Monday, December 3, 2007

A Foot of Snow Makes Gardens Grow

Well, that may not sound really true, but when you’ve had a very dry summer it means a lot to have a good snowfall. Trees, shrubs, especially flowering shrubs, need the added moisture a good snowfall will bring to them.

I think people can live longer without food then they can without water. Our vegetation is no different. The soil can lack nutrients but not water. Matter of fact some of the nutrients the soil needs can come from minerals in the rainfall/snowfall. Which brings me to the next topic — in the winter, around here, people use wood as a secondary source of heat. It has multiple benefits only one of which is in your garden. So, let’s take a look at using wood ashes in your garden.

Wood ashes are valuable for your garden. They are soil builders. If you don’t burn wood yourself, look for a neighbor who does. He will probably give you enough for your garden for free.

Unleached wood ashes (those that are not left out in the weather) contain 5 to 7 percent phosphoric acid. Calcium compounds of 25 – 30 percent, which will help build good sturdy root systems another benefit of wood ashes.

There are differences in the woods burned that will make the ashes contain different benefits. For instance Hardwood ashes contain more potassium than softwood ones. However, much of their value as a soil enhancer will be lost if they are allowed to sit out in and be affected by the weather (leaching). This causes the soluble chemicals to leach out. Keep your ashes covered until you are ready to use them.

When should you apply wood ashes to your soil? The best rule of thumb is some time in advance of planting, but don’t mix them with manure or any high nitrogen containing materials (new grass clippings for instance). An average application would be 5 to 10 pounds per 100 square feet of garden area. Scatter the wood ashes on a freshly dug or tilled surface and then rake it into the soil. Wood ashes are not recommended for lawns or any acid-loving plants.

So be happy if you are in a snow belt, it’s the equivalent of many gentle rains and you have all those wood ashes.

Imagine the marvel of burning wood. It warms you at least four times. Once in the cutting, twice if you need to split it, three times when you haul it to the wood shed to rest until you need it, fourth when you haul it in to the fireplace or wood burning stove.

It will warm you again, when you burn it as you are pouring over your gardening catalogs plotting next year’s crops. Then you get the benefit of those ashes to spread on your soil to enrich the level of certain minerals. Gives you a great new respect for the tree and the snow doesn’t it?

Happy Gardening,

NOTES; [Coal ashes have very little value except to loosen clay type soils. But it is worth mentioning here because of their value as a drainage medium. The screened coal ashes are sometimes used in green houses under potted plants to ensure good drainage. If you have coal ashes use them at the bottoms of borders or beds to protect roses or other moisture sensitive plants from getting “wet feet” in poorly draining soil.]

You may feel free to use this article as long as you include the resource box.
Billie A Williams

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