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  1. #1
    Veteran Member
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    Jan 2011
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    2,442
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    Fanning Springs, Gilchirst County, North-Central Florida
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    Kubota Tractor Loader L3560 HST 37-hp / 5,400 pounds

    Default Fertility Of Burn Pile Dirt ????????

    In our development we have a community burn pile.

    Eighty per cent of wood burned is hardwoods --- tree trimmings and trees cleared when lots are prepared for new houses; mostly Oaks; some Myrtles.

    Ten per cent is softwoods, many species, mostly small trees removed during de-brushing.

    Ten per cent is yard debris.

    Our sandy-loam high pH due to lime rock content. (Lime rock is mined nearby.)

    The "dirt" I have been scooping up with FEL is probably 50% sandy-loam, 50% ashes. We have not had a good rain in Fanning Springs, North-Central Florida, for 7-8 weeks. Soil/ash mixture is fine as talc. I assume the ashes are acting as a desiccant.

    I have been screening this dirt into my wheelbarrow then using it to fill low spots in my lawn. The dirt flows right through the rough screen without me having to rub it much. I toss out the larger chunks of lime rock and unburned wood (5%) and spread the balance (95%).

    Will some of you ag experienced readers tell me if I am doing the right thing?

    Any guess on N-P-K?

    Do the ashes improved water holding capability? Certainly the small amount of unburned wood with help hold water as it decays.

    I know ashes are "sweet" but is it possible this dirt could further raise the pH? Or possibly lower the pH because of all the lime rock?

    Should I amend with peat moss or cotton seed meal to increase acidity before spreading? (Cotton Seed Meal is $17/50 pounds at the Feed Store.)

    What about adding traditional expanded clay cat litter? Out of the factory 25 pound bag NOT the cat litter box.

    My yard is in Saint Augustine grass, a Florida native, which likes high pH soil. Though native, Saint Augustine is not particularly easy to grow well as a lawn.

    I have not had the fill tested. I think it varies widely depending on what part of the burn pile fill is removed from and what wood has been recently burned.

    You help will be appreciated.

    Tractor is a kubota B3300SU tractor/loader package; 33-hp/1800 pounds.
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  2. #2
    Super Member
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    Sep 2000
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    6,553

    Default Re: Fertility Of Burn Pile Dirt ????????

    I'm no expert, but have an opinion on a couple points.

    1) Don't guess on the soil. Buy a 5 buck tester and know for sure. Really, it's the only way to tell.
    2) The heat will have killed off all the little microbial critters in the soil. I would mix in normal yard soil before spreading it.
    3) Ash is highly caustic. Very high pH. I would guess you need to do some major adds of acidic materials. Again, only testing will tell for sure where your starting point is.
    4)Peat is added to make the soil hold water (at least around here). If you add much, you need to also add fertilizer to offset the loss from it composting down.

  3. #3
    Platinum Member
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    Oct 2008
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    735
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    Piedmont Triad, NC
    Tractor
    Didn't intend to have a Deere fleet - it just happened 310C, F915 & 5200

    Default Re: Fertility Of Burn Pile Dirt ????????

    Just a guess ... but you aren't doing anything good with the ashes. The ashes and lime raise the pH. Sulfur lowers pH. The lawn needs a better balance than what you're giving it.

  4. #4
    Veteran Member
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    Dec 2009
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    1,273
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    Kansas...USA
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    Kubota B2620 (2012)

    Default Re: Fertility Of Burn Pile Dirt ????????

    I agree with the others. ... but as an opinion, your time and money might be better spent on buying some top soil or regrading your lawn with a box blade to smooth things out. Some more landscape/ lawn experts people might chime in here.
    Kubota B2620 HST

  5. #5
    Super Member radioman's Avatar
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    May 2008
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    Ontario, NY
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    Kubota BX24

    Default Re: Fertility Of Burn Pile Dirt ????????

    I am gonna cut and paste what was googled on the website:

