Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To Ash or Not to Ash

To ash or not to ash that is the question I want settled once and for all and I think I may have the answer. With the cold temperatures dictating the heavy use of the stove to warm us, I wondered if we couldn't use the ashes on the garden. I spread a thin coating last winter and no ill effect was seen last summer. But - I was left with questions despite some research into the subject. Before I began spreading again, I thought I better search again to dispell the unease over the subject. I believe I have my answer. Not the one I wanted but one none the less. It is a debate on whether coal ashes are beneficial as they have some arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals that are not good for plants or humans. The vote is still out in many minds as to whether the levels are high enough with a light sprinkling to cause a problem. That makes the answer no. Especially since I've already had to have heavy metals removed from my system. They were due to a low Vitaming D level. Interestingly, a low Vitamin D level causes you to retain cadnium, lead, and aluminum - exactly the metals I was high in. My daughter was also tested for Vitamin D and heavy metals for a completely different reasons than myself and her results were nothing like mine. Figure we lived in the same house for twenty years and it rules out the garden and pipes etc. Yet, since coal has some of those same heavy metals, why invite trouble again. That puts the answer as to whether or not to spread coal ashes on our garden as a definite - No.

As for wood ashes, it was less of a debate amongst experts. Wood ashes have potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Hardwoods having far more patassium than soft woods and so the range was from 3% to 10%. Some experts said a blanketed no to any ashes where as some sight said a light dusting could be categorized as a soil amendment. This was due in part to the fact that wood ashes change the soil's PH from acid to alkaline and much quicker than lime which takes 6 months to break down. This is because wood ashes are water soluable. Aparagus I learned especially likes a little dusting of wood ash. I think the person giving this advice had an acid Ph garden. Hence, it is best to keep it away from the acid loving plants such as blueberries.

Moist climates usually have a acid soil and dry areas a alkaline. That puts our as definitely very alkaline. I use sulfur every year to raise the PH in our soil. It's getting better but the soil still isn't where it needs to be. That rules out wood ash on our garden also. Unfortuneately, that is one thing I won't be recycling.

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