If, like us, you’ve succumbed to Autumn’s colder, damper evenings and have summoned the wood burning stove into action then the chances are you’ve already emptied out a few trays loaded with grey wood ash.
If so, where did the ash end up? If it joined the other household waste in your bin then you might like to consider using the next load on your garden instead.
Wood ash contains nutrients, most notably potassium, that can be beneficial to your garden’s wellbeing. Although not loaded with goodness there’s enough to make the trip from living room to compost heap worthwhile and the occasional light sprinkling among the other decomposing plant matter will improve the resulting compost (be careful not to overdo it or you’ll end up with a mucky mess). Worms are especially grateful for a potassium-enriched meal and anything you can do to encourage them into your compost is a good thing.
Those nutrients can also work if the ash is used as a mulch around the base of plants, helping to suppress weeds in the process, although you should avoid using it with plants that prefer an acid soil. If you’re scattering wood ash outside then do so on a windless day and, once in place, give it a sprinkling of water to allow it to settle in to the soil before the wind picks up again. If you’re lucky your ash may also deter slugs from shimmying up to the plants as it can dry out their slime.
Apart from those nutrients there are a few other garden tricks you can perform with a handful or two of ash. Here are our top suggestions for what to do with your wood ash…
If you’ve got wet, slimy paths in your garden and haven’t got the time to properly scrub them, then a sprinkling of ash will help provide a bit more grip for your wellies.
Ash is also used on another cause of slippery paths: ice. Its alkaline content can help ice to melt (we’re not sure of the science behind this but folk swear by it!) and it also acts as a warm blanket, so if the sun does shine the ice will turn to liquid that little bit quicker.
You may already know that dipping a damp cloth or newspaper into your wood ash gives you extra scrubbing power for the stove glass, so why not use its cleaning powers in the garden as well (for example on grubby greenhouse panes).
You can make a paste with wood ash and water and simply rinse away when the scrubbing is complete.
Finally, if you’re doing any garden landscaping or sowing over winter then use ash to draw lines so you know where to dig, build or sow. And if you’re feeling extra creative, cover a bare patch of earth with your own ash art.
Have you used wood ash in your garden before? Let us know how you got on in the comments!