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Anyone know what I can do with wood ash?

 
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I have a lot of wood ash that I don't know what to do with . . . I've just been piling it up in the garage. Help?
 
pollinator
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Make lye. Then make soap.
 
steward
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Raise the PH of your soil if you need to.

Also, does wonders on slugs.
 
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PUT IT IN YOUR COMPOST!!! Mix the wood ash into your compost heap, which can be a mixture of anything you have around you, such as chicken and rabbit manure, straw, shavings, kitchen scraps, leaves and yard rakings, newsprint and any other organics. The outcome is a neutral pH compost, but always check it.

Wood ash tends to be alkaline and is appropriate for plants like lilacs that like sweet soil. I wouldn't apply too much in any one area.
Besides lilacs, lavender also could benefit from pH reduction if your soil is very acidic.
It affects soil pH relatively rapidly, so use sparingly as it may be too much for the plant to handle.

It's also a good source of phosphorus. Mix it into the soil of your vegetable garden, on perennial beds, and under any shrubs or that are not acid-lovers.

Another use for ashes if you'd like to CHANGE the COLOR of your hydrangeas from blue to pink or from baby pink to deeper pink or even scarlet/burgundy if they already dark pink. They are highly water soluble and will work right away. One application in a winter (over the snow is OK), another in a mid-May and one more in June and you'll change hydrangea color in a one season.

Put it around your rose bushes. Even peonies and tall bearded iris, lavender, clematis, columbine, lupine, rosemary, baby's breath, oriental poppies, daffodils, collard, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage also benefit.

Reminder, to have ashes in May and June you have to keep your winter ashes in a some close container away from the elements, otherwise they'll dissolve.

Wood ashes also discourage slugs and snails - it works like diatomaceous earth. It has a caustic action ( lye was made from ashes).
 
Annah Rachel
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Fairlyn Montella wrote:PUT IT IN YOUR COMPOST!!! Mix the wood ash into your compost heap, which can be a mixture of anything you have around you, such as chicken and rabbit manure, straw, shavings, kitchen scraps, leaves and yard rakings, newsprint and any other organics. The outcome is a neutral pH compost, but always check it.

Wood ash tends to be alkaline and is appropriate for plants like lilacs that like sweet soil. I wouldn't apply too much in any one area.
Besides lilacs, lavender also could benefit from pH reduction if your soil is very acidic.
It affects soil pH relatively rapidly, so use sparingly as it may be too much for the plant to handle.

It's also a good source of phosphorus. Mix it into the soil of your vegetable garden, on perennial beds, and under any shrubs or that are not acid-lovers.

Another use for ashes if you'd like to CHANGE the COLOR of your hydrangeas from blue to pink or from baby pink to deeper pink or even scarlet/burgundy if they already dark pink. They are highly water soluble and will work right away. One application in a winter (over the snow is OK), another in a mid-May and one more in June and you'll change hydrangea color in a one season.

Put it around your rose bushes. Even peonies and tall bearded iris, lavender, clematis, columbine, lupine, rosemary, baby's breath, oriental poppies, daffodils, collard, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage also benefit.

Reminder, to have ashes in May and June you have to keep your winter ashes in a some close container away from the elements, otherwise they'll dissolve.

Wood ashes also discourage slugs and snails - it works like diatomaceous earth. It has a caustic action ( lye was made from ashes).



Thank you. I heard I wasn't supposed to put ash in compost though?

Also, I have clematis growing. How much ash should I put on the plant? It's pretty small right now. Just planted it. What will the ash do to it?
 
steward
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I'm one of the "DON'T put it in your compost" people.
I've always read/been told that adding an alkaline substance to the compost causes a reaction that turns the nitrogen into ammonia gas, or something technical like that
What's the ph of your soil? It's difficult to find natural sources of potash and wood ashes is a great source, but only if your soil's acidic.
Lye for soap, soaking corn...
 
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Keep some dry and save it for spring. Top-dress your root vegetables and brassicas with it. Wood ash repels root maggots.
 
                                                              
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Scott Kellogg, who spoke to our PDC class has an amazing book which has an example of a rocket stove insulated with wood ash. Very well written and covers a lot which most other books fail to include. Probably our favorite book so far... but yea, insulation!
 
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Location: New Mexico high desert Zone 7a, alkaline soils. 9" average annual rainfall.
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Don't compost wood ash if you have alkaline soils, like most of the western US. Growing up in Ohio, the soils are acidic so folks would add it to their compost piles. It's completely dependent on where you live.

Chickens enjoy dusting themselves with it though
 
steward
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All sorts of uses for wood ash.

Compost
-works as a deodorizer if you have a smelly heap.
-increases pH in the short term, but the composting process will mitigate pH issues. Adding a large amount all at once will have an effect on the pile, slowing it down, cooling it off, or smothering the heap. It can be added and offers nutrients. Add ash in small amounts, say, a light sprinkle with each turn, and you will not upset the balance.

Pest Control
-keeps the slugs away. As slugs move across a layer of ash, the ooze they put out combines with the ash to produce a caustic reaction. It'll cook em.

Soil pH and conditioning
if you have acid soil, ash increases the pH. Lots of nutrients in there, particularly potassium carbonate (potash). This is probably the best way to use up the big volume. Just a sprinkle is all you need. Spread it across your entire lawn.

Century Eggs
see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_egg

Metal Polish
Combine ash + water to make a paste. Works well on silver.

Skunk Treatment
The deodorizing properties of ash works in other areas than just a smelly compost heap. The next time you dog gets mixed up with a skunk, dust him with ash real good. It will rinse out, along with the stink.

