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Adding Ashes in Composting: good idea or bad?

 
Indrek Pringi
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My question is:  Does adding ashes from a  fireplace to your compost harm or help a compost pile?
I have a wood stove up north and I've been throwing the ashes from it on top of my compost pile of leaves and kitchen scraps.... which is pretty big.
Is this a good idea or not?  I look at the pile of leaves and at the pile of ashes on top of the leaves and I worry that I'm adding too much ashes.
 
John Polk
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Ashes are quite alkaline, so the answer would depend on the pH of the soil you are adding the compost to.
If you have acidic soils, the ashes will make it more alkaline.

See attachment for a general rule of thumb about adding ashes to your soil:

ASHES-and-pH.PNG
[Thumbnail for ASHES-and-pH.PNG]
 
Indrek Pringi
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Ah!  Thanks!
6.5 - 6.0 okay....
7.0 or more not okay...
Good... now all I have to do is get a soil test kit and find out what the PH of the soil is.
 
Indrek Pringi
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Oh I forgot... what's the best PH for soil to work for?  Also If the PH is too much one way or the other, what remedies can fix it?

I'm planting wildflowers next Spring all over.
It's an acre of cleared land in the middle of a forest in the Quebec laurentiens with all kinds of plants already there.  I don't want a lawn, but more grass seeds should help the flowers grow.  Am I right?
 
John Polk
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what's the best PH for soil to work for?

There is no "ideal" pH.

Every region has their 'typical' soils, as well as some that have crept away from the normal by a variety of factors.
In the NE US, soils are acidic, and alkaline in much of the west.  Old soils are more acidic than young soils.

To a certain degree, you are pretty much limited by your soil's regular pH.
You can alter it, up or down to a certain degree.  These changes are more or less temporary, as the soil will want to work back to where it was before it was tampered with.  You can alter it +/- 0.3-0.4 each year.  Anything greater than this and you will begin destroying the Soil Food Web (SFW), and throwing everything out of balance.

Perhaps the best approach is to determine which plants thrive in/around your native pH range, and concentrate on building around those plants.  There will certainly be crops you desire that don't do well in your existing soil.  For those, I would suggest building raised beds, and jockeying the soil to your heart's content.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Here is something I posted to a similar question last year: 

"I disagree with adding a lot of wood ash to the compost heap. This will not be good for composting. Compost will almost always be more alkaline than your acidic soil, unless it is wood chip based compost, and does not need alkalizing by a bulk addition of wood ash. Wood ash is very caustic when water is added (this is how lye is made), and it will kill bacteria in your compost, and will do the same if added in concentrated amounts in your soil. I wouldn't add any to your compost at all.

It is better-Much Better-to add a dusting of wood ash on beds where plants that favor alkalinity, like beans, are going to be planted. Beans like a dusting near them for germinating. If wood ash is dusted out into your garden in a very fine way, then you are adding it as a trace mineral supplement in many tiny doses rather than as a bulk thing that would burn your plants and larger bacterial communities. The trace minerals and alkalizing of the wood ash can be a very positive amendment, but it must, like most concentrated fertilizers, be used in calculated moderation, if used at all. Compost, on the other hand, can be used pretty liberally, because it boosts the fertility through organic soil matter and microbial and fungal communities, in a much milder way. These organic substances and communities function in multifaceted symbiotic and synergistic ways to boost fertility.

I have a friend who adds a dusting of wood ash in his potting mix which has many ingredients, including peat which is acidic.

Certain crops, like potatoes, prefer an acid soil, or they will get scab on them. Scab exists in all soils but thrives in an alkaline soil.

Other crops and animals will promote alkalinity. If I'm not mistaken, legumes will help alkalize soil. Earthworms will alkalize any material that passes through them."

This quote and rest of the discussion can be found HERE
 
Indrek Pringi
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Thanks for all the info!
I'm just starting to learn about this stuff.
No more ashes on the compost heap.
 
S Tonin
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What about letting the ashes leach for a period before composting?  Or does that get rid of all the potassium and make them just a grey pile of uselessness?
 
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