If you’re heating up your homestead with wood, then you’ll have tons of wood ash to use. A homesteader needs to have the mentality of using up everything and looking for creative uses for all products. Wood ash might seem like something to toss out, but you might be surprised at the different ways to use wood ash on the homestead.
How much wood ash you’ll produce each year depends on how large your home is and how much wood you need to heat your home. In general, a cord of hardwood creates 5-8 gallons of wood ash. If you use 6-8 cords of wood, you might have around 30-45 gallons of wood ash to use.
That’s a lot of wood ash. What’s a homesteader to do? Its time to get resourceful and find several creative ways to use it up.
The easiest way to use wood ash on the homestead is by adding it to your existing compost bin. Potash helps to maintain a neutral balance in your compost. You don’t want a compost that is too acidic with too much nitrogen because it can lead to stink.
A stinky compost is never a good thing. It can attract omnivores in your area, plus it’s bothersome to everyone.
Acts as a Garden Fertilizer
Wood ash is often called potash because of its high amounts of potassium carbonate. That makes it an excellent choice as garden fertilizer. Wood ash also is a source of phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium.
The benefits don’t stop there! Wood ash contains other nutrients such as:
Balance Soil pH
Before you add wood ash to your soil to change the pH level, make sure you use a soil tester kit that indicates the pH level. If you want to balance the pH level in your garden soil, wood ash is a good choice. Try adding 5 to 10 pounds per 100 square feet on freshly tilled soil. Rake it in deeply. It’s best to add the wood ash 3-4 weeks ahead of planting.
Wood ash will raise the pH level of your soil, so that means you don’t want to add it to acid-loving crops. Keep it away from potatoes or blueberries.
Wood ash is a substitute for lime, which has several uses. Most people use lime to amend a soil lacking in calcium carbonate.
Using wood ash instead of lime is a good idea because it breaks down quickly, becoming more bioavailable to your plants.
Why use Windex when you can use ash for windows? You can use potash to clean windows. Just get a damp sponge, dip it into the potash, and scrub down the glass.
Chicken Dust Bath
Chickens love to take a dust bath. While dust bathing is fun, it does serve some purposes. Dust baths help to prevent parasites, like lice and mites, from making their home in your chickens’ feathers. To help reduce the infestation, just add some wood ash to their dust bath. So simple yet effective.
Make sure you pay attention because wood ash is caustic, so you’ll need to mix it with other ingredients. I like to add the builder’s sand, soil, and diatomaceous earth to my chicken’s dust baths.
Adding Calcium to Vegetable Crops
If your vegetables are lacking in calcium, adding some wood ash gives your plants a healthy dose. Fruits and vegetables that may need calcium often include:
- Apple trees
- Brussels sprouts
Wood ash works very similarly to diatomaceous earth in your garden to deter pests. You can sprinkle it around the perimeter of your plants to repel slugs and snails.
Sometimes, things on the homestead just a bit funky, if you know what I mean. Animals get into everything, like the dog playing with a skunk or finding a great pile of poop to roll on.
Wood ash is alkaline, so it’s great at absorbing and neutralizing odors. You can sprinkle some wood ash on the stinky culprit when the smell is a bit too much for you.
Making Wood Ash Tea
Have you ever made compost tea? If not, it’s a great way to fertilize your vegetable plants. You can also make straight wood ash tea that acts as an all-purpose fertilizer to cure plant problems. Wood ash tea can help with problems from lack of potassium, such as:
- Low crop yields
- Curling leaf tips
- Slow plant growth
- Leaf veins
- Brown spots
Making wood ash tea is very simple. All you have to do is put around 5 pounds of cool ash into a cloth bag, such as an old pillowcase. Then, soak the ashes in a 50-gallon garbage pail full of water. Let the tea steep for several days. Then, deliver to your plants however you want!
Since wood ash acts as a great garden fertilizer, it also works as a lawn fertilizer that’s easy to apply. Lightly spread the cool wood ash on your lawn, then water deeply to let it soak.
Escape Snow with a Vehicle
Getting stuck in the snow in your car is never a fun experience. Some people swear that tossing wood ash under your tires is one of the best ways to help your vehicle escape. Keep a bag or two in your trunk for those emergency scenarios!
Melting Snow and Ice
If you live somewhere that receives a lot of snow as I do, you know that everyone uses a ton of salt to melt the snow and ice. The problem with using salt is that it does contaminate our fresh waterways along with adding salt to our lawns. Plus, it corrodes metal.
Another option is wood ash because it contains potash – potassium salts. Potash helps to de-ice and melt snow in moderate conditions. It’s free, so why buy the bags of salt at the store?
Control Pond Algae
Do you have a pond that’s full of algae? Try adding one tablespoon of wood ash for every 1,000 gallons of water. The wood ash adds potassium to the water, strengthening the aquatic plants to help them compete against algae.
Did you know that, centuries ago, people used wood ash to turn vegetable and animal fats into soap? It’s one of the original uses of wood ash. Using wood ash creates lye soap.
Lye is made by boiling hardwood ash in soft water with produces potassium hydroxide. Add potassium hydroxide to animal fat to create a soft soap, and add salt to make a firmer soap.
A word of the wise – this does require some upfront knowledge. Take time to research and know what you’re doing beforehand because lye has the tendency to be a bit temperamental.
Mild Abrasive to Polish Silver and Dull Metals
I mentioned that you can use wood ash to clean glass, but it also can be used as an abrasive to polish metals. The process is simple, but make sure you wear some rubber gloves.
Just add a bit of water to a cup of wood ash, creating a thick paste. Spread that paste over the item you want to polish. Let it sit for a few moments and wipe clean with a soft, dry cloth. Rub it a bit to bring out the shine.
Soak Up Grease Spills
Wood ash is a great choice to soak up grease spills in your garage or driveway. All you have to do is sprinkle the ashes over the oil stain, let it set, and soak up the oil. Then, sweep it away.
Dealing with cockroaches is never a fun thing. To help get rid of them, try spreading wood ashes in the corners of your home. They like to hide under appliances, so that’s another place you can spread the wood ash. Their outer shell doesn’t handle wood ash well, so they’ll try to go elsewhere.
Natural Flea Treatment for Pets
Have you tried using diatomaceous earth to kill fleas on your pets naturally? Wood ash works very much the same. There are small particles in the ash that cuts into the hard-bodied fleas, causing them to die.
One ancient method of preserving hides is by using a wood ash soak rather than brain tanning. Some tribes soak their skins in wood-ash water before scraping because it helps the hair fall out. The alkaline structure helps to disrupt the mucoid bonds and opens the structure.
There are dozens of ways to use wood ash on a homestead. Most importantly, give it a try and don’t waste a resource that’s available to you. A homesteaders’ mentality should always look for ways to use up whatever we have available, and that means wood ashes. Those buckets of wood ashes also can be used for dozens of other things around your homestead.
How do you use wood ashes on your homestead? Let us know how you use it in the comments.