I recommend NOT using the wood ash in hugelkultur, because they quickly raise a lot the pH, and make soil conditions harsh for growing most plants. When wood ash is used as a fertilizer it is used in small amounts, not to change much the pH of soil. Better to scatter those ashes around the garden, in a very diluted way, rather than concentrating them in a hugel bed. But I am no expert on this. I know from chemistry that ashes do contain strong alkalis, besides being a source of mineral potassium (the alkali is a potassium salt).
On using dead leaves, I don´t see any problem and I think it will be actually great for both drainage, keeping a good soil structure, keeping moisture and increasing soil fertility and soil life. I use them a lot in raised beds and even when doing indoors containers, I mix some dead leaves with garden soil.
in Portugal, sheltered terraces facing eastwards, high water table, uphill original forest of pines, oaks and chestnuts. 2000m2
in Iceland: converted flat lawn, compacted poor soil, cold, windy, humid climate, cold, short summer. 50m2
Thanks Paulo, will leave woodash out of bed. I normally put a bit of woodash round blackcurrant bushes supposed to be good I hear. Probs is i have loads of ash & found its not very good in large amounts in my compost heap is there anything to be done with it in large amounts I wonder.
I use wood ash in my chicken coop to help with manure management. I use the deep litter method, but still get piles underneath their night time perches. When I go in there and clean up, I follow with a layer of wood ash, which helps with odors in the summertime. My understanding is that chicken manure is pretty acidic. A pan of pure fine sifted wood ash can be a nice dust bath for chickens as well.
I used wood ash on my raised bed/hugelkultur in addition to lots of hot sheep manure and some semi-composted chicken manure. My garden grew like gang busters. It was so lush. I would say we used 6-8 inches of manure to 1/2 inch wood ash. Here are pictures if you want to scroll through them to see the garden grow:
Half an inch seems to be a lot. Woodash contains mostly pottasium (Kali).
Julie, I just had a look at your pictures and you were using cinder blocks. How did you do with them? Must the ground be very even and did you mortar them together?
How expensive are they?
Angelika, we did make sure the ground was pretty flat for the cinder blocks to lay flat. We used no mortar. There is a rebar down each corner though to help with stability. We recycled used blocks we picked up here and there and then finished off with purchasing the remainder new for about $1.20 each.
After our first season, the level of the dirt sank by almost a full block. Since we used mostly branches, not so much trunks, it continued to compact over the season. I wish we had had more trunks/stumps to use. But produce-wise this was the most successful garden I have ever grown.
This style may not be appropriate for everyone, but I have a very bad back and getting onto the ground to garden is nearly impossible for me. The design of this was so that I could sit on the edge or on a chair to garden.
It looks very neat. I have to calculate how many I would need for a bed, but maybe I go with old roof sheets + starposts. One reason is that the starposts can be longer and I can fix netting and strings for climbing beans.
Where soils are overly acid, wood ash is a beneficial component to raise soil pH. Too much of it in any one place, like too much of anything else, isn't always so good. I don't see why this couldn't be part of hugelkultur, but probably there are better applications, depending on your situation.
I have been spreading mine around the hog pasture while the hogs are in it. They gobble up any unburned charcoal like popcorn, and work the ash into the soil. Other than that, I have always used wood ash as a LIGHTLY applied layer in compost piles, and for top dressing around newly emerged seedlings of root crops. Ash helps repel root maggots.
I have a lot of wood ash as we heat with wood, we sprinkle it lightly over the lawn, beds and around fruit tree and shrubs..but you do not want to put it heavily anywhere..we tend to toss it out on top of the snow in the winter as that is when it is available..although it doesn't provide nutrients as well doing it this way we don't have to store a lot of it..we also put some that was stored in our high acid soil woods in the past and it was spread on the pathways..they grow more grass that way and are softer on the feet
never allow it to pile up or use too heavily
Bloom where you are planted.