Bio Char

thonotoroseMarch 28, 2014

Starting this thread in the hope that it will begin a great discussion about this garden amendment. Amazing info online. Seems to be a miraculous product.

Just ordered a cubic foot for $50 with free shipping.

Bio char MUST be "charged". That means you make a tea with manure, urine, live whey, compost and such and soak the char in that for 2 weeks, then apply.

If you don't charge it, it will not work and may be detremental for your garden for the first year or two. That is because the carbon absorbs nutrients from the soil unless charged first.

Char is effective if as little as 3% of the root area is char.

Will post results.

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pnbrown

It works, I can attest to that. I have been adding it to my MA garden for many years.

Since florida sand is so impoverished that it is impossible to grow crops without considerable enrichment, it is overwhelmingly likely that we are adding more nutrients than is immediately required that are being lost in every heavy rain. So even un-charged char will help - IOW, if you've got established beds and char, no need to wait for charging - get some in there right away. It is best by far to grind the char to dust but that is a messy business. Stay upwind or wear a mask.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 7:50AM
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thetradition(9b)

I tried it a year ago. Didn't charge it. It worked better than Black Kow, but wasn't "miraculous".

Two of my tomato plants lived through the winter are are still producing. One was in the biochar plot and one was planted around my Japanese tomato ring. Both survivors were the Sun Gold cherry variety

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 8:27AM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Yeah, it is my understanding that biochar will charge itself over time. Its like a nutrient battery, rather than letting our ferilizers just sift through the sand and out of our beds, some of those nutients get stuck in the biochar and remain trapped there to slowly sift back out into the soil. I can see where charging can be helpful, but then I wouldn't suggest adding any other amendments. It would be like pouring water over a soaked sponge, nothing would get caught and retained.

I have only recently started making my own biochar in a small grill-top kiln made from a 1 gallon paint can and repurposed veggie cans. As far as making the biochar, it has been a success, but I am waiting to see the results on my tomatoes.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 8:31AM
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loufloralcityz9

I grind my bio char into a fine powder using the old fashioned hand crank meat grinder. I find grinding the charcoal in this way is the least messy of the methods I have tried and the airborne charcoal dust is kept to a minimum. I bought the old meat grinder off eBay for cheap money and it came with 3 different blades for grinding & chopping. You will have to select which blade works best for you. I buy the bags of hardwood charcoal for grilling and smoking which are chunks of hardwood char that 'clink' when tapped together.
NOTE;
Do not use the bags of charcoal brickets as they are made from ground up coal from coal mines and not from hardwood trees. The pores of charcoal brickets are clogged with oils & waxes for easy match lighting and will not charge up as the pores are already filled.

I charge my bio char in my aquaponics fish tank external 10 gallon filter. The cotton filters catch the large fish poop and the charcoal biomass cleans the water to sparkling clear as the minute particles and micro organisms are absorbed by the charcoal. The bio char gets charged up very quickly using this method and catches all the micro organisms needed for the garden.

My charged bio char is used in my earthboxes for growing the root crops, carrots, beets, etc. that will not grow properly in my aquaponics grow beds. The earthboxes are also used for the vine crops like squash and muskmelon that have long running vines. I also use the charged bio char for my orchard trees. Yes it can be surface applied even after the trees are planted but it is best when mixed in the soil during planting. The small particles will slowly migrate down to the roots. The uses for bio char are endless in your gardens whether it be for edibles or flowers.

Lou

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:32AM
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pnbrown

That's clever, using it to clean fish tanks.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 12:24PM
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shuffles_gw

lou, when you grind your biochar, is it dry, damp or wet? I haven't tried it, but it seems damp or wet charcoal would be less messy grinding than dry. Or, more messy?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 1:06PM
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loufloralcityz9

I grind it when it is totally dry because if it was wet it would clump and jam up inside the meat grinder augur. There is very little dust that flies around if you grind it slowly and keep a bowl very close to the output of the grinder so the dust doesn't fall far and get airborne. I find most of the soot comes from when I'm breaking up the chunks of large char to fit in the meat grinder hopper. This grinding should be done outdoors on a calm day and best done while wearing long sleeve gloves.

