Saturday, 28 July 2007

Value of wood Ash

Potash (potassium carbonate) is the white solid obtained from the ash of wood or other burned plant material. It is a vital constituent of fertile soil and gives increased plant vigour and helps plants survive adverse conditions and disease.
It has been estimated that wood ash, depending on the material burned, contains up to 5% potassium, a small amount of phosphorus and a large amount of lime.
Our forebears knew that wood fire ash returned to the soil would increase its fertility and it has been used for hundreds of years in the vegetable garden and recently when a party of Yemenite farmers were taking over land for crops, that they orchard.
In her book ‘The Illustrated Herbal Handbook’ Juliette de Bairacli Levy mentions the use of wood ash in the section on Herbs Applied to Garden and Orchard.
“Wood ash is not exactly a herb; as a fine powder it is a wonderful plant food, excellent for fruit trees. Daily in winter-time I make wood fires, and I save every ounce of the ash with as much care as if it were pure gold dust: it is almost of like value in my estimation.
..........Arab and Yemenite farmers in Israel proclaim proudly that they do not use chemical sprays or fertilisers on their crops. I noticed brought along their of wood ash for the improvement of the soil.”
USES FOR WOOD ASH
Once cooled the ash can be sieved and stored if not required straight away. It is best stored in a lidded container e.g. a180 -200 litre pickle barrel.
ORCHARD Sprinkle ash around fruit trees especially apples, pears and berries.
COMPOST Sprinkle (like icing sugar on a cake) the ash on green material and kitchen wastes as you build the lavers
LIQUID COMPOST Wood ash can be added to water ( about 1.5 kilos per 200 litres) along with a mix of other ingredients such a cow manure, comfrey, nettles, seaweed etc
FLOWER GARDEN Sprinkle around for a better flower display.
WORM FARM Sprinkle a handful on the surface.
SMUT ON CITRUS TREES Make a wash of wood ash and water thick enough to stick to the leaves and branches. This will dry out, but after the first shower of rain it will wash off and take the smut with it.
CHERRY/PEAR SLUG Dust trees with ash to dry out the slugs.
CABBAGE Dust cabbages to deter chewing pests.
Wood ash is a valued ingredient in the garden so don’t throw it in a heap down the back out of sight. I’ve noticed such heaps in many backyards lately.
References:
Handbook on Composting and the Bio- Dynamic Preparations. George Corrin.
The Wonders of Wood ash. Judith James. Grass Roots #122 August/Sept 1997. The Illustrated Herbal Handbook. Juliette de Bairacli Levy.

7 comments:

Kate said...

Can we actually use this on the Adelaide plains where the pH is already so high ? I put a sprinkling in my compost but would think it too alkaline to apply to the soil on the plains (and at my place - in the foothills). The eastern states and the Adelaide hills are quite acidic, so lime or wood ash could happily be used there.

Deborah said...

I realy don't think the pH is revellent. pH goes with rainfall the higher usually the moer humus/ organic matter that can buffer such changes. Most of the eastern states have lower rainfall than Adelaide (especially where I came from)Israel certainally is much drier than Adelaide & this is the area that Juliette de Bairacli Levy spent most of her time with farmers.
I oven visit people & see nasty piles of wood ash piled up in a heap this is very bad for the soil.
In a season I store some for the compost (kept in a dry container) the rest I sprinkle over my orchards using a small shovel , tossing it up in the air & letting it drift on the breese away from me- this way I never get all the way around usually about a third & this is ash produced from a cooking stove going all the time in autumn,winter & spring.
another bonous is that mixed in with the ash is charcoal that is benifical to the soil & is being added & disucssed at farm level.
I suggest using little ash & oberserving the effecte. ALWAYS LIGHT SPRINKLINGS & in the veggie garden with good quality soil over winter /spring you could apply it up to 4-6 times.

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