Gardening Uses for Fireplace Ashes

Garden Uses for Fireplace Ashes

Ashes from your fireplace are a wonderful, natural resource for gardens.  They can enrich your compost pile, repel slugs and snails, amend the soil for alkaline-loving flowers and vegetables, and even change the color of hydrangeas.


  • Keep fireplace ashes dry in an ash bucket until you use them in the garden.  When they get wet, they lose nutrients.
  • Don’t use charcoal BBQ ashes in the garden.  They contain lighter fluid chemicals and binders from commercial briquettes.
  • If you have used chemical logs in your fireplace, don’t use those ashes for gardening.

Firewood ash is a good source of lime, potassium, carbon, nitrogen, magnesium, and trace minerals.  The exact nutrients depend on the type of wood that’s burned. Hardwoods such as oak contain about five times the nutrients of softwoods such as pine.

Add Fireplace Ashes to Your Compost Pile

Add Fireplace Ashes to Your Compost Pile

Sprinkle seasoned ash on each layer as you build your compost pile.  Turn the compost pile when you add ashes so they are not all in one concentrated area.

The fireplace ashes are very alkaline, so adding too much ash can raise the pH level of your compost.  To prevent it from getting too alkaline, add citrus fruit peels.  Soils in the western United States tend to already be more alkaline than the soil in the Eastern U.S.

Repel Slugs and Snails with Fireplace Ashes

Add Fireplace Ashes to Your Compost Pile

Sprinkling fireplace ashes around the base of susceptible plants discourages slugs and snails by keeping them from climbing the plants stems.  The ashes also act as a desiccant and dry up the critters. You will need to reapply it after each rain. Be careful, though, because reapplying too frequently can increase the alkalinity of the soil too much for some plants.  When in doubt, have your soil tested.

Feed Alkaline-Loving Flowers and Vegetables

Amend soil with fireplace ashes around plants that thrive in an alkaline environment.  Sprinkle the ashes around the plants and rake them well into the soil.  Do not leave clumps of ashes.

Use Fireplace Ashes to Grow SunflowersFlowers that appreciate wood ash include peonies, lavender, carnations, clematis, columbine, lupine, rosemary, baby’s breath, oriental poppies,  asters, perennial sunflowers, and daffodils.



Use Fireplace Ashes to Grow CabbageVegetables that are enhanced by applications of fireplace ashes include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and cabbage.



Add Ashes to the Hole When You Plant TomatoesWhen you plant tomatoes, place ¼ cup of fireplace ashes right into the hole to plump your tomatoes.

Change the Color of Hydrangeas

Use Fireplace Ashes to Change the Color of Hydrangeas

The color of pink and blue hydrangeas is influenced by the alkalinity of the soil.  Adding seasoned fireplace ashes to the soil of your hydrangeas will change them from blue to pink, or from light pink to a darker pink, or from dark pink to burgundy.  Three applications of fireplace ashes – once in winter, once in mid-May, and once again in June – will change the color of your hydrangeas in just one season.  Too much can burn the foliage, so apply no more than 2 pounds per 100 square feet.


As you sit in front of your fireplace during the winter, pouring over seed catalogs, keep the fireplace ashes in mind for that garden about which you are dreaming.

Posted in Using Your Fireplace Tagged with:

College Fireplaces

College and University Fireplaces

University and college fireplaces provide welcoming gathering spots for students and faculty.  Typically found in dorm lounges and student centers, they provide a home-like setting for studying and visiting and a place to warm cold toes in chilly weather.  They are also found in college administrative buildings, libraries, and even dorm rooms.

Not all that long ago, fireplaces were a normal part of every college building, including every college dorm room.  They were such a fundamental part of life on campus, the cost of firewood was often included in the board bill. It was not until the early 1900’s that most colleges converted to central heating.  Often you can still see chimneys on older buildings on campuses, evidence of their fireplace-heating days.

Hands down, the University of Buffalo’s majestic fireplace place in the Austin Flint Main Reading Room of the Health Sciences Library has the most awesome American college fireplace.  Hand-carved by craftsmen from the Kittinger Furniture Company of Buffalo, the fireplace mantel is a replica of a 15th century massive mantel in Canonbury Tower, London.

University of Buffalo’s majestic fireplace place in the Austin Flint Main Reading Room of the Health Sciences Library

The Fireplace Mantel in the Austin Flint Main Reading Room, photo by alexander_frzr, on Flickr

Admission Office Fireplaces

In is not uncommon for Admissions offices, eager to give both prospective students and their parents a sense that their institution is one in which students will feel “right at home”, to include a welcoming fireplace.  As students await their admissions interview or campus tour, they can experience the implied hospitality of the fireplace.

Bowdoin College Admission Hall

Bowdoin College Admission Hall, photo by Alex Pigott

Curry College Admissions Conference Room

Curry College Admissions Conference Room, photo by Curry College Admissions

Administration Fireplaces

Don’t think the admissions officers are the only administrators to have offices with elegant fireplaces.  College presidents, deans, and boards of directors use fireplaces to give their offices appropriate gravitas.

