The Q&A Archives: Wood Ashes on the Garden

Question: Last year I added fireplace ashes to my small tomato bed. The tomatoes did very poorly there but fine in my veg. garden to which no ashes were added. The garden is about 15X5'. I added about 1/2 grocery bag of ashes. What crops benefit from the ashes(obviously not tomatoes) and should I ammend the soil this year with sulpher?

Answer: Actually, wood ashes can be a valuable source of potash for crops, but if you add too much, the soil can become too alkaline for them. You want your soil pH to be around 6-6.5 for most crops. Also, if you burned other waste along with the wood, there maybe toxic contaminants in the ashes.<br><br>Your best bet is to have your soil tested, either with a home test like Burpee's, or through your agricultural extension service (ph# 610/696-3500). Then you'll know just what your soil needs. If you need a place to dispose of the ashes, your extension office can put you in touch with the Solid Waste District office in your county, and they'll be able to help.

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