The Q&A Archives: Coal Ashes

Question: I recently moved to a home with a north facing slope that the previous owners used as a place to dump coal ashes. I recently cleared the weeds and thorn bushes that were growing there. Are there any plants that would grow in this environment and would keep the thorns from coming back? The soil is still quite "ashey."

Answer: There are a number of plants that might grow on a north facing slope, but you may find that the weeds are a bit of a battle for another season. A tough and hardy plant to consider would be English ivy(Hedera helix) which makes a solid groundcover once established. If the slope is steep you might want to consider a combination of plants with different root depths to help hold the soil in place. In this case you might consider hostas and ferns if the slope is shady or possibly daylilies if it is sunny. Shrub dogwoods are also a good candidate for either sun or shade and could be very attractive in combination with the other plants. You might wish to have your soil tested to see exactly what type of soil you have and to help you decide what type of soil improvement is necessary in order to establish some more desirable plants there. Your county extension (623-4800) should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results (be sure to discuss the coal ash with them); they may also have some planting suggestions.

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