Soil Amendments
Q.

What do I need to do to ready burned area for planting?

Zone 6a | JennyPA added on April 10, 2019 | Answered

So we had a freak brushfire in my backyard. It burned a hillside full of fountain grass that the previous owner didn’t cut back (we moved to this house in Dec). It saved me the cost and trouble to remove it, so, aside from the utter terror of having a fire 20 feet from my house, it’s all good! Right. Anywho, I want to replant this hill when it warms up in the next few weeks, so what should o do to prepare it? There is a lot of residual ash, and some debris which I will clean up, but should I rototill it and then test it, amending afterwards, or is there a better process? This is my first “real” yard, and I am already overwhelmed by the events of the past few days. Any help or advice would be appreciated. I am in PA, zone 6a.

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MichiganDot
Answered on April 11, 2019

Burning organic material doesn't create soil toxins. Wood ash is an amendment to increase pH but I think the effect from burning grasses would be minimal. Rake the debris and add it to the compost. A soil test from PSU will tell you if amendments are needed for the plants you wish to grow and it is much easier to amend prior to planting. https://extension.psu.edu/dont-guess-soil-test. It is only $9 and their results are more reliable than the inexpensive test kits available to consumers. Meanwhile, what are you doing to prevent erosion before your plants get established. A cover crop or straw mulch are options. Gardening on a slope is not easy. Consider making paths and steps. For vegetables and annuals, think about terracing. One last caveat: fountain grass may survive fire and come back from the roots. While you wait for soil test results, watch for re-sprouting grass.

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