En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Wednesday - September 28, 2011

From: Islesboro, ME
Region: Northeast
Topic: Soils
Title: Fireplace ash as soil amendment in Maine
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

It seems that the custom where we summer in Maine is to dispose of wood ash from the fireplace on the plants around the outside of the house. I think this is not a good idea. What is your opinion? I was going to put them in the middle of the gravel drive.

ANSWER:

Well, it really depends on how acidic your soil is and how much ash you have to get rid of.

Wood ash does have some nutrient value but it is made up of less than 10 percent potash, 1 percent phosphate and trace amounts of micro-nutrients such as iron, manganese, boron, copper and zinc. It contains absolutely no nitrogen and is about 25% calcium carbonate, which is an ingredient in garden lime.

So it increases the alkalinity of your soil ... which may or may not be a good thing.  You really should only add lime (wood ash) to your soil if your pH is 5.5 or less (very acidic).  Ideally, soil should be neutral (pH 7.0) and higher alkalinity can inhibit the uptake of some micro-nutrients.

Many gardeners in the north (Maine and Eastern Canada) where the bedrock is granitic and there is an abundance of pine and other conifer trees believe the soil is acidic and should be "limed" every fall.  A walk in the woods will reveal many acid loving members of the ericaceous family such as

Andromeda polifolia (Bog rosemary)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)

Gaylussacia dumosa (Dwarf huckleberry)

Gaultheria procumbens (Checkerberry)

Kalmia angustifolia (Sheep laurel)

Rhododendron canadense (Rhodora)

Vaccinium angustifolium (Late lowbush blueberry)

Vaccinium macrocarpon (Cranberry)

These are plants that define Maine, so don't alter your soil so much that they cannot thrive.  Do a soil test and then amend as is appropriate.

I agree with you ... the driveway is probably a good place for them!

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Bog rosemary
Andromeda polifolia

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Dwarf huckleberry
Gaylussacia dumosa

Eastern teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

Sheep laurel
Kalmia angustifolia

Rhodora
Rhododendron canadense

Late lowbush blueberry
Vaccinium angustifolium

Cranberry
Vaccinium macrocarpon

More Soils Questions

Acidity of soil for blueberry plants
May 11, 2007 - We have 8 blueberry plants and we have just taken out several Juniper shrubs. How will this effect the acidity of the soil for the blueberries? Do we need to add more acidity? We heard that the junipe...
view the full question and answer

Native turf and trees for Odessa TX
July 29, 2013 - What native turf and trees can I grow in my Odessa, Tx back yard?
view the full question and answer

Growing Loblolly Pines Outside Native Range
April 03, 2014 - I would like a stand of pines on my property but do not know if they will grow in my area. Do you know if the soil in Waelder, Texas will support pines?
view the full question and answer

Will ceanothus grow in West Texas from Midland TX
August 17, 2013 - re: Ceanothus - you have two ceanothus in your data base. Will any of those grow in West Texas? (southern exposure, full sun)? Will any of the California native ceanothus grow in West Texas?
view the full question and answer

Possibility of growing plants in St. Peter Sandstone
April 02, 2008 - Can you grow plants or native plants in St. Peter Sandstone or amend it?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center