Ashes in the garden

Stelcom66

Feeling the Heat
Nov 6, 2014
378
Connecticut
My late neighbor who had a wood stove (split wood into his 90s, passed away at age 98) always had the greatest vegetable gardens. He used to spread ashes from the wood stove into the garden soil. I wonder if anyone else does that and is it effective? I have a small pile that I may spread into the garden before planting anything - which be this weekend.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,302
Northern NH
I add them to my garden. The carbon is burned out so its not a substitute for compost but its does put minerals back into the soil. It also acts to make the soil less acidic whihc in New England is a long running battle.
 

Stelcom66

Feeling the Heat
Nov 6, 2014
378
Connecticut
I'm in New England too. Did some research, I read ideally it's best to let the ashes compost for a while.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
82,714
South Puget Sound, WA
Ashes with little chunks of charcoal work great in the garden. Just don't overdo it. I usually add it in January. Lilacs and lavender like it too, but don't put around acid soil plants like rhododendrons and blueberries.
 

Stelcom66

Feeling the Heat
Nov 6, 2014
378
Connecticut
Ok good to know. I do have a few charcoal chunks. I think it's finally safe to plant unlike during the week when we may have hit 32 degrees one night.
 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
3,814
NE PA
Yes, wood ash is like lime. It is Potash. It can be used to correct ph of soil if too acidic. Use it on your lawn where you see moss. Keep it away from acid loving plants.

It promotes flowering and reproduction.

Greens in compost are nitrogen that grows green. (keep it away from fruit trees or you will have a big green tree with less fruit, same as onions or carrots, you want those to grow root, not big plants above ground) Browns in compost (phosphates) grow roots, (good for root plants for underground vegetables). So when making compost add both browns and greens together and keep moist to chemically break down. All the rest of kitchen scraps such as banana peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells..... all go in the compost. Add a little ash, like a shovel full to a small pile that would fit in a wheelbarrow. (I use it heavy due to acidic soil from too many oak leaves) Keep in shade, so it doesn't dry out, or cover, turning regularly.
If you grow beans or cucumbers and they stop flowering, mix or rake in some wood ash around the plants and they will flower to reproduce giving you a second crop.
The second crop from the same plant is not as good as the first. They mature faster, grow larger and I find it better to tear up the first planting and seed the second for the best veggies. I can do that 3 times with bush type green beans here per season in NE PA in the same plot.
 
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Corey

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
2,466
Midwest
Really depends on what your soil is like and what plants you're growing. If you already have alkaline soil and/or acid soil loving plants, it doesn't do much good. You could leach the lye out and make soap, though.
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
4,900
07462
What ever you make sure that your not spreading any ash that was once walnut wood, walnut ash will stunt your plants, neighbor made that mistake a few years ago.
 

paulnlee

Feeling the Heat
Dec 2, 2018
310
Flemington, NJ
What ever you make sure that your not spreading any ash that was once walnut wood, walnut ash will stunt your plants, neighbor made that mistake a few years ago.
So true. A long time ago, 40-50 years(Lipitor is not your friend) after wife's auntnuncle died in Mo. we brought back a sack of walnuts. Now thanks to the squirrels I have walnut trees all over the place and wife wants them down. I laugh when I bring in wood and between them all are empty walnuts
 

Stelcom66

Feeling the Heat
Nov 6, 2014
378
Connecticut
Good information here - thanks. Before planting spread some ashes into the garden. Went to a 'Big Box' store over the weekend for plants.
Was disappointed they didn't have full size cucumber starter plants, just the pickling variety, so I bought those.

Today went to the local nursery, which is huge. They had the cucumbers I was looking for and a great variety of other plants. I don't think they were even more expensive than the chain store. Should have gone there first. The grocery store always had an Ok variety of vegetable starter plants. This year, probably due to the pandemic - just flowers and other plants.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,812
SW Virginia
I don't believe that that the ash of burnt walnut contains juglone, the chemical in Walnut that interferes with plant growth.
There are numerous references to it breaking down in the soil over time that would mean its mineralized (e.g ash) form is non-toxic.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,812
SW Virginia
I use natural wood ash in my garden and compost piles.
I would avoid using ash from any newsprint or magazines printed with colored inks as they may contain heavy metals like cadmium, lead, etc.
 

Stelcom66

Feeling the Heat
Nov 6, 2014
378
Connecticut
I use natural wood ash in my garden and compost piles.
I would avoid using ash from any newsprint or magazines printed with colored inks as they may contain heavy metals like cadmium, lead, etc.
That just got me thinking - I do use newspaper to start fires. I tend to recycle pages with a lot of ink such as ads or colored photos - always recycle the glossier paper such as coupons and magazines, never burn those. But yes, with in that ash is newsprint. Hopefully since it's burnt big time and broken down it's not harmful.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
82,714
South Puget Sound, WA
I use natural wood ash in my garden and compost piles.
I would avoid using ash from any newsprint or magazines printed with colored inks as they may contain heavy metals like cadmium, lead, etc..
Heavy metals were phased out a while ago. Now there are only a few metals used like iron oxide for some reds.
The minimal quantity of anything harmful in the ash from using newpaper to start a fire seems to be almost nil.

