The Cozy Flame's Blog

How to Use Wood Ashes in the Garden

Now that winter is over, and we’re on our way to summer. You need to have your fireplace cleaned and closed out for the season, and move your extra firewood outside. You also should clean the fireplace of ashes and debris for the summer—but, what do you do with all the ashes?

Properly Removing and Storing Ashes

You should use a long-handled shovel to remove ashes from the fireplace whether it is hot or not. It’s best to keep ashes from getting into your hair, clothes, and skin. Many professionals recommend wearing a mask when removing ashes or working with ashes for household projects. We want our customers to keep the fireplace clean, maintain it properly, and put the ashes to good use, but doing it safely! Your ash bin should be kept away from your home to prevent accidental fire during burn season. A metal container with a lid is the best, and it will also keep your ashes dry so that you can put them to use!

Ashes in the Garden

Did you know you can use your ashes in landscaping? Whether it’s a vegetable garden, herb garden, flower garden, or your grass, ashes deter certain insects and tiny critters from damaging your plants. Ashes also become a nuisance and change the pH level in your soil. Green thumbs swear that ashes in the soil beneath tomato plants produce plumper, juicier tomatoes. Ashes contain calcium, potassium, and many minerals that promote plant health. Adding them to your soil will change the soil rapidly, so you want to add it sparingly. You also should test your soil before attempting to change it. You can usually find free soil testing through a local university.

Do not use ashes around acid-loving plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons, azaleas, and holly. You can add up to 20 pounds of ashes to soil with a pH level of 6 to 6.5, and it is easy to do. Choose a day that isn’t windy, and mix the ashes into the soil. Do not leave ashes on top of already-growing plants. A little rinse with a water sprinkler should do the trick.

You can use ashes around the perimeter of your garden if you don’t want to mix it into the soil, and this will actually repel slugs. This will only work until it is rinsed away by rain or sprinkler water.

Other Ways to Use Ash

Many homeowners use ashes to clean around the house. Mixing ashes with a little bit of water can shine silver, clean glass, and lift gummy grease from stovetops. It’s best to use gloves when working with ashes to avoid burns and skin irritation. You can also sprinkle ashes onto oil spills in the garage and sweep it up as if it were never there. Dusting a little into your dog’s fur will neutralize nasty odors, and it also helps to deter ticks and mites.

Do you have an ash problem? Perhaps an ash dump that hasn’t been emptied in some time? Maybe you are tired of ashes altogether! The Cozy Flame can help, whether arranging a cleaning or exchanging your wood fireplace for gas. Call a Comfort Consultant at 203-283-4459 today!

By Steve Sobczak | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Dispose of Your Wood Stove Embers Properly

Wood Stove Ember Removal - Milford CT - The Cozy FlameWhile most homeowners are confident in their ability to safely use their wood burning stoves and fireplaces, many are misinformed when it comes to dealing with the embers and ashes left behind after a fire. Correctly removing, storing, and disposing of ashes can help a fireplace burn more efficiently, help avoid ash or soot stains to interior furnishings, and help prevent accidental fire. Improper disposal of ashes can even lead to accidental house fire, as recently happened with a family in Hartford County.

Even if a fire looks like it has been completely extinguished, hot coals and embers can remain hidden in the ashes. When these embers are once again exposed to oxygen they can reignite, causing anything around them to ignite as well. Because of this, even cold ashes should be treated as a fire hazard and should never be stored near flammable materials. According to forestry officials , “Wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days.”

How to dispose of ashes

The first step in the proper disposal of ashes is ensuring that a fire has completely burned itself out and that no remaining hot coals or embers remain. This can be done in most fireplaces by simply closing the glass doors or screens and letting the fire naturally extinguish overnight. However, the flue should be left open during this time to ensure that no gasses or smoke back up into the room. The next morning, stir the ashes and feel for any pockets of warmth. If the ashes are completely cold, they can be safely transferred.

While it may seem convenient, vacuums should not be used to remove ashes from the fireplace. The fine dust particles are more likely to become airborne than to be sucked up into the vacuum, causing soot to coat interior walls and furnishings. If a vacuum is going to be used, only those with HEPA filters are recommended.

How to store ashes

Ashes should be kept in a specially designated metal ash container that both sits off the ground and has a tight fitting lid. Ash containers should also have long handles for easy carrying and transporting. Ash bins should never be stored near any combustible materials, including being stored in garages or on porches. Instead, place the ash container a safe distance away from any buildings or woodpiles.

Ashes should never be kept in cardboard boxes, paper bags, or regular trashcans or dumpsters. Any trapped hot embers could ignite these containers or their contents, creating an accidental fire. Likewise, metal ash containers that are flimsy, rusted, or have holes should not be used.

Safe Ash Removal - Milford CT - The Cozy FlameAlternative uses for ashes

Many homeowners have found a variety of different and unique ways to use their fireplace ashes. One of the most popular and common uses for leftover ashes is to use them as garden fertilizer. Small amounts of ashes from quality hardwoods can be added once a year to flower beds, vegetable gardens, and compost piles. Likewise, ashes are a natural insecticide and can be sprinkled along the edges of garden plots to repel slugs and snails. Finally, during the winter ashes can be sprinkled on driveways or sidewalks to help prevent slipping on ice. However, this can lead to dirty shoes; leave them outside or in a mudroom to prevent tracking ash and soot into the house.

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