If you heat your home with a wood stove, or you enjoy roasting hotdogs and marshmallows in the fireplace on a Saturday night with your family, you are producing material for your flower garden you can use in several ways. Be sure to use only ashes from natural woods, as charcoal briquettes contain chemicals that are incompatible with the garden.
Fertilize with Ashes
Wood ashes are a rich source of potassium, which plants need to produce fruits and flowers. Sprinkle them anywhere in your flower garden, but don’t add them to acid loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, foxgloves, or heaths and heathers. You can also add ashes to your compost bin, but be aware that the potassium content in the ashes leaches out readily when the ashes get wet, so you will lose the potash value.
Reduce Soil Acidity
Wood ashes can sweeten the soil if soil tests show that your soil is too acidic. You can spread several pounds of ashes over each 100 square feet of garden soil. You don’t need to till the ashes into the soil; hoe them in lightly to prevent them from blowing away, and let rainwater and earthworms draw the matter downward.
Repel Garden Pests
Store the ashes you generate in the winter in a dry place so you can kill some of the pests that feast on lush spring growth. Sprinkle aphid-infested plants with handfuls of ashes. You fill a piece of cheesecloth or a pantyhose tube with ashes and shake a fine suffocating powder over affected plants. Wash the plants off after a few days. Ashes also repel slugs and garden snails. Sprinkle a thick protective ring around the base of susceptible plants.
Heat the Cold Frame and Greenhouse
Shovel your warm ashes into an iron, copper, or clay chimnea in your greenhouse to provide enough warmth to keep temperatures above freezing in a small cool greenhouse. If you maintain a cold frame, this small space can also benefit from the ashes’ warmth. Place the ashes in an old copper pot with a lid. The ashes and embers radiate heat that the cold frame will trap until the next night. For fire safety purposes, don’t use ashes as a heat source in drought conditions, or around flammable materials.
Rid Birds of Parasites
Wild and domesticated birds enjoy taking an ash bath to smother the parasites that dwell amongst their feathers. Thank the wild birds that provide pest control in your flower garden by placing a shallow basin of ashes near your birdfeeders. Replace the ashes frequently. If you keep chickens on your property, they can also benefit from a shallow crate of ashes to bathe in. Keep the ashes in a sheltered area, and change them if they get damp.
Use a Natural Alternative to Winter Ice Melt Chemicals
Using ice-melting salt can damage garden plants in two ways. The salt can soak up water that plant roots need to help them overwinter, and the sodium can take the place of essential potassium and phosphorus in garden soil. Although ashes won’t help winter ice to melt the way salt can, ashes can make treacherous surfaces easier to navigate. Apply a thick layer of ashes on driveways and paths to give your feet a better purchase in slippery conditions.