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Soil and Composting: Ashes?

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Ozark
Ozark, MO
(Zone 6a)

August 7, 2007
11:22 PM

Post #3830183

I've got a couple of big compost piles going, and the charcoal briquette ashes need dumping out of our barbecue.

I've always added those to compost in the past, and as far as I know it's good. Do you know of any reason not to add ashes? Thanks.
Pagancat
(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN
(Zone 6b)

August 9, 2007
1:53 AM

Post #3834834

From everything I'm seeing, wood ash can be a good thing to raise the K in your soil, but almost every source says not to use charcoal ashes, but no one really explains why.

????
Ozark
Ozark, MO
(Zone 6a)

August 9, 2007
2:51 AM

Post #3835079

Pagancat - I'm glad you mentioned that. It didn't make sense to me that charcoal ash would be bad in a compost pile, so I looked it up. Here's what a University of Colorado website says:
-----------------------------------
"Charcoal is most commonly made from burned wood. It is highly alkaline (high pH) and also rich in potassium salts. Colorado soils are already highly alkaline and rich in potassium. Adding charcoal ashes to gardens here only adds to soil characteristics already in excess.

Some gardeners may have applied ashes to eastern U.S. soils that are acid and low in potassium. In Colorado, soil circumstances are different and the practice is not recommended."
--------------------------------
If you recall, I'm composting a bunch of oak sawdust, cornstalks, and grass clippings. The sawdust is acidic and low in potassium, so some charcoal ashes ought to be just the thing.
Pagancat
(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN
(Zone 6b)

August 9, 2007
12:21 PM

Post #3835828

Good to know - I have nearly neutral soils, so I'd best not... but yeah, sounds like the perfect amendment for yours.

I think part of what folks were saying was the additives in commercial briquets were harmful, but like I said, it wasn't really completely explored... with as large as the project you're handling is, it's probably going to be somewhat safer to use - unless you barbecue in the same quantities that you compost!
Ozark
Ozark, MO
(Zone 6a)

August 9, 2007
2:15 PM

Post #3835939

There might be some confusion between charcoal ashes and coal ashes also.

I found one strong warning against ever using COAL ashes in compost because it has levels of sulfur and iron that are lethal to plants. That makes sense, because coal is just another form of petroleum - not something you'd want in the garden.

But I'll take my chances with the charcoal ashes - there may be some additives in small amounts, but the stuff is made from hardwood.
Pagancat
(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN
(Zone 6b)

August 9, 2007
11:29 PM

Post #3837916

Oh - thanks for pointing out the distinction - didn't think of that.

Duh!
MGMan
Norfolk, VA

October 13, 2008
2:29 AM

Post #5664394

Are autumn leaf ashes safe to use?
fiberholic
Saint David, AZ
(Zone 8a)

October 13, 2008
5:34 AM

Post #5664900

Why not just put the leaves on the compost pile?
AlohaHoya
Keaau, HI
(Zone 11)

October 22, 2008
5:57 AM

Post #5702649

As said before, the ashes are going to sweeten your soil...and are going to give a lot of Potassium. Unless you are growing bananas...or other fruit, unless your soil is lacking the K, you may not need it. We take our burn pile ash and put it directly on the bananas...which love K. Our soil is slighly acidic...so it wouldn't hurt in the compost... Guess it all depends on your soil NPK...

But...would ash have anything to break down in the compost...? Would it smother the process going on? I just throw ashes directly on the stuff that needs to use it up!
Pagancat
(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN
(Zone 6b)

October 22, 2008
1:30 PM

Post #5703275

I heard yesterday that the old farmers use to sprinkle wood ash on plants when they had a bug infestation.

Hmmm...
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

October 22, 2008
2:44 PM

Post #5703612

I think I've read that those charcoal briquettes are chemically treated to make them ignite and burn. Don't remember what's used, maybe gasoline or kerosene, anyway some kind of petroleum product. It's not something I'd want in my garden.

Karen

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