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Is coal ash and half burnt coal safe in my soil?  RSS feed

 
Dave Silver
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Hello this is my first ever forum post so please go easy on me. My wife and I recently bought an older house in the south with a big yard. I have dreams of putting in a permaculture system and really want to have fruit trees. The other day I was digging to plant a fig tree and about six inches down I hit a layer of what looks to be half burnt coal. I stopped and planted the tree into a larger pot for now. The house was built in the late 1800s and originally had coal fireplaces. I assume years of ash is most likely all over the back yard. Is this safe. What should I do? Is it safe to compost materials from the surrounding trees and plants? Any help would be great.

Thank you for your time.
Dave
 
Travis Johnson
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There is a saying, "It is just a guess unless you test." In this case that is true.

I burn a lot of coal (I actually prefer it over firewood), but there is nothing good in it unlike ash from burning wood. Depending on whether lignite, soft coal, or anthracite coal was burned, and where it was mined, and what that particular mine had for heavy metals, it could be problematic. But that does not mean that is what the ash is from. If the previous homeowners burned firewood it could be wood ash which would be beneficial too you.

For us coal burners, whether spreading coal ash on a garden does good things or bad is a huge debate. I am firmly entrenched in the camp that it is not, and dispose of it in a separate area.

I would get a soil test so you know. Just because the home had coal stoves in it 150 years ago does not necessarily mean you have a fly ash dump in your backyard though. Either way a $12 soil test will tell you everything you need to know.
 
Dave Silver
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Thanks Travis, I will get the tests done ASAP.
 
dirk maes
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To my knowledge coal ash contains a lot of heavy metals witch is toxic to plant and people.
 
Dave Silver
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Attached is a photo of the ash.
Screen-Shot-2017-02-07-at-4.49.44-PM.png
[Thumbnail for Screen-Shot-2017-02-07-at-4.49.44-PM.png]
Ash
 
Travis Johnson
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Thanks for the picture as that is coal ash. Best to test and see what you have in your soil, but it is considered non-toxic under the EPA guidelines so it won't ruin any organic certification you have.
 
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