fireplace ashes in the garden?

(Big sigh.) It seems that whatever one person advises, someone else advises just the opposite. Here's today's question:
Is it a GOOD idea, or a BAD idea, to put fireplace ashes in the garden soil? Why? What are the particulars?
I suppose it makes a difference if we're talking about a fireplace that burns wood, or one where we dump our old newspapers (in my case, both); and it matters what's growing in the garden (mostly flowers, but we're going to try berries).
Thank you very much!
Ted Shoemaker
Madison, Wisconsin, USA USDA zone 4/5 AHS heat zone 4/5 Sunset zone 43
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Ashes from a fireplace or wood-burning stove (not burned BBQ briquettes!) can be used to sweeten acidic soil. Five pounds of ashes over 100 sqft will raise the pH by about 0.5. If your soil is alkaline, using ashes is BAD idea. If your soil is below 6.5, adding ashes is a GOOD idea. Ashes contain high levels of potash, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. Avoid putting ashes near acid-loving plants such as azaleas or blueberries.
On Thu, 17 Mar 2005 20:05:26 -0600, Ted Shoemaker

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Ted Shoemaker Wrote:

Hi Ted,
This article will explain what using wood ashes does to the soil. http://tinyurl.com/69gj9
New
-- Newt
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1) if you are going to try blueberries, wood ash kills them. My raspberries take happily modest amounts of wood ash
2) other having covered pH concerns, I am assuming that Wisconsin has moderately acid soil. In most cases flowers will appreciate a little yearly application of wood ash. Flowers will not mind if you burned a lot of funny stuff in your stove besides the wood,
3) some vegetables love wood ash, specially onions, beets, chard, spinach, but also cabbage, carrots, lettuce and tomatoes like it. All this from direct experience in my acid soil.
Wood ash should contain all necessary nutrients for growth (specially the micronutrients except S, it is 50% Ca for example), except for insufficient amounts of P, and no N. I use about two 5 gallon buckets of wood ash every year, for about 1000 sq ft of vegetable gardening space. I mix it in with perhaps two tons of organic matter of course, and I add a bit of urea or high N/P grass fertilizer.
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Hey, I got good explanations, not just stubborn opinions!
Thanks to all who responded.
Ted Shoemaker
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