How to Make a Compost Bin Using Wood Ash


Wood ash is the residue of burned wood that has been left behind in your fireplace or wood stove. The active ingredient in wood ash is potassium carbonate, also known as potash. In the 18th century, gardeners who recognized the benefits of potash were struck with "potash fever." Today, the ashes from your fireplace can be placed in a compost bin as an ingredient to help keep the pH of your compost neutral while it breaks down.

Step 1

Select an area for your compost bin that is in full sun with well-drained soil so that nutrient-rich water that streams out of you compost pile will absorb into the soil. When you move your compost pile, you can plant flowers or vegetables in this soil.

Step 2

Transport all materials to your location to build the compost bin. It is easier to build the bin on location than to transport it once it has been assembled.

Step 3

Stand each pallet on its side with each end touching one of the other bins to form a box with an open top. Connect each bin to its neighbor by wrapping the corners formed by the bins with 9-gauge wire.

Step 4

Cut all of your compost materials into scraps that are 1-inch square. Grass clippings, straw and leaves can be cut down using a lawn mower. You can cut your paper with a paper shredder. Kitchen scraps can be cut down using a set of kitchen shears.

Step 5

Separate your compost materials into nitrogen-rich green materials such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps, or carbon-filled brown materials that include dead leaves, paper and straw. Set aside wood ash in its own separate category.

Step 6

Layer your nitrogen-rich green materials and your carbon-filled brown materials in separate layers in your bin. Make each layer of brown material twice as thick as the layer of green material. Sprinkle wood ash in a thin layer between each layer of brown and green.

Step 7

Water your compost pile with a garden hose until it is as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Cover it with a tarp to help keep it moist.

Step 8

Check the internal temperature of your compost pile with the meat thermometer. The pile should be between 120 and 150 degrees. Turn the pile inside out when the pile's temperature drops below 120 degrees.

Step 9

Sift the loam (finished compost) away from the unfinished compost. Return unfinished compost to the compost bin and use the finished compost.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 wood pallets
  • 9-gauge wire
  • Wire clippers
  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Straw
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Wood ash
  • Lawn mower
  • Paper shredder
  • Kitchen shears
  • Garden hose
  • Tarp
  • Meat thermometer
  • Pitchfork
  • Sieve


  • Oregon State University Extension: Wood ash can be useful in yard if used with caution
  • Plow & Hearth: Composting for Beginners
  • NC State University: Composting: A Guide to Managing Organic Yard Wastes

Who Can Help

  • How to Compost
Keywords: Composting wood ash, Potash in compost, gardening with potash

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."