The renovation of the 1908 building used as the office of the Dean of the college of Arts and Sciences at the University of Vermont made this Victorian fireplace a focal point of the office.

Dean of Arts and Sciences' Office at the University of Vermont

Dean of Arts and Sciences’ Office at the University of Vermont

An imposing black granite fireplace set the tone for the Fitzgerald Boardroom used by the University president and board of directors at Creighton University.

Fitzgerald Boardroom at Creighton University

Fitzgerald Boardroom at Creighton University

Student Center Fireplaces

As the epicenter of student social life, university and college student centers often have inviting fireplaces.  Access to comfortable seating, Wi-Fi, flat-screen televisions, and coffee are standard complements to these college fireplaces.

The Danforth University Center at Washington University in St. Louis includes this handsome traditional marble and brick fireplace.

Student Center at Danforth University Center

Student Center at Danforth University Center

The University of Nevada at Reno’s Joe Crowley Student Center has five fireplaces around which students can be warmed.

University of Nevada, Reno Joe Crowley Student Union

University of Nevada, Reno Joe Crowley Student Union

At the University of Colorado Bolder this stacked stone fireplace in the Memorial Center is a popular gathering place.


University Memorial Center fireplace at the University of Colorado Bolder

University Memorial Center fireplace at the University of Colorado Bolder

Not all campus fireplaces, however, are traditional.  The University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Union South Prairie Fire coffee shop has this beauty with a custom-made firescreen depicting prairie grasses and plants.  Awesome!

Union South Prairie Fire coffee shop fireplace at the University Of Wisconsin-Madison

Union South Prairie Fire coffee shop fireplace at the University Of Wisconsin-Madison

Moravian College’s HUB features a center-of-the-room, modern fireplace.

Moravian College HUB fireplace

Moravian College HUB fireplace

Even the outside of the Student Center at Adrian College gets a fireplace!  The Caine Plaza entrance to the Student Center has this inviting outdoor fireplace.

Fireplace on Adrian College Caine Plaza entrance to Student Center

Adrian College Caine Plaza entrance to Student Center, photo by The Collaborative Inc

Library Fireplaces

Study time need not be without the warmth and quiet crackling of a fire. Imagine a fireplace in your library!

Lincoln Trail College Library

Lincoln Trail College Eagleton Library

Dorm Lounge Fireplaces

Although the dorm room fireplace is now a rarity, a fireplace in dorm lounges is anything but a novelty.  Whether in richly paneled rooms of ivy covered resident halls or in newly built modern dorms, college fireplaces remain popular hang-out spots.

University of Washington St. Louis, Eliot Residential College

Washington University in St. Louis, Eliot Residential College

University of Arkansas Holtz Hall Honors Dorm

University of Arkansas Holtz Hall Honors Dorm


Bates College Frank’s Hall Residence Lounge

Bates College Frank’s Hall Residence Lounge

University of Pennsylvania Hamilton Villages Residence Hall

University of Pennsylvania Hamilton Villages Residence Hall

University of Georgia East Village Campus Housing

University of Georgia East Village Campus Housing

Dorm Room Fireplaces

Yes, college fireplaces in dorm rooms do still exist.  Just barely.  Some of America’s oldest institutions of higher learning have preserved at least some dorm rooms with their original fireplaces.  Harvard University, Dartmouth College, Elmira College, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Virginia, for example, still have fireplaces in a few student rooms.  Often it is an honor to be selected to reside in a dorm room with this bit of history.

Dorm rooms with working fireplaces that students are allowed to use are even scarcer.  Original student rooms at the University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson, include neither bathrooms nor air conditioning, but are known for their working fireplaces and their famous former residents (Edgar Allan Poe, Woodrow Wilson, and Katie Couric).

The University of Virginia's Rooms with Fireplaces on the Lawn and Ranges

The University of Virginia‘s student rooms with fireplaces on the Lawn and Ranges

Did we miss your favorite college or university fireplace?

Let us know in the Comments below!

Posted in Decorating, Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance Tagged with:

10 Fun and Delicious S’mores Recipes

delicious smores recipe

Everyone knows about s’mores- the sticky, gooey combination of roasted marshmallow and Hershey’s chocolate squeezed between graham crackers. The recipe is a classic for evening fires around the fire pit. But why not mix up the classic recipe and try out some fun and delicious variations? Read on to check out our 10 favorite alternative s’mores recipes.

1. Peanut Butter and Marshmallow on Graham Crackers

peanut butter s'moresRegular s’mores not sticky enough for you? Give this recipe a shot. As a bonus- keeps noisy kids from talking.

2. Lemon Icing, Coconut, and Marshmallow on Graham Crackers

coconut lemon smoreLike a bit of tart with your sweet? This unique variation of the s’more with its tart lemon licing may be the one for you.

