ShadyGardens Blog

December 22, 2013

Recycling at Home: Reuse your Fireplace Ashes

Filed under: ash, ashes, fireplace, garden, recycle, reuse, slug, snail, soil, test, uses — shadygardens @ 1:14 pm

I don’t know about you, but during the winter, I just cannot get warm without a fire! Every time I build a new fire however, something must be done with the ashes from the previous one. We try to recycle as much as we can, and I hate to waste anything, but what can we do with those wood ashes?

A great way to use them is to apply them to the garden. Before we do that, we must decide which garden area would benefit from wood ashes. Ashes from hardwood trees make great soil amendment for certain types of plants. They contain nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, and other elements that will promote bloom and strengthen roots on plants such as lilacs, rosemary, and peonies, as well as certain vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and collards. Don’t use ashes from charcoal fires or from treated lumber, because they contain chemicals that would be harmful to plants.

The addition of wood ashes can be of great help to you when growing plants that prefer ‘sweet’ soil, especially if your soil is very acidic. The wood ashes will sweeten the soil, making it less acidic. You must be careful where you deposit the wood ashes, because plants like blueberries, camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons all need acid soil, and will perish if you apply wood ashes around them.

To find out what kind of soil you have, for a small fee you can take a soil sample to your local County Extension Service for evaluation. They’ll have to send it off for testing, and for more information, follow this link: Soil Testing or just call your local county extension office.

Also, as with most fertilizers, a little wood ash goes a long way. Apply no more than 20 pounds per 1000 square feet per year. Plus, wood ashes should never be applied too close to tender roots of newly planted seedlings, so it’s best to apply them to the soil well in advance of planting time. (Fall would be great!) Wood ashes are also beneficial to lawns if applied very sparingly and watered in well.

In addition to soil benefits, wood ashes make a good natural slug repellent—just encircle the vulnerable plant with a ring of ashes and the snail/slug will not cross the line.  Since ashes won’t be as plentiful next summer when snails are munching, you might want to save some for later in a galvanized bucket.

November 4, 2007

Recycle Gray Water for Garden Plants

As drought continues to cause heartache for all of us gardeners, we must rethink our gardening practices and use more extreme measures to save our plants. Homeowners waste an average of 33% of good drinking water, according to the UGA Cooperative Extension Service School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Most of this waste is done through diluting toilet water, little-used sink and shower water, and laundry and kitchen use. In this time of water shortage, recycling slightly used ‘gray water’ to water our landscape plants makes good sense. Gray water is water that can be used twice. Safe sources for this gray water include bath water, laundry water, and sink water from bathroom and kitchen sinks. (Water from toilets and swimming pools cannot be reused.) Yes, using gray water is more time-consuming, especially if you must do it by hand. But if it will keep a prized plant alive, it’s worth the effort. If you’re considering installing a collection system for recycling gray water, you can find complete installation instructions on the UGACAES website along with usage suggestions for the gray water. It is of great concern that we do not know how long the drought will continue or how serious our water shortage will become. Please do your part to preserve one of our most precious natural resources by using water conservatively. Native plants are the best choice for gardens in a changing climate. And remember to pray for rain!
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