tilled in and watered keeps plants safer.

Remember, ashes contain about 30% calcium carbonate (lime). The object is to buffer its effects.

First, till your entire garden area down to a depth of at least 8". Then spread a 6" layer of manure over your entire garden and till it in. Finsh with a 2" mulching layer, each spring and fall, turning the previous layer in spring and fall. This mulch will keep your shoes and knees clean and add everything the garden needs for nutrients.

Your soil ph will buffer down below 7.5 (culinary water ph) and you will have the best loamy clay garden soil of the neighborhood in the spring of the second year!


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

I actually got enough compost in that area, and put in (perhaps unwisely) strawberries, in half. They are doing remarkably well considering. The leaf mulches elsewhere over the winter made a huge difference. I'd love to do a thick layer of composted manure, but this year, I'm on a very tight budget. Maybe next year, that is the plan. Been using the chicken manure in small spots, need to get some on the strawberries.

But I will keep in mind your answer, and plan that for next summer, thank you.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

We burn a wood stove in the winter. when I first started garden I spent hours making my first raised garden bed. Hubs suggested wood ash. I applied nitrogen fertilizer before that, too.

That 4' x 4' spot is still bald.

I think it was immediately after that I learned to make compost. LOL

Have never had to use a single drop of chemical fertilizer since then, come to think of it.


 o
RE: Too much wood ash...Now what?

Oops! You know what they say...a little goes a long way!


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Soil Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here