The Q&A Archives: Use Of Fireplace Ashes

Question: I recently heard that the wood ashes from my fireplace would make a good soil conditioner. Is this true or false? Also, is this for the lawn only or for the flower beds as well? What is the proper way to use this additive?

Answer: Wood ashes are a traditional source of potash and to some extent phosphorus, however their fertilizer value varies based on the type of wood burned; they also tend to leach very quickly which means they can "burn" tender plants. Finally, they are alkaline and should not be used around acid-loving plants such as azaleas. If you opt to use them, you could perhaps use them as a side dressing (keeping them several inches away from seedlings or newly planted plants) at a rate of about 5 pounds per 100 square feet; as a rough guide hardwood ashes would be about 10 percent potash. (Do not use coal ashes, by the way.) Sprinkle them lightly or push them through a sieve to achieve even coverage. Reduce the use of other sources of potash accordingly.

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