The Q&A Archives: Reviving Soil in Under Burn Pile

Question: I have been burning brush and branches in the same spot for a couple of years and now would like to plant grass in that area. How can I revive the soil? I'm quite sure the heat and ash/charcoal from sucessive buring has left the soil pretty depleated of micro-organisms and humus.

Answer: I've found that the heat of a brush fire doesn't penetrate the soil too deeply--so I would recommend skimming off the top 2 or 3 inches of soil (including all ashes) and disposing of it. I would then till up the area, or loosen it with a garden fork to a depth of 3 or 4 inches. You may want to test the soil, especially for pH since the ashes may have significantly increased soil pH. If so, you may need to adjust it with sulfur. If you have any compost or rotted manure, you could mix this into the soil as well. Then I'd rake it flat, and reseed. (Your Cooperative Extension Service, ph# 802-656-2990, can give you information about soil test kits.)

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