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Old ash from a wood stove

 
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I have a large pile of wood ash from a wood stove that has been put in a pit and has been sitting for several years. What can I do with this? Can I spread this around in my gardens and trees without any worry? Do I need to do something to it? I live where the annual precipitation is about 18 inches per year. I would like to utilize this resources if it does not cause any problems.
 
pollinator
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Ash is quite alkaline, so if you have alkaline soils you would need to take care.

Around here soils are generally quite acidic, and ash is a safe additive. Generally saved for those trees and plants that most require a more alkaline PH.

 
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Location: western Central Texas Zone 8a/8b
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Here in Central Texas the soil is acidic also, so all the ash from the fireplace that I've been saving is useless!  I suppose I could make soap with it...
 
gardener
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Charlotte Boord wrote:Here in Central Texas the soil is acidic also, so all the ash from the fireplace that I've been saving is useless!  I suppose I could make soap with it...



I'm confused Charlotte, if your soil is acidic then ash should be of help since it is basic, adding ash to acidic soil usually brings the pH up.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
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Charlotte Boord wrote:Here in Central Texas the soil is acidic also, so all the ash from the fireplace that I've been saving is useless!  I suppose I could make soap with it...



In this part of CenTex, I have an issue with soil & water being too alkaline (I live in Limestone county, which should have been my first clue when my azalea & gardenias refused to grow ). Still, I usually scatter any wood ash in the fields, just because it makes no sense for me to throw it away. Since its just a small amount over a big area, it hasn't had any visible negative effects on the things growing in that area.
 
pollinator
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We have quite a bit of moss growing in the yard, which I've been told is an indication that the soil is too acidic.  Would scattering ash be effective in raising the pH of the soil, or would I need so much that it's not practical?  

We're putting in a wood stove so a good use for the ash will be a good thing to work out.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hardwood ash will indeed help with bringing acidic soil up closer to 7.0 pH and if you continue to make additions of such ash the pH can be expected to move up (towards basic) by as much as 0.5 per addition, this is of course dependent upon how thick each coating of ash is.
(1.0" of hickory ash, spread and wetted,  will move the pH about 0.09 on a good pH meter (probe type meter)). This will generally last for half a season, but if you continue to make 1 inch additions over two years, the pH tends to stabilize in stoney sandy loam over red clay.

I recommend you get at least some good quality litmus papers or a fair quality stick type pH meter and a buffer solution along with a calibration solution so you can be sure you are getting as accurate a measurement as possible.

Redhawk
 
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Hardwood ash will indeed help with bringing acidic soil up closer to 7.0 pH and if you continue to make additions of such ash the pH can be expected to move up (towards basic) by as much as 0.5 per addition, this is of course dependent upon how thick each coating of ash is.
(1.0" of hickory ash, spread and wetted,  will move the pH about 0.09 on a good pH meter (probe type meter)). This will generally last for half a season, but if you continue to make 1 inch additions over two years, the pH tends to stabilize in stoney sandy loam over red clay.

I recommend you get at least some good quality litmus papers or a fair quality stick type pH meter and a buffer solution along with a calibration solution so you can be sure you are getting as accurate a measurement as possible.

Redhawk



Dr. RedHawk, I was told to never use ash in high amounts 2 consecutive years as a pH amendment because of the risk of salts in the ash. I was told that using ash from hardwood (wood stove ash) may contain elevated amounts of salt so to instead use ash one year and then for 2-3 years use dolomitic limestone. Dolomite Limestone has calcium (Ca) as well as magnesium (Mg) which work together and usually if low in (Ca) you also need (Mg). For me this allows me to get enough ash as I put it over 3-5 acres and by only using it on my fields every 4th year allows me to gather it in larger amounts. I also make biochar and use wood to make and as fuel in the making of it (biochar) so I have a few tons ready when its time to spread it again. This also adds a diversity of nutrients as using just limestone, or only cottonseed meal for (N) would reduce diversity in the soil. So I switch both my calcium and nitrogen sources yearly, along with my other macro and micro-nutrients, as this adds other micro-nutrients to make a divers soil.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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When the soil is already filled with microorganisms, salts can be less of a problem than if you are going on the assumption of land needing fertilizers to become fertile.
The sad facts are that almost all of the information currently available is slanted towards those who practice "modern farming methods" which are touted by every large scale agricultural chemical company.
That doesn't make their ideas or models correct when dealing with solid, biome rich soils instead of dirt.
Those same people will tell you that using sea minerals will make soils far to salty for plants to grow, but then you look at those who use sea minerals and see that their fields are not affected the way predicted by the Monsanto's of the world but instead they are producing flavonoid rich produce.
Unless you are tilling the ground to death then adding false nutrients (fertilizers of the chemical varieties), two inches of ash over a two year period is not going to have detrimental effects, the soil biology will use those micronutrients and convert many elements into compounds both for their use as fuel and for plants to use as well.

This is why most of the university knowledge is being found to be not so accurate by those working in the fields, the universities are still teaching for the currently accepted by the farmers methods of till many times, add artificial nutrients as fertilizer and then spray all the pests and diseases that those false nutrients beacon to come and eat the plants. Good soil, with the wide array of microorganisms and macro organisms soil should have, will almost negate the threats of insect damage and disease as well as curbing the growth of many volunteer plants (weeds).

The key to good agricultural practices is to make sure you have 1. good microbiome rich in organisms, 2. as many minerals as possible (97 are known to be great for soils), 3. organic matter in the soil, provided by mulching, one time tillage of cover crops, great diversity of plants used as cover crops and where possible animals passed through for the trample, manure, grazing effects which make for a more diverse biosphere in the soil. When these objectives are met, it becomes less a factor when you make any adjustments since those adjustments will undergo transformations via the microbiome at work.

Redhawk
 
C Rogers
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Thanks Dr RedHawk, I have seen that many times like you said that the schools and large chemical companies do say things way different than true organic practices. One example is pH. Many will say this plant or that plant needs a pH of 6-7 for best growth when using chemical fertilizers but when organic many plants can actually still grow to max potential in a lower pH of 5-6. I also wondered about using sea weed and kelp as I wondered how the salts would react. I'm glad to hear that when the soil is correct it can handle these additions fine. For my farm though I'll still be doing the ash every other to every 3rd year still BUT now NOT because of the salts, but still so I can gather enough to cover my 4 acres of garden space.
 
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