Winter fires = Winter ash

Now that the cold nights are upon us, I’m sure that many of us are staying warm by burning wood in our winter stoves or fireplaces.   (And even if you’re not doing it to stay warm, I can’t think of a more romantic way to spend a winter  evening – accompanied with a glass or two of red wine, of course.)   The only down side is that you are faced with ash to clean up the next morning.   So what should you be doing with this ash.   Well – you could make lye and return to doing your laundry the old fashioned way.

Seriously?   No – we’re not really suggesting that.   Here are a few other (more sensible)  suggestions:

Wood ash is rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium, and this makes it a very useful source of plant nutrients.   The calcium has an alkalizing effect on the soil and before modern agricultural liming materials became readily available, farmers used wood ash to “lime”their soils.   Sprinkle it around your roses, tomatoes and stone-fruit trees.   You need however to bear in mind that on account of the alkalizing effect you should avoid putting wood ash anywhere near acid-loving plants.

Wood ash can also be used to combat pests.  Dust aphid infested plants with wood ash, and the ash will kill them by dessicating them.   (Rinse the wood ash off the plants the next day.)   A sprinkling of woodash around the base of your plants will also deter slugs and snails, and add nutrients to the soil.

Do not however, be tempted to add woodash to your compost heap.   The alkalinity will interfere with break down and release of nitrogen, and since potassium is very soluble most of this will end up being washed out of the compost.   It’s a much better idea to add the woodash to your compost once it has completely broken down – just before you add it to the garden.

Wood ash is a very effective cleaning agent.   Mix with water to form a paste – especially effective for cleaning glass on those glsss-fronted stoves, and also good for polishing silver.

Wood ash can also be used to control odour.  A useful tip for keeping old shoes fresh, is to place some wood ash in an old sock, and push the sock into the shoes.   (Not while you’re wearing them, of course.)

Wood ash is also very good for de-icing walkways and drives.   I found an article from someone who lived in Alaska:  We carried a shoe box of fine screen ash to get vehicles out of ice.   Sprinkle handfuls of ashes out about a foot in front of the tyres, and this will enable you to drive the vehicle out of trouble.

Article by Toni B.Walters