Friday, 3 January 2014

What to do with wood ash?

Having a wood burning boiler for our hot water and a wood burning stove in our living room does mean that we have a regular supply of wood ash to deal with. Thankfully both burners are highly efficient and leave significantly less waste than an open fire would. But waste there is and it has to go somewhere.

When we first moved in there was a large pyramid of 'stuff' by the patio at the back, we initially believed this to be a nest of some kind but thankfully it was just a huge pile of dumped ash. It was really not very nice! The positive side of having to deal with this mess was that it made me consider just what we should do with our own that we generate.

Looking at ash from a permaculture point of view, it is a resource not waste. The nutrients are useful for the soil. For the first year all of our ash went onto the compost heap but I learnt a lesson here too... ash needs to be mixed in but through out winter when we are generating most ash very little of anything else gets added to the compost heap. We could store the ash and mix it in throughout the season but this just brings to mind the ash pyramid once again.

My solution? We scatter it, lightly, across the garden. One of the benefits of such a large garden is that it will easily absorb all of the ash without any of it becoming more concentrated.

Another use for wood ash is to use it to make soap and I would love to try this one day. But lye is a pretty dangerous substance so I'm happy to put this idea on the back burner for now.

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