Lye
This has at least 1 billion uses. Soap making, biodiesel making, oven cleaning.
See http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Lye


 
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Be aware that wood ash changes pH and causticity over time. Fresh from the fire, it has a pH and causticity similar to freshly kilned lime (CaO). Over time, as it reacts with atmospheric carbon dioxide and moisture, ash pH and causticity becomes more like natural limestone (CaCO3).

Thus to get the high caustic level needed for sanitizing, for cleaning stains, as a biocide, for making soap, for removing hair from fresh hides, for stump removal (ala Shrek), or for bulking/dehydrating/sanitizing feces (a method used in arid settings) you would use fairly fresh ash. To be used as a natural desiccant, again fresh is better.

Seasoned ash has uses different from freshly made ashes. To the ones already mentioned by others, I'll add that clean-source seasoned ash can make an acceptable substitution for baking soda, and will make an acceptable substitution for baking powder when mixed with an acid such as cream of tartar.
 
pollinator
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Return the micronutrients to the forest you harvested the wood from, spread it out as you enjoy a stroll in the bush. Compost it in limited quantities, you can have too much in compost and stop the proces. Remediate acid soils. Use as a de-icing agent, clean/polish just about anything metal or glass, control algae growth in ornamental ponds (DON'T dump in natural waterways!). It can also be used as a dehumidifying agent in small enclosed spaces as it is hydrophylic.
 
Annah Rachel
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mekennedy1313 McCoy wrote:Return the micronutrients to the forest you harvested the wood from, spread it out as you enjoy a stroll in the bush. Compost it in limited quantities, you can have too much in compost and stop the proces. Remediate acid soils. Use as a de-icing agent, clean/polish just about anything metal or glass, control algae growth in ornamental ponds (DON'T dump in natural waterways!). It can also be used as a dehumidifying agent in small enclosed spaces as it is hydrophylic.



Thanks! How do I use it as a de-icing agent?
 
Max Kennedy
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gossamermoonspider McCoy wrote:Thanks! How do I use it as a de-icing agent?



Just sprinkle it on walkways like salt. Like salt it looses effectiveness as it gets colder and isn't as quick acting.
 
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We use wood ash for:
Sweetening our soil (raising the pH - we have acidic soils)
Adding nutrients to the soil (wood ash is full of good stuff)
Promoting local warming (spread wood ash on the snow in the spring to melt the snow pack means almost a month earlier snow free fields)

Our problem is we don't generate enough wood ash since we are now only burning about 3/4 cord of wood a year in our new cottage. But I appreciate the not having to cut and split so much wood. Trade off.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
 
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May I ask what kind of plant matter produced your ash? And was it organic by any chance? Moreover, does anyone know how I can get hold of organic wheat stalks to burn?
 
Walter Jeffries
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Jane Lythgoe wrote:May I ask what kind of plant matter produced your ash? And was it organic by any chance? Moreover, does anyone know how I can get hold of organic wheat stalks to burn?



This is a good point. If you're using the ash for your gardens don't go burning weird stuff you don't want in your garden. In our case it is ash from burning Sugar Maple, Ash (a tree type), Ironwood, etc all from our own land - thus they're about as good and organic as is possible to get. This is just like your compost and septic, don't put things down the drain or in the pile you don't want in your gardens.
 
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Not sure if anyone said this yet but wood ash is a source of potassium for plants. Potassium is also a base mineral and that's why it can raise the pH. Beware if your soil is already too alkaline.
 
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Michael Brown and Jessica Muise wrote:Scott Kellogg, who spoke to our PDC class has an amazing book which has an example of a rocket stove insulated with wood ash. Very well written and covers a lot which most other books fail to include. Probably our favorite book so far... but yea, insulation!



My rocket stove is insulated with wood ash. Works fine and it's free. I'm saving some for soap now.
 
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Several years ago I did some experimenting using hard wood ash as a replacement for baking soda in baked goods. They turned out surprisingly well!

Control biscuit on left, experimental wood ash biscuits on right.

Biscuits broken open to see how they looked on the inside.

From left to right:
 #1: control batch used baking soda and vinegar.
 #2: replaced half the milk in the recipe with ash water.
 #3: replaced all of the milk in the recipe with ash water
 #4: used dry sifted wood ash at twice the amount of baking soda called for

The dry wood ash didn't get as much of a rise as the baking soda or ash water, but it still made decent biscuits. My unsuspecting husband was my taste tester. He thought they were all good!
 
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what kind of ratio, ash to water, was the ‘ash water,’ leigh?
 
Leigh Tate
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greg mosser wrote:what kind of ratio, ash to water, was the ‘ash water,’ leigh?


After a lot of experimenting, I ended up using a 1:1 ratio of sifted hardwood ashes to hot water. And of course, experimented with adjustments to the recipes.

I actually wrote a 3-part series of blog posts about these experiments, so if you're interested in more detail and photos, I'll pass on the link for part 1 here. Each part links to the next on my blog.

5 Acres & A Dream The Blog: "Baking With Wood Ash? (Part 1)"

 
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From what I’ve read, wood ash doesn’t go in the compost.
If your going to amend your soil, amend it, if your gonna compost, compost. Wood ash does not compost and because of this, does not belong in the compost.
To reference the humanure handbook Chapter 11, Page 10 (or page 134) there is a good section about Lime (also referencing wood ash).
Here he mentions when composting you add what the microbes need/want, not what your soil wants/needs.
He also mentions by adding lime (or wood ash as it would change the PH in the same manor) would hinder the bacteria and thus slow your composting down or stop it all together if you added too much.
 
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I just spread it on top of the garden and rake it in before planting seeds.  It seems to reduce pests.

Or I leave it in a pile for the wildlife and chickens to lick.  I don't know why but the humming birds love it!
 
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