This news item expired on Friday, February 28, 2014 so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.
If you've been using a fireplace or woodstove this winter, you probably have plenty of ashes to dispose of by now. With some care, wood ashes can be spread around garden areas.
The nutrient content of wood ashes varies, depending on the types of wood burned. They usually contain approximately 2% phosphate and 5 -10% potassium.
But the more important quality of ashes is their alkalinity. They are about 1/3 to 1/2 as strong as lime in neutralizing soil acidity. This means you should treat them like lime and only apply ashes to soil where the pH is below 6.
You would also never want to spread ashes around acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and blueberries. If you have been applying wood ashes to garden areas it would be wise to have the soil pH tested before applying more. You do not want to get the pH of the soil above 7.
For more information, contact Buncombe County Cooperative Extension at 255-5522.