Wood Ash Makes Great Fertilizer for Your Garden
This spring there may be nothing nicer than layering up, putting on warm woolly socks, insulated boots and maybe a blanket for when it gets really cold, and then sitting outside socially distant with family or friends around open fires and enjoying the outdoors.
Even the ash produced from the fire has value. Wood ash is a source of potash or potassium and is an invaluable fertilizer for your garden. Potassium is a macronutrient which means that plants, during their growing cycle, use a lot of it. Many macro nutrients aid photosynthesis and the uptake of water and nutrients all of which is essential to a healthy garden / yard.
Since the ash is water-soluble, all you need to do is lay a thin dusting on the ground and the rain will do the rest. If you have garlic or onions starting to come up, layer the potassium between the plants. Cultivated alliums and cabbages are also hungry and would do well from this addition. Otherwise store the ash until spring and your apples, currents, gooseberries and alike will thank you for it. Just spread it around the base of the plants in their growing season.
Additionally, wood ash can be added to your compost heap to buffer against the low pH of compost and to add important minerals to the organic matter. Remember to only burn organic matter such as logs, anything else will poison your plants. Never burn plastics or treated wood as the chemicals can become toxic to the air and soil.
A similar trick to help the world around us return to more natural cycles is to mulch your leaves into your yard. Rather than raking, blowing, bagging and hauling leaves away, simply grind them with a lawn mower and let them be. They will provide cover for the insects and microbiology needed for a healthy rich soil that strengthens your grass. Leaves are nature’s way of adding organics to soil. We are so used to removing them and then adding fertilizer that we sometime forget that nature has already provided the pathway to growth.
Don’t let the leaves just lay flat and pile up over the grass, you will need to mulch them with the mower so that they break down faster and work their way down below the grass blades over a few weeks’ time. Excess mulch and whole leaves can be used around the base of shrubs to provide protection against frost and enrich the soils. So, if you mow your own yard, that is great, don’t bag it, mulch it. If you have landscapers, don’t be afraid to ask them to mulch, and get a discount while you are at it. Take the time to educate each other on how to be good stewards of this little neck of the woods.
Submitted by Glencoe Sustainability Task Force Member Helyn Latham