Today I prepped a new bed making the area between our gate and garden spot easier to mow, dug a few potatoes, helped one of my little gardeners find herbs for mommy's homemade lasagna and chimichurri monkey bread, and planted a few bushes to allow the roots to get going before winter. I also picked and ate a Macoun apple from my favorite tree. It wasn't quite ripe (think Atomic Warhead sour) but the anticipation for an apple from the yard got the better of me. It was still delicious, Ha!
Last night we spent the evening around our fire pit. The warmth was perfect with the foreshadowing chill in the air. Stars were twinkling, the moon was overhead. The drifting wood smoke conjured memories of bonfires past, as well as kept the mosquitos at bay. A few marshmallows were toasted before we let the glowing embers fade.
|Now, what to do with the leftover coals and ash...
You could always just leave them for next time, or until one of the little ones reenacts scenes from old war movies where commandos blacken their faces for a night mission, or the rain turns it into a drain hole clogging slurry. You could also just give it a toss in the yard, trash or elsewhere but what a waste of valuable resources.
The white wood ash is a good source of potassium for your plants. It can also be used to make lye soap when mixed with fats. If you've ever had cleanup duty while camping you might have put some woods ashes into your bacon grease to scrub the worst dirt off the dishes. Well, this lye is basic, meaning it will raise the pH of your soil, and if not used in moderation it can spell trouble for your garden. Blueberries, strawberries, roses, azaleas and other acid loving plants are very sensitive to raises in soil pH. I mentioned I planted a few bushes earlier, they were Goji Berry (Chinese Wolf Berry) bushes I grew from seed this Spring. I put these in an area where the Sunflowers have just past their prime. Both of these species, as well as asparagus, cherry and plum, don't mind or even prefer a higher pH soil, so that's where the wood ashes went, along with a little biochar.
What is biochar? Biochar is similar to charcoal except it is purposely made for agricultural purposes. Although the leftover coals from our fire were not made for "biochar" I will call it that since that is how I'll use it now. These dark coal like pieces are full of cracks and pores that can hold nutrients and provide places for microorganisms to live. This helps to reduce fertility inputs and increase soil life. Another benefit of biochar is that it holds carbon for a long, long time (100s to 1000s of years) which is why it is often touted as a way to reduce greenhouses gases and global warming.
While applying to my garden areas, I like to separate the coals from the ash. That way I can add some biochar to all of my beds and reserve the white ash for my plants that can appreciate the higher pH.
If you would like an herb spiral, apple tree or guild or edible & sustainable landscaping project at your home contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get together to talk about a plan.
Thanks for stopping by & have a great weekend!