Other Uses for Fire Ash and Charcoal
Do you have a fireplace, or use a fire pit at your camp? What do you do with your remaining ash or wood charcoal? Wood ash and charcoal have more function than what is left over after you burn your wood.
Not only do they retain nutrients from the wood they were burned from, but they also obtain new ones created from the reaction of being burned, including potassium and carbon dioxide. Additionally, charcoal and ash both have a good absorbent value, which makes them both effective as a pest control method and for absorbing chemical odors and neutralizing acids in the ground.
Uses in the Garden
Here are some of the uses for charcoal and ash in the garden:
- For soils with a high acid content, the potassium in wood ash and charcoal raises the pH balance of the soil and neutralizes the acid. Just don't add too much ash, because if you raise the balance too much the potassium will make it too toxic for plants. Just 1 pound of ash per 2 square feet of garden will do the trick. You can also just cut up the wood charcoal into chunks and spread it around the garden, allowing whatever soaks into the garden to do the trick if the balance is just a little off.
- Charcoal and ash will also absorb any fertilizer you put into the garden and will hold it over a long period of time, allowing the plants a slow, steady supply.
- When you burn your wood in the fireplace, take note of what wood you use. A hard wood holds more nutrients than soft wood. Both hold nutrients though, so if your preference for burning is soft wood, have no worries.
Note: Don't use charcoal or ash in the soil of plants like blueberries, azaleas, rhododendron, or gardenia, which thrive off of the acidic soils.
Uses in Compost
If you mix the charcoal and ash in the compost and use it in your soil, it will act as a great, balanced food for your plants.
When you are building your compost, put some ash or charcoal down with every layer of material you put in. Mixing charcoal and ash in the compost helps with the breaking down of the material and helps the nutrients get dispersed. If you are putting acidic stuff in your compost, like lemon peels (or in my recent case pineapple), you can add charcoal to balance out the acids and help break down the food waste.
If you are bringing your food waste from your house to your camp where the compost is, I like to put charcoal in my container to help with breakdown, as well as odors, until I reach my camp.
Uses as Pest Control
Charcoal and ash being both absorbent and carrying potassium is deathly for soft shell invertebrates like slugs or snails. If the slug or snail gets anywhere near ash or charcoal, you might as well dump salt on them.
Now, if your garden is not high in acid or you have the balance where you want it but you want to get rid of these pests, just sprinkle a little around the base of the plant in danger of being eaten. You can also break up the charcoal into chunks and spread it around the garden as a kind of insect death labyrinth. Also, as it rains you will probably have to add more ash to around the base of the plants, in case the rain dilutes the salts in the ash.
Uses as an Absorbent
When wood is burned, it becomes more porous, allowing the charcoal to develop the ability to soak up any nutrients, smells, and chemicals in the near vicinity.
- Have a smell in the home or need to clean your stove? Put out a dish of charcoal and it will absorb most of the unwanted aromas. You still might have to open a window, but at least it will cut down the time.
- Is your compost starting to smell like ammonia? Put in some charcoal or ash, and it will neutralize it right out.
- If you put some chunks of charcoal in a toolbox or another place where you have stuff, the charcoal will absorb the moisture.