best use for ashes from garden trash

jollyrd(Richmond VA)August 11, 2012

We have accumulated a large pile of garden trash to burn - weeds, wood branches, cardboard. It's been piling up since early winter. Since it has been in the pile for a long time, I do not plan to take it apart or add to compost. I prefer to burn it as is. As soon as we burn it and they cool off, - what is a best use for those ashes? Should we mix the ashes in:

a) the compost pile - was ADVISED NOT TO

b) raised garden bed (we were going to spread seeds of compost crop for the fall)

c) spread/mix into flower bed soil

d) spread at the bottom of fruit trees

e) spread around grape vines

f) other?

In the past, the ashes would remain on the ground and get washed away by the rain.


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alan haigh

Treat it like enriched hydrated limestone. Surface application where a higher pH is desired. Unlike lime it will also add lots of potassium and significant phos.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 5:02PM
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It's said to be effective in killing mint plants, should one have a planting that's escaped and become invasive. I've never tried it.

If you like you can make soap with it, but leave yourself lots of time for it!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 9:46PM
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I suppose that the dosage makes a difference, like many things.When my old burn pile area gets used to burn branches, cardboard, and lumber,I scoop up the remaining ashes and haul them to the trash dump in containers. This ash zone is just a gray plant-free zone. Not even any kind of weed can grow in it. NOTHING. Instead of ruining a large area by burning the whole pile at once, I would make a smaller fire near the big pile and feed it a little at a time as the fire consumes the fuel.I much prefer to put mulch around grapevines, fruit trees, etc.......not ashes

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 8:50AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Agree with harvestman, ashes are alkaline (not acidic) so be careful where you put them.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 11:00AM
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alan haigh

I burn wood as my heat source and use the precious ashes for fertilizer, but in my area soil tends to be acid and liming is the norm anyway. You have to think of it as being almost as strong as quick lime in neutralizing soil and get some kind of ball park on its weight and the pH and texture of the soil where its to be applied. If your conditions are alkaline it's probably better just to dispose of it instead of balancing it out with sulfur. If it's too much work for you to do this strategically you'd also probably best dispose of it as garbage. The best thing would be to let the stuff rot and use for compost, but I'm guessing you don't have a compost pile.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 11:34AM
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You could turn it into bio-char by shoveling soil over it before it completely turns to ash while on fire. Basically you'd be making charcoal by smothering the fire before all the fuel was converted to ash. It is supposed to be a wonderful soil amendment.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 11:18AM
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That soil is getting poorer every time you take out plants and throw away the minerals in the ashes. If the soil is acid, you should absolutely put it back. If it is alkaline, the best you can do for the soil is to grind the pile and spread it and let it compost in place.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 1:02PM
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jollyrd(Richmond VA)

harvestman "but I'm guessing you don't have a compost pile" -- yes, I do. But I don't want to add it to it.

I am only taking away weeds and old, dead plants or braches, from pruning.

We have a clay soild with pH about 5.6. I will need to establish new garden bed next spring -- for herbs and hops - so I was thinking to mix the ashes in there.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 3:26PM
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alan haigh

5.6, as you probably know, is quite acid and it would take a lot of ashes to push your pH to a more desirable level, especially in a clay. You can probably easily spread 30 pounds per 100 square feet and still have a ways to go to get it up a point. Potassium (the other prominent mineral in ashes) is relatively safe so you can certainly make use of your ashes as an amendment.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 3:36PM
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