 
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Stelcom66

Feeling the Heat
Nov 6, 2014
378
Connecticut
Heavy metals were phased out a while ago. Now there are only a few metals used like iron oxide for some reds.
The minimal quantity of anything harmful in the ash from using newpaper to start a fire seems to be almost nil.
I feel better about that then.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,302
Northern NH
The issue with using coated paper is that at best only 50% of the paper is actually cellulose, the rest is clay and titanium dioxide which are inert minerals. The clay and titanium can "tighten up" the soil. Ideally the purpose of compost opens up the soil.
 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
3,814
NE PA
Good information here - thanks. Before planting spread some ashes into the garden. Went to a 'Big Box' store over the weekend for plants.
Was disappointed they didn't have full size cucumber starter plants, just the pickling variety, so I bought those.

Today went to the local nursery, which is huge. They had the cucumbers I was looking for and a great variety of other plants. I don't think they were even more expensive than the chain store. Should have gone there first. The grocery store always had an Ok variety of vegetable starter plants. This year, probably due to the pandemic - just flowers and other plants.
You should try cucumbers from seed. They grow fast, so growing season is not an issue. I plant along a wire fence so they go up it, and don't weed around them. They grow best wrapping around weeds and grow so many cukes we only have to plant them every few years. We can all varieties of pickles. The only started plants we buy are tomato and onion sets. Everything else from seed with no issues.
 

Stelcom66

Feeling the Heat
Nov 6, 2014
378
Connecticut
Yea I really should try cucumbers from seed. My daughter in law does, with good results. I think they're started in the house. For a change then, I'll leave weeds alone in the case of cucumbers.

Where I live traditionally everyone puts plants in the garden this weekend. I did last weekend - finally was safe. Still, it went into the upper 30s one night since. It's been a cool spring.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,302
Northern NH
I live up in northern NH and grew up in Maine, I always hand planted cucumber seeds as they are usually a late season crop. The only seedlings I buy or start from seed indoors is tomatoes and peppers as they need warm soil to get a start. With the change in climate a lot of folks are pushing the limits on growing zones and growing things like melons that need the boost that starting indoors and high tunnels will give.
 

DBoon

Minister of Fire
Jan 14, 2009
1,175
Central NY
Use no more than about 5-8 lbs. of wood ashes per 100 square feet unless you are trying to correct an acidity problem.

In the last few years I've taken to producing an overabundance of charcoal in my wood stove in the spring and fall. I separate the charcoal from my ashes and use about a 30-55 gallon drum of charcoal to mix in with soil, composted leaves and manure in the 32" W x 12" deep x 28 foot long garden trenches I dig each spring (thankfully, only 2-3 more years of digging these trenches). Read up on biochar for reasons why I do this. The biochar is good for mycorrhiza growth underground and stores minerals as well.

I use the same basic soil sifter I built to separate rocks from my soil to separate charcoal from ashes.

It's a lot of work. But my garden is about 30-40% rocks in places, and this is about the only way to grow good root vegetables, and everything else seems to benefit from the improved soil as well.

The rocks have made a pretty nice 50' driveway addition over the last few years. When I'm done sifting rocks (i.e. garden complete) I'll have to buy them again on the open market, which just won't feel right given how many I have sitting 3" below the ground.
 

Stelcom66

Feeling the Heat
Nov 6, 2014
378
Connecticut
peakbagger you're north of me so I guess if you can grow from seed in the garden I should be able too also here in Conn. I always have planted lettuce and green beans from seed with success. I do need to try others like cucumber.

I'll research biochar. I also like recycling/reusing whenever possible. 32" x 28' - a nice big garden.
 

Montanalocal

Feeling the Heat
Dec 22, 2014
377
Helena MT
onions or carrots, you want those to grow root, not big plants above ground)
When it comes to onions, you actually want as much top growth as possible. Each onion leaf contributes to making one ring of the onion, so the more leaves, the bigger the onion. They also are one of the most heavy users of nitrogen in the garden, and they should be fertilized several times during the growing season, usually with ammonium sulfate, as they are also a very large user of sulfur, which is used to make the pungent smell and taste of onions.

 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
3,814
NE PA
S
When it comes to onions, you actually want as much top growth as possible. Each onion leaf contributes to making one ring of the onion, so the more leaves, the bigger the onion. They also are one of the most heavy users of nitrogen in the garden, and they should be fertilized several times during the growing season, usually with ammonium sulfate, as they are also a very large user of sulfur, which is used to make the pungent smell and taste of onions.

So that's why my onions only double in size from the tiny sets I plant ! What makes them grow double tops? Many of mine split. When they fall over in the Fall I pick them. Never really big table onions.
 

Montanalocal

Feeling the Heat
Dec 22, 2014
377
Helena MT
Well one thing that will contribute to poor onions is planting the wrong kind to begin with. Planting sets, the small miniature bulbs you see offered in local garden shops in net bags, is not a good way to plant onions. They do not grow near as well, nor do they keep as well, as transplants. Transplants look like miniature green onions. They are grown from seed far to the South in southern Texas, they come in bundles of about 50, and they have never gone into dormancy. See the picture below. The best way to get them is through mail order, I get mine from https://www.dixondalefarms.com/category/onion_plants

The other thing to make sure of is to get the right day-length onions for your area. Bulbing is determined by day length, and is different for the North, middle, or South of the country. Different varieties have different day lengths. Dixondale will explain that on their site. It is too late to order from them for this year, but you may find some elsewhere for this year.

sweet-onion6.jpg