Reusing Wood Ash in the Garden for Pests, Nutrients and Compost
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Reusing Wood Ash in the Garden for Pests, Nutrients and Compost

Ash from fires has been used for millennia to improve soil. It can be beneficial to compost, plant beds and lawns if used smartly and in the right measure. Ash contains elements, particularly carbon, that are essential to plant life, and also acts as a pest repellent. The idea to keep in mind, as always with soil treatment, is not to overdo it. A fine layer of ash in plant beds will repel pests and add carbon to the soil, and adding ash to the correct mixture of compost balances the PH, fostering microorganism growth.

Lots of people have fireplaces or firepits in their homes or living complexes, and having a campfire or barbecue is an essentially human experience. Rather than throw all of the leftover ash in the garbage after letting it cool, we can reuse the powdered ash to the benefit of soil and the plants that grow in it.

When a piece of wood burns until it is just a black piece of ash, that is the leftover carbon. Carbon is an element; it cannot be destroyed. Other elements that the reader may recognize as essential substances for healthy life forms are calcium, potassium and magnesium. Life on Earth is carbon-based. Therefore, it's good to add carbon to our plants and compost. A little ash mixed in with compost as an experiment definitely boosted this writer's compost. This is because ash balances the PH in the compost and allows microorganisms to work best. We also may think on several kinds of forests, whose ecology benefits from periodic wildfires. In fact, many trees' cones won't naturally open and release seeds until they are burned.

We've been using ash for compost for a long time. In fact, potash, a popular fertilizer, began as a simple special ash mix before industrial technology produced easier ways to make the mixture.

As with any garden treatment, the trick to using ash is not to overdo it. A little layer will do in the folds of compost that includes green and brown material. One should also use just a thin layer on lawns, flower beds and so forth. As professed by Dan Sullivan of Oregon State University, ash should not be used on seedlings because there's too much salt. However, that's an advantage in mature plant beds because the ash will draw moisture from pests like snails. Finally, not much ash, if any, is necessary in acid soils like those found in semiarid climates.

We should also be careful about what ash we use. Burning treated wood is extremely unhealthy for the lungs, and ash from treated wood and cardboard may contain tailings of harmful chemicals that don't need to go into our soil or plants that we intend to eat. One may also want to be wary about using charcoal tailings from barbecuing, however a recent investigation indicates that no harmful petroleum products are found in common charcoal brands.

Additional Sources:

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/wood-ash-can-be-useful-yard-if-used-caution

http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/use-ash-compost-3144.html

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