Composting Wood Ash

As we approach winter, more and more homeowners will begin firing up their wood stoves and fireplaces to both heat their homes and provide a level of comfort that can only come from a roaring fire. With so much activity, you’ll be producing a ton of wood ash. And fall is a good time to compost to enrich your soil in the off-season and begin stockpiling compost material for spring, so if you’ve ever wondered whether or not you can compost wood ash, the answer is yes!

Benefits of Composting Wood Ash

Ashes don’t contain any nitrogen, meaning they won’t harm plants during growth. Wood ash is also a great source of lime, potassium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, boron, copper, zinc, and other trace elements left over from the spent wood.

The charcoal component of wood ash should be included in your compost pile due to its porosity and absorption capabilities. This can introduce a tremendous amount of oxygen to your compost pile and help keep nutrients from leeching out.

It’s also advised to not apply ash directly into your garden unless it has a very low pH level. Wood ash is about 25% calcium carbonate, raising the alkaline levels and can raise the pH level of your garden to detrimental levels. If you have a very acidic soil (or are composting with a lot of vegetable waste), you’ll get a much higher benefit from composting wood ash than soils with high levels of alkaline. Testing the pH level of your soil on a regular basis is a good idea if you choose to compost with wood ash.

Wood Ash Composting Warnings

Wood ash, when used in excess, can damage soil during composting due to the presence of heavy metals in its composition. It can also reduce the acidity of soils, therefore limiting the growth potential of acid-loving crops like blueberries.

Directly applying ash to plants can increase the pH level of the soil to detrimental results, but no more so than around freshly-planted seeds. If you do plan to add ash to your plants, try pre-mixing the ashes with soil and testing the pH levels regularly. This can also prevent the ashes from mixing too quickly with water, which can negate much of your efforts.

If your chimney or fireplace hasn’t been properly cleaned in a while, it’s time to contact a professional to ensure safe burning all winter long. Chimcare can quickly assess the condition of your chimney, making any necessary repairs and cleaning the interior along the way. Give us a call or contact us to make a chimney sweep appointment today!