My daughter told me she read somewhere that fireplace ashes spread on garden areas, especially in the winter months, benefit the soil. Has anyone else ever heard of this. I have lots of ashes to spread!!!!!!
Ashes of untreated wood are good for the garden. They tend to be basic so do not put on acid loving plants. I've heard they are best used in moderation. They also help melt snow on the driveway & don't hurt the lawn like salt does.
Ashes are extremely basic -- pioneers leached lye from them for soapmaking. I would recommend a soil test before adding them to your garden. SE MI soil tends to be on the "sweet" (basic) side anyway, so adding them even in moderation could be harmful.
(Soil tests are available from the MSU Extension Offices for a nominal charge.)
Besides raising soil pH, there is a concern about toxic metals and chemicals in ashes, derived from the wood and other objects that were burned. If you burn synthetic logs or burn paper in your fireplace, do not use the ashes on any edible plants.
Some people will add ashes to compost piles; if ashes are only a small part of the pile then any toxic metals will highly diluted in the final compost.
Here is a link that might be useful: Wood Ash as Soil amendment
Thanks bob, juliana and julie - Wow!!! that's some kind of site you recommended to me. I'm going to have to really sit down and read the whole thing. One more thing, can you give me an idea of what are some of the acid loving plants. And I guess I should have the soil tested, too. We have quite a large back yard with many different places that we plant things. Is it necessary to take a sample of each of them?
Here is a link to Michigan State U Extension regarding taking soil samples. In my experience, it is very difficult to successfully grow plants with extreme pH requirements (e.g. blueberries need acidic soil, pH 4.5-5.0)in my sandy, neutral to alkaline soil. However, some acid loving plants like azaleas and rhododendrons will adapt just fine (if the deer don't get them first!). My garden philosophy: it's usually better to improve the soil you have rather than attempt drastic changes. Besides, there are so many stunning plants available for our Michigan gardens, you're bound to find many that will work for you.
Here is a link that might be useful: how to test soil
Wow!!! I went to the site and it looks kind of confusing. We've wanted to have this soil tested for years and just never got around to it. I'll call our local Extension Office in Bad Axe first and ask them exactly what to do, etc. Thanks for all your help. After I get it tested, I'll write and tell you guys the results.
It is best to put the ashes into the compost pile first and let it work its wonders with all the other good stuff. This way it helps to create well balanced soil along with the leaves etc that you are already putting into your compost pile. Nature will take care of the balancing act. With regard to testing your soil - there are simple inexpensive kits you can buy at gardening centres, but generaly speaking, if you have evergreen trees around you'll have acidic soil, if you have a lot of deciduous trees you'll have alkaline soil.
Thanks Joana - We live in Caseville, Mi. right across the street from Lake Huron and have evergreens in our front yard and a few in the back yard, but to the rear of us is State Land which is all trees. So maybe for now I will get one of those inexpensive kits. Thanks for the info.