Is Ash Good for Composting? How to Use Ash in Your Compost and Soil


If you are wondering what to do with the leftover ash from your latest bonfire, this post is for you!

Are ashes good for compost? It’s summer again, and that means bonfires and barbecues are in full swing! And while you may want to get rid of that half-eaten hot dog, don’t be too quick to throw out the ashes from your summer fun. Although it may seem like ashes are just what’s left after you’re done roasting marshmallows, they can breathe new life into your garden. Many people don’t know that using ashes in the garden can help in many ways. So, if you wonder what to do with the leftover ash from your latest bonfire, this post is for you! We will look at how ashes can help your compost pile for your garden soil and even add nutrients to your vegetables!

Because ash does not contain nitrogen, it can be instrumental in the garden, particularly in your compost pile. In addition, ashes can be a great way to give valuable nutrients to your plants, helping them live long, healthy lives.

So, if you want to keep ashes for composting, here’s a quick look at the best way to incorporate ashes into your composting routine.

woman standing near raised garden

Ashes: The Dos and Don’ts of Using Ash for Composting

There are a variety of burning methods to produce ash. However, not all ashes will be suitable for your plants.

Wood Ash

Wood ashes, which can be collected throughout the colder months from fireplaces or summer months from bonfires, are best used to maintain neutral compost.

The ash adds nutrients such as lime, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium to the soil while also balancing out the acidic nature of other decomposing materials.

Younger wood, such as twigs and pruning, produce ash with more nutrients than older wood. Like oak, beech, and maple, Hardwood also has a higher concentration of nutrients than softwood.

There are various varieties of wood ash fertilizers. The nutrients and minerals in your wood ash would be much higher if the ashes in your compost if ashes are made from hardwoods such as oak and maple. On the other hand, there will be much fewer nutrients and minerals in the ash if burning softwoods like pine or firs mainly produce the fireplace ashes in your compost.

A note of caution: only use natural wood ash. Treated wood can add unwanted chemicals to your pile. Additionally, avoid ash from any fire that contains any material other than natural wood. Bonfires with cardboard, stained wood, plastics, or other materials can harm your plants.

Charcoal Ashes

Although this ash is commonplace in the summer, especially as you grill out more, it often isn’t the best idea to use this ash in your compost pile. Ash from charcoal tends to have a chemical residue from grills, which can be harmful to plants.

Ash from lump wood charcoal, however, can be used. Coal or treated timber should be avoided altogether and not used in your compost pile.

How to Use the Ash as Fertilizer in Your Compost

As a general rule, ashes tend to raise soil pH levels and occasionally inhibit plant growth by restricting nutrients such as iron. So, ash shouldn’t be directly applied to plants unless a soil test shows low pH or potassium levels. If applying directly to a plant, be sure to check the weather and choose a day that won’t be windy. This will help keep the ash from spreading to plants that don’t need it.

Instead, it should be added to the compost pile and mixed in with other decomposing variables to create a healthy, balanced fertilizer. Aside from helping plants grow, this mixture is proven to help repel pests like slugs and snails.

wet mulch pile

When to Add Ash to Your Compost Pile

It’s time to add ashes to your compost bin when you have a new or uncooked pile. Because ashes have such a high pH value, adding small amounts to your compost is important. It shouldn’t take up more than 5% of your total compost.

A few handfuls every six inches of compost material should do the trick. Just be sure to turn the pile every time you add a new item.

How to Store the Ash for Your Compost Pile

The incredible nutrients in ash are soluble, so you must keep it safe from rainwater. Find a container with a seal-tight lid and keep it in a garage or shed where it’s certain to stay dry.

Using ashes in your compost is a great way to make use of something that would normally just get thrown out in the garbage. You can put ashes for wood fires into your compost pile or sparingly directly into the soil, which means that not only are you helping reduce trash but helping your garden and/or lawn, too!

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