    Cheaper sources of lime and potassium eventually killed the commercial market for wood ash, said Sullivan.
    For the home gardener, however, wood ash can be a valuable source of lime, potassium and trace elements.
    "Since wood ash is derived from plant material, it contains most of the 13 essential nutrients the soil must supply for plant growth," said Sullivan. "When wood burns, nitrogen and sulfur are lost as gases, and calcium, potassium, magnesium and trace element compounds remain. The carbonates and oxides remaining after wood burning are valuable liming agents, raising pH, thereby helping to neutralize acid soils."
    Where soils are acid and low in potassium, wood ash is beneficial to most garden plants except acid-loving plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons and azaleas. Use wood ash on flower beds, lawns and shrubs.
    The fertilizer value of wood ash depends on the type of wood you burn. As a general rule, hardwoods such as oak weigh more per cord and yield more ash per pound of wood burned. Hardwood ash contains a higher percentage of nutrients than ash from softwoods such as Douglas-fir or pine.
    "Hardwoods produce approximately three times as much ash per cord and five times as many nutrients per cord as softwoods," said Sullivan.
    Ash from a cord of oak meets the potassium needs of a garden 60 by 70 feet, he said. A cord of Douglas-fir ash supplies enough potassium for a garden 30 by 30 feet. Both types of ash contain enough calcium and magnesium to reduce soil acidity (increase soil pH) slightly.
    One-half to one pound of wood ash per year is recommended for each shrub and rose bush. Spread ash evenly on the soil around perennial plants. Rake the ash into the soil lightly, being careful not to damage the roots. Never leave ash in lumps or piles, because if it is concentrated in one place, excessive salt from the ash will leach into the soil, creating a harmful environment for plants.
    Lawns needing some lime and potassium can also benefit from wood ash. Apply no more than 10-15 pounds of ash per 1,000-square feet of lawn; at high levels, ash can be toxic. Do not use if soil pH is more than 7.0 or if potassium levels are excessive.
    "You may want to have your soil analyzed periodically to determine its need for lime and potassium," said Sullivan. "As a general rule, acid soils that would benefit from ash application are usually found in those places in Oregon that get more than 20 inches of rain per year. Alkaline soils (pH greater than 7) soils in portions of central and eastern Oregon generally won't benefit from ash application."
    In compost piles, wood ash can be used to help maintain a neutral condition, the best environment to help microorganisms break down organic materials. Sprinkle ash on each layer of compost as the pile is built up. Ash also adds nutrients to compost.
    If used judiciously, wood ash can be used to repel insects, slugs and snails, because it draws water from invertebrates' bodies. Sprinkle ash around the base of your plants to discourage surface feeding pests. But once ash gets wet, it loses its deterring properties. Continual use of ash in this way may increase the soil pH too much, or accumulate high salt levels harmful to plants.
    Sullivan offered advice for using wood ashes as a soil or compost amendment:
    Protect yourself when applying wood ash. Use the same precautions you would use when handling household bleach, another strongly alkaline material. Wear eye protection and gloves. Depending on the fineness of the ash, you may want to wear a dust mask.
    Do not use ash from burning trash, cardboard, coal or pressure-treated, painted or stained wood. These substances contain trace elements, harmful to many plants when applied in excessive amounts. For example, the glue in cardboard boxes and paper bags contains boron, an element toxic to many plant species at levels slightly higher than that required for normal growth.
    Do not use ash on alkaline soils or on acid-loving plants.
    Do not apply wood ash to a potato patch as wood ashes may favor the development of potato scab.
    Do not apply ash to newly germinated seeds, as ash contains too many salts for seedlings.
    Do not add ash with nitrogen fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate (21-0-0-24S), urea (46-0-0) or ammonium nitrate (34-0-0). These fertilizers produce ammonia gas when placed in contact with high pH materials such as wood ash.

  6. #6
    Veteran Member Gordon Gould's Avatar
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    NorthEastern, VT
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    Kubota L3010DT, Dresser TD7G Dozer

    Default Re: Fertility Of Burn Pile Dirt ????????

    I don't know any of the chemistry but this is what happened here. I had a burn pile spot for years, Burned mountains of brush in the winters. Mostly softwood. In the spring it would be bare ground. By fall there would be stuff starting to grow around the edges. About 5 years ago I quit burning in favor of chipping. The burn pile spot is now the best grass in the area by far. It filled in by itself and is quite lush. BTW Most of our soil is quite acid.
    "If you're not making any mistakes then you're not doing anything"

    L3010DT, Farmi JL290 Winch, ATI Grapple, BearCat 5" Chipper, 6' Rear Blade,
    7' Sickle Bar, 5' Land Plane Grading Scraper, Dresser TD7G Dozer

  7. #7
    Silver Member
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    Jul 2010
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    Rolla, ND
    Tractor
    John deere 2305, X520 and LX188

    Default Re: Fertility Of Burn Pile Dirt ????????

    Well guys;

    I am no agronomist or soil scientist.

    Having said that, I will give yu my "experience" with growing things in ahses.

    I had a HUGE mess of barbed wire with a bunch of fence posts that was just "left" for me to clean up. In order to get rid of the fence posts in the garden spot, I piled a bunch of scrap wood and old posts in the pile and burned the piss out of it until only the barbed wire was left. I then burned some other tree debris on the spot.

    After hauling off the wire with the gardencart and picking up pieces of wire forever, I tilled up the spot, next to the main garden.

    My wife planted her pumpkins in the ashes and dirt.

    They did FANTASTIC. I do not know if it was the ash, the darker surface, or a combination of both. The soil in that spot worked up nice, but we still wear gloves due to old wire that we still find.

    I would till in the ash real good.

    Watch out if chemicals, especially herbicide containers were burned on that site.

    Thats all folks!

    SC

  8. #8
    Elite Member schmism's Avatar
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    Peoria IL
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    New holland TC(33)

    Default Re: Fertility Of Burn Pile Dirt ????????

    wood ash will increase soil ph (if soil is 5.6 it will move it to 6.6) closer to 7 is better.
    Lime (as in ag lime) will also increase soil ph.
    Steve - TC33D 4x4 FEL, dual rear remotes with toys

  9. #9
    Platinum Member
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    Sep 2004
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    south/central Va.
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    Deutz Fahr Agrofarm 100, Stoll loader, bucket, forks & root grapple

    Default Re: Fertility Of Burn Pile Dirt ????????

    I used wood ash from a wood burning power plant for years on my hay fields and pasture. It takes 2.5 tons of wood ash to equal 1 ton of lime. Wood ash has up to 6% potash depending on the wood that was burned. You get all kinds of micro nutrients from wood ash that commercial fertilizer doesn't have. There's a little phosphate and a little nitrogen in it also. I was able to use the wood ash and 34% nitrogen to grow grass and hay for the cows for 14 years. If I were able I still be spreading ash and raising cattle. Total I spread over those years was about 2,000 tons. Saved me a lot of money. Took a great deal of time. But when fertilizer hit $700 a ton that ash looked like a gold mine.

    The ash I used wasn't a complete burn ash which made it easier to spread. It was also free. Free is always good. I took lots of soil samples.
    Charolais

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