Back when we used fireplaces to heat our homes, cleaning out wood ashes from the hearth was a daily chore. Today, after a cozy winter fire, or use of a wood stove or backyard fire pit, we can collect the wood ash on a more leisurely basis, and put it to excellent use. We may not burn as much firewood as we used to, but ash is still a great raw resource with a variety of benefits and uses around the home.
1. Amending Soil And Boosting Your Lawn
Wood ash can be used to boost the pH of your lawn’s soil quickly—faster than limestone, since the ash is more water soluble. Start by getting your lawn or garden soil tested to determine its pH. Most lawn and garden soil does well at a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Higher than 7, and it’s considered alkaline. Lower than 6, and it’s considered acidic. If your soil is already between 6 and 7, there’s no need to change the pH.
2. Add Ash To Your Home Compost
A sprinkle of wood ashes can be added to your outdoor compost pile or indoor compost bin as one component of your household waste. A small amount with each layer of compost will add nutrients to the end soil or “compost tea.” You can also make your own wood ash tea by soaking ashes in water for 4-5 days, and then applying that product to plant soil as needed.
3. Keep Harmful Bugs Away
Wood ashes can be used to deter pests like slugs and snails, and even to repel ants. Sprinkle a small amount or ring around susceptible plants and reapply after the rain washes the ash away.
4. Add Traction To Slippery Walkways
Like gravel on snow-covered streets, wood ash can be applied to provide traction underfoot. You can even keep some in a closed metal container in your car or truck to use in an emergency to get out of a slippery spot.
5. Fire Control
If you’ve ever “smothered a fire” at a campsite by shifting ashes over hot coals, you know that ash can form a great air-tight barrier that will help extinguish the flames. Wood ashes can help put out a fire when a fire extinguisher, soil, or sand is unavailable. Always extinguish a fire completely and make sure no embers are left smoldering as they could reignite.