Ashes to ashes; but not to compost
Photo credit: Baltimore Sun/Barbara Haddock Taylor
Although we have a fireplace in the living room - in perfect working order and positioned nicely across from a very comfortable couch -- I think my husband and I are going to use his birthday present much more often that we use the fireplace.
I bought him a fire pit.
It cost less than $50 at Home Depot and I purchased an asbestos mat to place it on so it doesn't do too much damage to the grass (or start a raging brush fire.)
We pull out our portable camping chairs, invite some neighbors, open a couple of bottles of beer or wine, and we are set to go. As the nights get colder, the fire is wonderfully cozy.
The only problem? What do do with the wood ash, which can pile up pretty quickly in the dish.
My first thought was the compost pile, but as I learned in my Master Gardening classes, the ash is fine enough to fill up the cracks and crevices created by the other material in the compost and drive out the needed oxygen. A little bit of wood ash is not bad, however, and I might be able to sprinkle some as I layer in other materials.
What about the garden?
For advice, I turned, as I often do, to Marie Iannotti of about.com gardening. You can read her advice for yourself, but the bottom line is, wood ash can raise the pH of acid soil, just as lime does, so you shouldn't use it around your acid-loving plants, such as rhododendron and azeleas, or crops such as blueberries.
Wood ash contains potash, or potassium, and it is good for developing root strength and structural strength in plants, and helps them stand up to stressors.
As always, test your soil's pH before adding wood ash. And never assume that if a little is good, a lot is better.