[permaculture] Re Wood Ashes as a soil amendment

Allan Balliett aballiett at frontiernet.net
Sun Dec 17 15:18:18 EST 2006

Karen -

First off, it depends on what sort of wood ashes you are talking 
about. Are you talking about hardwood ashes from a fireplace or wood 

If so, I think that wood ash has a value to the soil that outweights 
the dangers that recent posts have emphasized. You certainly don't 
want to put a lot on and, if you have high pH like I have, you are 
going to have to deal with that pH in some fashion, as well.

I'll post more information about the nutritional/biological value of 
wood ash to this list as I get a chance. In the meantime, think 
'slash and burn.' Fertility declines AFTER the ash is exhausted and 
the ash does NOT inhibit germination or plant growth.

But I'll see what else others say and post it here.



>So, any suggestions on what to do with the wood ashes?  Pick one spot 
>and designate it as the 'ash dump'?  Get them off the property? To 
>The soil only needs a tad, we don't want to breathe them or have them 
>in our water,  not in the compost... Is it safe to use them to dampen
>plant growth, say along a fence line that is hard to mow?
>On Dec 17, 2006, at 8:08 AM, Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:
>>  john norton wrote:
>>>  Hi
>>>  Be careful if using wood ash as a soil amendment. The
>>>  burning can form polycyclic aromatiic hydrocarboms
>>>  PAHs in the ash, which can be acutely toxic to plants
>>>  and people and they can be carcinogenic.
>>  If at all, only use small amounts of wood ashes in
>>  gardens. A friend years ago put all the ashes from his wood stove 
>>  on his large garden
>  > year after year. The soil became poisoned and very little would 
>>  grow in it. It took him years to get it back to normal.
>>  Never add wood ashes or any pH mediating product to a compost pile. 
>>  The bacteria in compost regulate pH themselves;
>>  if you override this with ashes or lime the pile will cease to 
>>  function normally and you will end up with poor compost.
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