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You've got a bunch of ash collected after the cold winter months - what to do with it all? What uses can we find for this wonderful organic resource?
Add here: What is ash composed of?
Will be different depending on what was burned.
Wood ash contains 10-25% calcium, 1-4% magnesium, 5-15% potassium and 1-3% phosphorus.
In The Garden
- A fertilizer for the yard and garden. Wood ash is a good (0-2-10) fertilizer for the garden. The types of wood you burn does play a role in the amount of nutrients it contains. Hardwoods generally produce 3 times more ash that contains 5 times more nutrients than softwoods. Ash will temporarily increase the pH (make more alkaline) of garden soil, so you should only use it sparingly and not at all if your soil pH is already over 7.0. Two pounds of wood ash equals about 1 pound of ground limestone. When used as a fertilizer, wood ash should be applied at least two months before high nitrogen fertilizers because it promotes the loss of nitrogen from ammonia-based fertilizers. Don't use wood ash on acidic-loving plants like rhododendron, blueberries or azaleas
- Control pond algae. One tablespoon per 1,000 gallons adds enough potassium to strengthen other aquatic plants that compete with algae, slowing its growth,
- Pump up tomatoes. For the calcium-loving plants, McGrath places 1/4 cup right in the hole when planting,
As a Cleaner
- As a glass cleaner. Wood ash is a key ingredient in lye soap. It can be mixed with a bit of water (or dabbed on a damp sponge) and used to clean dirty fireplace doors.
- Make soap. Soaking ashes in water makes lye, which can be mixed with animal fat and then boiled to produce soap. Salt makes it harden as it cools.
- As a spot remover on wood furniture. Mix it in with a small amount of water until you create a paste. Rub over rings left by water glasses or hot beverages, and follow up with a furniture polish. Test on a small area first.
- De-skunk pets. A handful rubbed on Fido's coat neutralizes the lingering odor.
- Hide stains on paving. This Old House technical editor Mark Powers absorbs wet paint spatters on cement by sprinkling ash directly on the spot; it blends in with a scuff of his boot,
- Clean glass fireplace doors. A damp sponge dipped in the dust scrubs away sooty residue.
- Shine silver. A paste of ash and water makes a dandy nontoxic metal polisher.
- As an insect repellant. Sprinkle small amounts around the perimeter of your garden to deter slugs and snails.
- Block garden pests. Spread evenly around garden beds, ash repels slugs and snails.
Add here: Things that ash should NOT be used for, or which may be questionable if you don't know the ash's content.
The resources below give mixed advice about adding wood ash to compost. If used at all, use very sparingly.