It’s the time of year that many of us in cold areas are using wood-burning fireplaces. Nothing compares to heat from wood, but you’re left with all that ash. Now what do you do with it? There are plenty of ways to make use of the ash that builds up over the winter. Keep in mind, this article refers to wood ash only, not ash from coal, charcoal, fake logs, cardboard, or pressure-treated, painted, or stained wood.
- Avoid using ash on green foliage, especially seedlings, as it can chemically burn them.
- Don’t use wood near acid loving plants like azaleas, blueberries, rhododendrons, marigolds, mountain laurel, mums, oak, pecan, and potato plants, which can increase the chance of scab disease.
- If used in compost piles, use care so the ash does not become too concentrated.
- Before you go scattering the ash about, get a soil test done so you know whether it will be beneficial or not. Don’t add any ash if your yard or garden soil has a pH of 7 or higher.
USES FOR WOOD ASH
- Pest Control. Spread ash around garden beds to repel snails, slugs, cutworms, and other soft-bodied insects.
- Ice Melt and Traction. Use ash instead of commercial salt to melt ice and gain traction without hurting the soil or concrete underneath.
- Fertilize Tomatoes. Ash works great for plants that love calcium, particularly tomato plants. Place 1/4 cup in the bottom of the hole when planting.
- Fertilize Grass. Depending on the pH of your soil, your yard could use 20 pounds of ashes (approximately one 5-gallon bucket) per 1,000 square feet per year.
- Fertilize Hardwood Trees. Spread ash around the base of hardwood trees, particularly apple trees.
- Make Homemade Soap. Soaking ash in water makes lye, which is then used to make homemade soap like people used to on a regular basis.
- De-oderize Pets. A handful of ash rubbed on an animal’s fur helps neutralize odors.
- Clean Fireplace Glass. A damp sponge dipped in ash helps scrub the soot away.
- Clean Metal. A paste of ash and water works well to polish metal.
- Clean Off Sticky Residue. A paste of ash and water helps remove residue left from labels on jars, parking stickers, and bumper stickers from car windows.
- Stain Removal/Prevention. Sprinkle ash on oil and grease spills, rub in with a cloth, and sweep up residue, if needed. Repeat as necessary. This also works for wet paint splatters on concrete; ash sprinkled over and rubbed into the splatters will blend in with the concrete.
- Remove Water/Heat Rings. Note: I have not actually tested this, so use caution. Similar to the trick of using toothpaste to remove heat or water rings from furniture, a paste of ash and water can be used as well.
- Control Algae. One tablespoon per 1,000 gallons of water adds enough potassium to strengthen other plants, slowing the growth of algae.
- Repel Bugs. Sprinkle ash in chicken nesting boxes and make them available to birds in order to help prevent mites.
- Enrich Compost. You can help enhance nutrients in your compost by sprinkling in a few ashes. Be careful not to add too much, as this can ruin the mix.