Fertilizing With Wood Ash

Found an interesting article about fertilizing with wood ash by the University of California.

Wood Ashes as a Garden Fertilizer

Wood Ashes as a Garden Fertilizer

The author is Ed Perry, Farm Advisor, Stanislaus County Cooperative Extension

At one time wood ashes were a chief source of potassium and much used in farming and horticulture. While not an important fertilizer anymore, wood ashes have become plentiful around many homes as more people turn to woodburning stoves and fireplaces for heat.

Gardeners with a supply of wood ashes often want to know if ashes are useful as a fertilizer or soil amendment. The questions most generally asked are:

Are Wood Ashes Beneficial?

It depends on your soil. Generally, ashes can be beneficial; they contain potassium, a major plant nutrient plus a number of minor nutrients.

Can Ashes be Harmful?

Yes, if too much is used. Ashes contain chemicals, which are very alkaline with a pH of 10 to 12. They are harmful at high rates, especially in soils that are already alkaline. Since about 80 to 90 percent of wood ashes are water-soluble mineral matter, high rates can cause salts to build up in soils resulting in plant injury.

What Minerals Do Wood Ashes Contain?

Wood ashes contain all the mineral elements that were in the wood. Potassium, calcium, and magnesium carbonate or oxides are present in comparatively large quantities giving the ashes a strongly alkaline reaction which can neutralize acid soils. However, the value of wood ashes as a plant food depends mostly on the potassium content.

In general, wood ashes contain 5 to 7 percent potassium and 1 1/2 to 2 percent phosphorus. They also contain 25 to 50 percent calcium compounds. Hardwood ashes contain more potassium than those from softwood.

Wood ashes lose much of their nutrient value if they stand in the rain, because potassium and other water-soluble nutrients leach out with water. Generally, if leached, the less soluble carbonates remain, leaving the ashes alkaline.

How Much Should be Applied?

An average application is 5 to 10 pounds per 100 square feet scattered on a freshly tilled soil and raked in. For a pre-plant treatment, it is best to apply ashes 3 or 4 weeks in advance of planting. They also can be side dressed around growing plants or used as mulch.

In order to avoid problems of excess salinity, alkalinity, and plant nutrient availability, you should limit the application of ashes to 5 pounds per 100 square feet of soil per year.

Avoid contact between freshly spread ashes and germinating seeds or new plant roots by spreading ashes a few inches away from plants. Ashes that settle on foliage can cause burning. Prevent this by thoroughly rinsing plants after applying ashes.

Because ashes are alkaline, avoid using them around azaleas, camellias and other acid-loving plants. Wood ashes are very low in nitrogen and cannot supply your plants’ needs for this element. You will need to follow your normal nitrogen fertilizer schedule when ashes are applied.

‘Tis the Season

Freezing temperatures really came last week so the frost free chicken waterers had to come out.

I really don’t like messing with them but what can you do?

The hoop house is coming along.

I need to plant some more, harvested 3 lbs of radishes Monday.

Bugs aren’t as big of a problem now but it seems slugs are my biggest problem.

Thought it was chickens before but they are locked up pretty well and I found slugs in the damaged areas.

Growing time has increased but I’m getting better production per harvest now than in the summer.

If someone that seems credible gives recommendations on prices of produce use that price, I thought $20 a pound sounded too high for radishes so I dropped to $10, most of the time I don’t make any money. Thankfully it’s only one place buying for now so I learned a lesson before I got more buyers.

Bees and Miscellaneous Maintanance

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to get into the bee hives, I really thought I lost one of the two hives which would have been devestating to me since I lost five hives earlier this year and bought these two in a gamble that I would be able to start splitting the hives in early Spring.

However I was happy to see that both hives seemed to be doing well.

I did decide to make them some sugar water, the winter mix is a 2:1 ratio of sugar:water. To make it the water and sugar have to be heated for the sugar to be dissolved completely.

There is almost always maintanance to be done as well. One of the doors on my chicken coup broke a few weeks ago, I could close and open it but not effectively.

I could leave it closed so I did but it was time to fix it. To fix it I just screwed some square plywood scraps to the inside corners.

Doesn’t look great but the door is solid again. Having tools and different materials laying around is important for quick fixes. Even when I put the sugar water in the beehives I had to shave 1/8 inch off the end of an entrance reducer.

Plants Emerging.

Pretty excited, my most recent radishes are coming up along with the spinach, lettuce, and arugula that are outside.

For some reason the pictures wouldn’t upload but they all look similar at this point, the arugula and lettuce have two little leaves coming off the stem and the spinach looks like a little green stem.
There is a little white mold with the radishes that I’ll have to look into, I think it’s just a matter of physically removing the mold.

One other problem I have is my chickens.

They seem to be dust bathing in the cold frame, they shouldn’t be able to get to it but a few do. Right now it is dry there but once it’s planted it won’t be, hopefully then they won’t dig there, of course my biggest concern is the stray chickens eating my baby plants.

Day in Day Out

Lots of things are repetitive, every day is taking care of animals.

Monday planted more radishes and fertilized with fish meal in the cold frame.

Today noticed that spinach was coming up.

And as always there are chickens to process.

With my son, I have found that I’m better off only doing 2 at a time. 

This week should be fairly warm, in the 70’s, but it actually snowed last Sunday and we had a few nights of freezing. It is the time of year when hoses need to be drained and winter precautions need to be taken. I should have more warm days than cold but freezes can sneak up. I hope there are enough warm days to help my most recent seedlings germinate.

Garden part from Yesterday 

Three plants were planted yesterday. 

The garden looks striped, the darker areas are where I planted. The rows aren’t as close as they would be in the summer because I hope to put tunnels over each bed, the tunnels will have to be pulled off from time to time and if there is snow there needs to be a place for it to go without smothering the plants.

On the right is Spinach, the middle is a lettuce mix and on the left is arugula.

On a side note, sometimes crops come up in strange places.

Outside the cold frame a carrot grows next to the cross tie.

Feed & Garden

Since my tractor is still down feeding round bales to the horses is trickier than it should be. Previously I have showed various techniques, today there is one more.

The problem is that to about six feet from the barn it’s pretty muddy, actually it’s poop, don’t want to get the truck stuck so backing inside the barn is out but I don’t want to role the bale through the horse manure for health reasons and the horses won’t like it.

Normally there is some inedible material in the bales so to avoid getting manure on the new bale spreading some of the inedible material over the manure keeps the new bale clean.