BioChar – what’s the big deal?

Biochar natural soil improver

There’s a buzz about BioChar at the moment; articles, blogs and even BBBC television programmes are extolling the virtues of this “miracle” product as some kind of saviour of the planet and, amazing though much of this seems, this is not only true, but it’s nothing new either.  BioChar has been used for thousands of years, most notably the Terra Preta soils in Brazil, where it was added to the otherwise largely infertile Amazon soil to create the (threatened) forests we see today.

If BioChar’s been around for so long, you have to ask yourself why we don’t hear more about it; there are several conspiracy theories about why this information has been less than widely available, not least as this is a fully sustainable product that has such a huge variety of uses, and benefits.  We are, of course, delighted to see it starting to get some much needed attention, and will be sharing some of the reasons that BioChar really is a big deal, over our next few blogs.

Today, we’re starting with our favourite uses for BioChar:

  1. Compost improver.  We use all our vegetable kitchen waste to make compost (along with garden waste) and we add BioChar as we build up layers in the compost bin.  In total volume, around 25-30% will be Biochar by the time the bin is filled (usually takes around four months).  The reason adding BioChar is such a great idea is that a) by adding it during the time the waste is breaking down, the BioChar can absorb the micronutrients released. b) The addition of BioChar to the compost heap, helps with moisture retention for slow release and assists with drainage, at the same time. c) Once the compost has rotted down, you have a soil ready to use on your garden that is loaded with slow-release nutrients and drainage.
  2. Soil improver and enhancer.  We have clay soil at North Lodge; this means it is nutrient rich but has terrible drainage and is always either flooded and boggy or dry and cracked (if we’re lucky enough to get some dry weather for a few days).  Adding BioChar to any soil, at a rate of around 15% total volume, will make a significant difference to drainage and you’ll even find the number of worms in the soil increases.  In addition, the BioChar acts as a sponge to micronutrients, holding them and slowly releasing them over a period of time.
  3. Care of cuttings and seedlings.  Plants don’t like having their roots too restricted; they like to feel there is room to grow and spread.  By adding a thin (5mm) layer of BioChar to the tray under your small pots, you will encourage the roots to seek out food and spread.  The added advantage here, is that when you water the pots, the excess drains into the BioChar and is then slowly released over a period of time, back to the roots.  We have used this method for all the plants in our greenhouses here at North Lodge, and saw significantly improved root growth, larger and faster growth of all our vegetable plants, and less disease.

There are an enormous number of uses for BioChar, and there’s an interesting list here from The Journal for ecology, wine growing and climate farming.

We’d love to hear what you use BioChar for. Have you had a great success with this amazing product?

John and Dinah




4 thoughts on “BioChar – what’s the big deal?

  1. Daniel Monk says:

    Great post! Thank you for the info on BioChar we are starting a garden at my house and we decided to use shredded redwood. Do you know if shredded redwood could accomplish the same results as BioChar


    1. Dinah says:

      Hi Daniel
      Glad to hear you enjoyed the post and good luck with starting your garden. Using shredded wood will serve as a great mulch above the soil, helping to retain water and prevent weeds squeezing in. Over time, it will break down and decompose into the soil, releasing various micronutrients. However, it is not the same as BioChar. BioChar won’t break down for a very, very long time and during that entire time, it holds the carbon and does not release that back into the environment. It is a wonderful retainer of nutrients which it will release for the duration of its life, back into your soil. It makes a great home for miccoryhzyl fungi which benefit root growth, along with many micro nutrients which are otherwise washed away. Hope this helps and would love to know how you get on with the garden. Dinah and John

      Liked by 1 person

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