ShadyGardens Blog

February 3, 2008

Wood Ashes Lower Garden Soil Acidity

Filed under: acid, acidity, alkaline, ash, ashes, deterrant, garden, lilac, lilacs, peonies, peony, repellant, rosemary, sample, slug, snail, soil, Wood — shadygardens @ 2:08 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. Well, we try to recycle as much as we can, and I just abhor waste. 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’ or alkaline 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, 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, go to:
http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C896.htm or just call your local county extension office.


Also, as with most fertilizers, a little of the wood ashes 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. Wood ashes are also beneficial to lawns if applied very sparingly and watered in well.


In addition to soil benefits, wood ashes are a natural slug repellant—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 this summer when snails are munching, you might want to save some for later in a galvanized bucket.

January 14, 2008

January Ideas for Georgia Gardens

Filed under: compost, extension service, garden, Georgia, mailorder, old-fashioned, sample, seed, seeds, soil, source, test, testing — shadygardens @ 6:22 pm

Even in mid-winter, there are many things you can do in the garden to enjoy those sporadic warm days we often have during January and February here in Georgia. Any time is a great time to improve your soil, but now would be ideal since you probably aren’t doing much planting. Soil amendments can be anything from homemade compost, composted manure, mushroom compost, or purchased soil conditioner. Do you ever wish you had some of those old-fashioned plants like your grandmother used to grow? Well, now is also a great time to order seeds. Order seeds of Nicotiana, Cleome, and other summer flowering favorites now, so you’ll have them ready when it’s time to plant. There are many mailorder seed catalogs, but I have found seeds from the following to always be fresh and reliable:

Winter is also a good time to have your soil tested. Soil tests can be purchased at most home & garden stores, but a more accurate result can be obtained from your local county extension service. In addition to more detailed and reliable soil nutrition levels, the report from the extension service will tell you exactly what you need to add to make your soil better! For complete instructions on soil testing, you can view the online publication:

http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C896.htm or just drop by your local County Extension Office to pick up a soil testing bag with instructions. You’ll be charged a small fee when you take your soil sample back to the office where it will be sent to your state university for testing.

However you decide to spend the rest of your winter, I hope you’ll enjoy those nice days and take a walk through your garden as you dream of how much more beautiful it will be this year with regular rain. (I’m optimistic!)

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