• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

coal ash poisoning

 
leanna jones
Posts: 38
Location: Pennines, northern England, zone 7b, avg annual rainfall 50"
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hello,

i thought i was putting wood ash on my garlic patch, but a housemate had used some coal on the fire without my knowledge! different areas of the garlic patch displayed different weird deformities- from shrinking, withering stem (but normal cloves) to each clove sending up a spiral shoot bursting out of the main stem :/

1) i don't want to eat the garlic, but my friend does. i'm worried that toxins could be concentrated in the garlic, she thinks it's fine. anyone else have an opinion? i'm definitely not going to eat it, i just wonder whether i should insist she doesn't either!

2) how long til we can grow something else in the soil? it wasn't a thick layer of ash, just a heavy sprinkling. we thought of putting green manure on it for a season. i guess this would give us a chance to see if the manure plants also become deformed.

thanks for any ideas
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2351
77
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What makes wood ash different from coal ash is the amount of metals that can be found in coal ash. How do those metals get there? A tree, when it is growing, pulls what elements it needs from the soil, so unless it is on soil unusually rich in certain minerals, will not pull lots of metals up into the tissues. But coal is made from vegetation that fell into the swamp, got mixed with clay and other minerals, and the pores of the vegetation, while it was decomposing, were able to absorb metals in the soil.

Coal can be up to 10% "ash" which includes the clay minerals that were in the coal, while the ash left after burning wood is usually much less than 10%.

So what you need to do to fix your garden is to bind up those metals that are causing the veggies some growth irregularities. This is what is known as "chelation". Chelates are molecules that will bind with metals and in the case of needed metals, release them slowly as the plant absorbs them. One of the best chelating agents is urea, with its two ammonia groups. I would recommend using diluted urine as fertilizer in your garden, say 1 part in 8 to 10 parts water. Regular watering with this free and easy source of urea will bind up metals and metal oxides that were in the coal ash, and reduce their availability to the point that if the plant needs it, it can still get it, but is not swimming in it.

And next time, mix the ashes with some urine beforehand and you will likely avert this problem.
 
leanna jones
Posts: 38
Location: Pennines, northern England, zone 7b, avg annual rainfall 50"
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
great! well that's a simple solution! thanks for the info
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
13
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lol, only on a Permie board would, 'throw some pee at it' be such a readily accepted answer.

Sorry, my immaturity reveals itself.
 
Josef Theisen
Posts: 236
Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
leanna jones wrote: to each clove sending up a spiral shoot bursting out of the main stem :/


I may be off base here, but what you are describing sounds to me like a garlic scape. If you are growing a hardneck variety garlic, it is totally normal for it to grow a scape, which comes up on a single stalk then curls in a loop before forming a flower on the end. Scapes harvested before they turn into flowers are wonderful to cook with and make for a fantastic fresh garlicky pesto. Removing them also helps redirect the plants energy into bulb production instead of flower/seed production.

Also, don't forget the most important rule in the universe....


DON'T PANIC.


Garlic Scape
 
leanna jones
Posts: 38
Location: Pennines, northern England, zone 7b, avg annual rainfall 50"
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hi, thanks for trying to reassure me, but these were not scapes. we had already eaten those when this happened. i wish i could post a photo, but basically halfway up the stem burst open, and lots of thin green shoots burst out, in much tighter spirals than a scape (and much thinner shoots, and no flower bud). when we dug up the garlic we found that each clove had sent up one of these spirals. it was quite pretty - but also disturbing, especially combined with the withering and shrinking of other patches. *maybe* it is a coincidence - but given that coal ash is toxic, i don't think so...

happy to pee on the area for a year and then see if garlic still reacts the same way!
 
Josef Theisen
Posts: 236
Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hmmm... that does sound strange. I guess it's better to err on the side of caution and try the pee.
 
Mike Gaughan
Posts: 26
Location: Central CT, Zone 6
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I doubt that a small amount of coal ash would have any significant effects on the garlic. Case in point...here in New England, factories produced coal ash for 150 years or more and used it as fill material in urban areas. The trees and grass grow just fine. That said, I wouldn't use urban fill as garden soil because of the presence of heavy metals (which can include mercury and cadmium), but it sounds like you're talking about a small amount of ash from a few fires in a heater. If you're really concerned, find a local environmental laboratory to analyze a soil sample for heavy metals, and ask if your government has environmental clean-up criteria for contaminated soil against which you can compare the results. For example, in Connecticut where I live, the state has determined that concentrations of mercury in soil at greater than 10 parts per million can pose a risk via direct exposure (i.e. dermal contact or ingestion). I do contaminated site cleanup as a profession so I have quite a bit of background with this topic. On another note, and not to discredit any of the other posters on this thread, but applying urine to stabilize metals is a dubious technique at best.
 
This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. Now it's a tiny ad:

the permaculture playing cards
richsoil.com/cards


  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!