3. Orange Marmalade and Marshmallow on Graham Crackers

orange smoreFollowing the citrus theme, this orange-flavored s’more is a slightly less decadent version of the traditional treat.

4. Kit-Kats and Marshmallow

kit-kat smoreWhat’s that? Normal s’mores aren’t decadent enough? Very well, give this sugar sandwich a try. Two roasted marshmallows stuffed between two big Kit-Kat bars.

5. Reese’s Cup and Marshmallow on Graham Crackers

Reese's Cup S'moreA favorite. Chocolate sweetness and peanut butter, held together with roasted marshmallow and graham crackers. What’s not to love?

6. Mounds Bar and Marshmallow on Graham Crackers

mounds bar smoreMounds has a loyal following of fans, and for those people, this may be the best s’more ever.

7. Pumpkin Pie Filling and Marshmallow on Graham Crackers

pumpkin smoreTime for a new autumn tradition. Combine pumpkin pie and camp fires and what do you get? The pumpkin pie s’more of course!

8. Banana, Chocolate, and Marshmallow on Graham Crackers

banana and chocolate smoreAnother favorite. Banana and chocolate is always a good combination. And this s’more has fruit, so it’s healthy! Sort of.

9. Tradition with a Twist

oatmeal cookie s'moreSame insides, new outside. Oatmeal cookies instead of graham crackers make a heartier, crunchier s’more. Don’t worry, it’s still just as fun and messy as the original.

10. Hershey’s Chocolate with Almonds and Marshmallow Topped with Caramel Sauce on Graham Crackers

caramel almond smoreNow we’re getting fancy. Chocolate and almonds, on roasted marshmallow drizzled with caramel? Delicious. And messy.

Know someone who like s’mores as much as you? Share these recipes with them using the buttons below!

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Seashell Garland – Fireplace Shell Garland

How to Make a Seashell Garland

Make the most of summer by giving your home a summer vibe with a cheery, beach themed fireplace mantel with a seashell garland.

A couple of glass apothecary jars filled with sand and shells, white summer flowers in graceful white vases, white pillar candles and three little pots of grass adorn this great summer mantel.  But what really makes it special and pulls it all together is the seashell garland!
Summer Mantel with Seashell Garland

Mantel Photos courtesy of

The seashell garland in these mantel photos was purchased at a Homegoods store, and similar ones are available through Amazon, but you can easily make your own with favorite vacation souvenir seashells.  Or get the seashells of your choice at a craft store.

Summer Fireplace with Seashell Garland

What You’ll Need Make the seashell garland with a rope or cord base.

  • Rope or cord  1 ½  to 2 times the length of your fireplace


Masking Tape to prevent shell from cracking when drilled

Twine, string, ribbon, raffia to tie shells to rope

  • Twine, ribbon, string, or raffia



For an informal shell garland, add other sea-inspired objects.

Tips for Creating a Seashell Garland for a Formal Fireplace:

  • Stick with just one or two types of uniformly sized shells.  The garland above, for example, has scallop shells and star fish, but a garland of sand dollars and star fish or of all sand dollars would also work well.
  • Space the shells evenly along the rope or cord.  Swank it up by using a white silk cord instead of a rope.
  • Use satin or organdy ribbons to attach the shells instead of twine, sting, or raffia.
  • If you want to up the wow factor, consider adding white “pearls” from a craft store.

Tips for an Informal Seashell Mantel Garland:

  • Use a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of seashells.  The more shells the merrier!
  • Create more dimension by mixing in small pieces of driftwood, fishing net corks, or rope-wrapped glass buoys.
  • Attach the shells and other features with twine or raffia.  Consider hanging shells or objects from irregular lengths of twine or raffia.

How to Make a Seashell Garland for Your Fireplace Mantel

  1. Lay out the rope, shells and any other ornamentation you want on your garland to determine number and placement.
  2. To drill holes in seashells, put a piece of masking tape on the shell in the spot you want to drill.  The masking tape will help keep the shell from shattering as you drill into it.  Clamp the shell securely to hold it while you drill.  Use a dremmel tool with a small bit.  Don’t push too hard; let the drill do the work.  Allow the bit to cool before you do the next shell.
  3. Use string, twine, ribbon or raffia to attach each shell to the rope.  If getting it through the holes in the shells is a problem, use nylon bead stringing thread or mono-filament fishing line.
  4. Drape your seashell garland on or under your fireplace mantel.  To drape it under the fireplace mantel, use small cup hooks on the underside of the mantel.  (These cup hooks  can also hold stockings at Christmas time!)

Cup hook under mantel to hold seashell garland

Finishing Touches to a Summer Fireplace

The 14-inch glass Buoy Lantern Fireplace Candle Holder, set on the hearth or inside the firebox of an unused fireplace, continues the beach-y, summer theme of your seashell garland adorned mantel.  Plus, it keeps an unused, empty fireplace from being just an empty hole in the summer! Light a candle to add firelight to your hearth without adding heat.

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