When fall is in full swing, there are piles of leaves on the ground and plenty of logs on the fire. Most of us just rake everything up and kick it to the curb, but you could be using leaves and firewood ash on your homestead. You know what they say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” so learn the many creative uses for your leaves and ash before you just throw them all away!
Uses for Fallen Leaves
If you can see more leaves than grass in your yard, it might be time to break out the rake. However, you don’t just have to throw your leaves in a bag to have them taken away. Instead, use those leaves for your benefit!
1. Compost: Adding leaves to your compost pile is a great and easy way to add nitrogen to the mix.
Plants must have plenty of nitrogen to make food, so by adding leaves, you are preparing to have boosted plant growth in the spring and summer.
Simply turn the compost once a month (or let your chickens turn it for you). You can also mulch them up and add them directly to the garden during the fall and then till them into the ground before planting in the spring.
2. Mulch: If you have plants that can be sensitive to severe winter cold, use the leaves to help insulate the roots. Pile the leaves up 4-6″ deep to keep the roots protected.
Check the mulch in the spring to see if it needs to be replaced. You want to maintain at least 2-3″ thick throughout the spring and summer.
3. Bedding for Poultry: When chickens are all cooped up throughout the winter, it’s nice to give them something entertaining to scratch or peck at. Your chickens will appreciate it!
Rake up those leaves on a dry day. Bag them up or store them in the barn for use in bedding during the winter. Leaves can be used as solo bedding but they aren’t super absorbent, so you should add some straw or shavings to the mix.
4. Fertilizer: Use your mower to mulch up leaves and spread them over your lawn. Grass needs nitrogen just like your garden, and it will save you from buying a ton of bagged fertilizer. The leaves will decompose over the winter and provide a kick start for your lawn in the spring.
Just make sure that the leaves are shredded up, and don’t use so much that you cannot see your grass. If your coverage is too heavy, your grass will be smothered. You don’t want that!
Uses for Firewood Ash
Late fall and winter are perfect for sitting by the fire, but once the firewood is all burned up, it seems to be useless. That’s where you’d be wrong. Firewood ash can be very useful on the homestead!
When I say firewood ash, I’m talking about purely ash from burning hardwood firewood. Do NOT use if burning trash, chemically treated wood, manufactured fire logs bought from the store, or charcoal.
1. Raise the PH of your soil: If your having trouble growing crops, plant’s leaves are yellow, or you have yellow grass, your soil might be too acidic. Check the PH of your soil using a PH Meter. Your soil should be between 6-7.5, so if it’s lower than that, your soil is acidic.
Take your wood ash and spread it on the soil. Never apply more than 25lbs of wood ash per 1,000 square feet in a given year. Make sure to test your soil again before applying more. Using too much wood ash can throw off the fertility of plants.
2. Chicken Dust Bath: Just like little kids, chickens love to roll around in the dirt. It’s their way of bathing. By covering their skin with dirt, they are keeping their feathers clean while also ridding themselves of mites, lice, ticks, fleas, and other parasites that can make them sick.
Wood ash mixed with dirt helps suffocate pesky pests that are difficult to get rid of. Plus, your chickens will peck at some of the smaller pieces of ash left over, which can help with internal parasites and flush toxins out of their body.
3. Keep Snails and Slugs Out of Your Garden: Snails and slugs hate ash. If you put a thick circle of it around your plants, those critters won’t cross it to get into your garden. If it rains, you will need to replace your wood ash barrier.
4. Use to Control Odors in the Coop: If you have chickens, there are places in the coop that smell worse than others, like under roosting areas. Sprinkle some wood ash on those areas and the ash will neutralize the smell. It has been said that wood ash can also neutralize skunk smell from your animals!
5. Fertilize Your Tomatoes: Wood ash contains a ton of calcium that plants like tomatoes need. Tomato plants will drain calcium from the soil to promote healthy growth
Be careful not to use too much around the garden. Plants like tomatoes, beans, lettuce, and broccoli will benefit, but plants that like more acidic soil like berries, cucumbers, and squash could be damaged. It is best to have those plants separated if you are planning to use wood ash fertilizer.
6. Ice Melt: Rock salt can harm your grass, your car, and your plants. This year, try putting down a layer of ash after shoveling the sidewalk. It will help keep the surface from being slick, and it is safe for concrete and grass!
How Do You Reuse?
There are still plenty of creative ways to use fallen leaves and wood ash. It’s great to find these homestead hacks to save money and save time going to the store.
Do you reuse leave and wood ash? Is there a use that we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comment section below.
Check the Rural King blog on the first Monday of every month for more homesteading tips and tricks!