fire ash and weeds

*warning: amateur*
I am beginning to get serious with my gardening, and trying out new things. I grow using 4x4 raised beds, and was thinking that maybe the pathways are a useful way of converting weeds and the ash of fireplaces into a useful soil again? By this, I mean that instead of walking on plain subsoil, as I've been doing (I am too lazy to pave, and like to scrape the path every now and then to add to the plots), I am considering lining the paths with fireplace ash, in an effort to reduce garbage costs - the ash would be walked into the subsoil, eventually mixing with it to form a clay. I'm in a moderately wet zone (Ireland), so this should not take long. After a few weeks of doing this, I figured that instead of burning weeds (what a waste of good nutrients!), I could do the same - just toss them on top of the ash, and walk them into the subsoil. I figure that the weeds would find it difficult to take root in the subsoil, and the ash would smother them, and after a year of being walked on, their ability to propogate would be weakened severely enough to allow the resultant clay/organic mix to be used as a small top-up to my plots.
Has this been tried before, and with what success?
A friend of mine said he'd tried that a few years ago, but was warned not to be some more experienced gardeners - when I asked, he couldn't tell me whether it was through their own experience of trying it, or because of "common wisdom" (or "because that's the way it's bloody done, that's why", as I prefer to think it).
Any thoughts? Any reasons why this would not work? Any reasons why I shouldn't even bother trying?
Kae
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Kae Verens wrote: > <snip content="stuff" />
am I being ignored, or is it just that no-one has an opinion?
Kae
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On Fri, 19 Sep 2003 20:38:33 +0100, Kae Verens

I read your post, but I don't know the answer, so I didn't answer. I imagine a lot of others did the same.
Pat
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Pat Meadows wrote:

thanks Pat - was just getting a bit paranoid - some newsgroups are used mostly as an archival system for mailing lists (macromedia.com does this, for example), so are not read by everyone.
Kae
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Kae Verens wrote:

Kae, the weed seeds retain their viability for a very long time. I think you are buying yourself some grief. I would recommend passing that soil through a hot compost pile on its way to topping off your planting beds.
Bill
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Noydb wrote:

thanks. Is this right for root-propogating weeds as well? Grasses and such, for example? What if I pull up the weeds before they reach seed-bearing age?
Kae
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On Sat, 20 Sep 2003 14:51:15 +0100, Kae Verens

I'd put them in the compost pile, not directly on the paths, unless you don't have time/energy/strength to do so.
This year we've weeded the paths in our garden with a string-trimmer and let the weeds fall where they may.
Pat
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Kae Verens wrote:

Wood ash is a fertilizer. Whatever seeds fall into that soil will _grow_.
Put it on your plants instead - that is, if you don't burn paints, plastics, fancily decorated carton, and so on in your fireplace.
Henriette
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Henriette Kress, AHG Helsinki, Finland
Henriette's herbal homepage: http://www.ibiblio.org/herbmed
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Henriette Kress wrote:

thank you. I'll be doing that instead then. I only burn paper, wood, and coal in my fireplace (which are all basically the same thing - carbon). the rest goes in the appropriate disposal method.
weeds, I guess, could be thrown onto the fire as well, and then onto the beds?
Kae
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Kae Verens wrote:

You have a compost heap for your weeds. One you turn twice a year, and empty of quality soil, and one you cover up for the winter, with more weeds; or with grass clippings, or hay, or whatever, in a way that water doesn't seep into it, but runs off it.
Henriette
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Here is my opinion: the pH of ash is 10.4. Nothing will grow in it. I have seen at my own place that the pH of soil is affected by how close one is to the concrete driveway (concrete is in part lime). One foot from the driveway the pH is around 6.5-7 and 20 ft from the driveway it is 5.5. So: nothing will grow in the paths (very good), but that soil will be unusable for a very long time (until rains leach it thoroughly), and you may find your beds to be a bit too alkaline as some of the stuff is absorbed into the beds.
My wood stove produces some 100 lb of wood ash each winter, and I put no more than a handful per 10 sq ft each year on the beds. The rest gets spread under my best trees. In particular this year I fertilized my old pear trees with wood ash, and they responded with a crop at least five times larger than usual (should have thinned much more, got millions of small pears and many broken branches). If you put 100 lb within a small garden, nothing may ultimately grow well.
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And not all plants tolerate even a small amount of ash either. Last year I put a small handful around some tomato plants that were about 3 foot tall and very healthy. I lost every one of them, and the undressed ones thrived. Boohoo. Not again.
Anita
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You may have alkaline soil to start with. And at any rate I always spread it one month or more before growing, typically in march at the end of wood stove season. In my acid soil, I find that wood ash helps all the veggies who like a pH close to 7 (beets, cabbage, lettuce, onion), and it also improves the flavor of tomatoes.
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simy1 wrote:

do any of you have a non-complex method to measure pH? By non-complex, I mean, a method that can be improvised using common garden materials (I'm a "back to basics" kinda guy)
Kae
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wrote:

There is always the weed method. If you have curly dock, dandelion, sorrel or sheep sorrel, you have acid soil. Can't remember which weeds thrive in alkaline soil. But don't worry, if you dump all that wood ash on your garden, it will be as alkaline as an alkali flat in the Western US.
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