How much biochar to use for growing plants?

by ROY


Comments for How much biochar to use for growing plants?

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Jan 06, 2012
Biochar in the garden
by: ~ Megan

This is a fascinating subject and not knowing much about it I did some research to find out more. I watched an excellent video online on how to make biochar for the home garden, but special steel drums or furnace equipment is needed so it's not a practical idea for most gardeners.

A less perfect but still excellent product can be made by digging a pit and filling it with woody, weedy and reasonably dry garden waste. Burn this brush and slowly cover it with soil so that it smolders until completely burnt, then water it down. Mix the resulting biochar with compost and the idea is that the micro-organisms fill up the microscopic spaces in the biochar and bond, thus retaining moisture and nutrients without them being washed away by rain.

Very simply, biochar is different from charcoal in that biochar is burnt at a lower heat (around 500 deg C) with minimum oxygen, whereas charcoal is fired at roughly twice that heat. Biochar enables micro-organisms, nutrients and moisture in the soil to infiltrate it and produce a highly desirable soil conditioner and fertilizer for optimum plant growth. It does not break down or lose its power, in fact it slowly builds up and does not need replenishing.

The rich, fertile 'Terra Preta' soils of ancient Amazonian rain forests are the result of the slow burning of wood and other biomass — it's worth reading the history of this as it dates back over 3000 years, and researchers still don't know whether the biochar was made intentionally or as the result of a buildup of cooking over middens or similar.

New or 'raw' biochar needs to be mixed with compost, soil or activators such as compost tea first to enable it to be used on the garden safely; otherwise it will extract moisture and nutrients from the surrounding soil. Old biochar and commercially bought bags of biochar can be used 50/50 with soil and even as much as 90/10 according to some sources. If bought, follow the instructions on the bags, but I would suggest 50/50 with soil and the same for containers, and see your results the first season before you adjust quantities.

It's worth more study and the more I read, the more I can see how useful biochar could be. I would be interested in yours and other readers' results.

Feb 10, 2012
I make my own biochar
by: roy willmond, tahlequah, ok

I began using biochar last year, and can see no negative results...i make my own from small limbs...will see how much it helps....lots to learn about it and how to use it...roy

Dec 17, 2012
by: milton

I’m making a test with three rows of 8 peppers each. I have digged in (one shovel deep) one or two inchs of biochar for 2 rows and I left one row without biochar, to see results and compare. In 2 or 3 months I hope to send you a photo of the bed. The 2 rows with biochar have litle green fruits, the one without I had to feed them separately and they began to grow and give some flowers, rather behind in size but I’ll wait to see the final results in size and number of fruits. Bad english I know, I’m spanish speaking.- I hope you understand what I’m trying to describe. My garden soil is just plain sand ( with lots of organic matter) Best wishes from Milton (Salinas, Uruguay),

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