Lou

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 2:24PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Lou, which set of blades do you use in the meat grinder?

Tom

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 2:43PM
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loufloralcityz9

Tom,
I'm not sure as it has been a few years now and I haven't changed the blade since I found what worked best. (old people have no reliable memory they can depend on)
I do remember the nut grinder blade did not work well as it spit out chunks and it would catch a big chunk and stop the crank. I think I started with that one and later found one of the finer grind blades did much better. If you buy the bagged hardwood char you will occasionally find a stone that will stop the crank from turning... reverse the crank handle and remove the stone. The stone will look black just like the wood char but will not crush.

Lou

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 3:19PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Thanks Lou,

Good info, I want to start experimenting with it this summer....

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:55PM
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loufloralcityz9

Tom,
When you charge your bio-char sprinkle a little bit of Azomite in the charging mix so the char can also take up the trace minerals. Humans need 90 trace minerals in their body for good health and I find Azomite to be the most complete trace mineral additive. We used to get those trace minerals when we burned wood in our stoves for cooking and heat our houses then spread the ashes (which were laden with the minerals) on our veggie gardens. Now we cook & heat with electric or gas.

Lou

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 7:57PM
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thonotorose

Glad to see the interest here.

And that it worked for you up north, pnbrown.

Tradition... maybe this year will show improved results.

Leekleman, Cool that you are making your own. I've fished pieces out of the burn barrel and recently turned a large pan of plantains and coconut oil inadvertently into char. They went into the garden, but didn't grind them smaller.

Lou, I have one of those grinders. Thanks for the tips. I will be looking for the hardwood charcoal.

I think that water filtration places and perhaps pond suppliers may carry bags of hardwood charcoal, too.

My char study has led me to believe that it is not just about the nutrients absorbed and released by the char. It is also about providing shelter for the microorganisms for the soil. Probiotics for the soil...

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 11:08PM
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derbyka

What about hardwood lump charcoal that you can get from the store? This has no additives/chemicals and is made out of hardwood, not coal. I only use that for cooking to reduce carcinogens. Could it be put to use for biochar?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 1:10AM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Lou - thanks for the tips, I've got a lot of catching up to do....

V - what have you been using it on? Your roses? Azaleas?

Tom

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 7:18PM
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loufloralcityz9

F.I.Y.
The bags of hard wood charcoal I use I buy at Publix. It is a light green bag named 'Publix Green Wise Market' 100% natural wood charcoal. It is made from Oak, Hickory, Maple & other hardwoods. (I'm reading from the info written on the bag) I have been using this bagged hardwood charcoal from Publix along with making my own for a number of years now.

I'm passing this info along for the people that live in cities in close-in neighborhoods that cannot burn a charcoal kiln in their backyards without garnering complaints from neighbors. I find the bagged charcoal from Publix is as good as the charcoal I can make in my kiln. You will find the occasional chunk that is not completely turned into char and also a stone now and then. You can bury the incompletely burned pieces of wood in your garden (deeper) as it will break down over time into wood compost. I also use the natural chipped wood from the power company when they chip trees and branches clearing the power lines. I bury it as-is to add decaying matter into my soil. It's free for the asking!

I hope this info will help all gardeners try using the bio-char in their gardens no matter where they live.

Lou

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 10:56PM
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thonotorose

Update: Today I emptied 27 used Bri-ta filters. We filter our well water for drinking. I have been saving the filters since I read about biochar. Previously, many others were spread, as-is, around the garden. This was before I learned about charging the mix.

The filters were mostly very dry and I ended up with over 5 lbs of fine grained charcoal which is pre-loaded with whatever minerals are naturally in our hard Florida water. To this, I have added a slurry made of blended veggie scraps, coffee grounds, molasses and well water.

Tomorrow, I plan to add about a quart of alfalfa pellets and some human urine. Later I will go over to my sister's and see if she has some chicken manure and litter I can gather. On Monday, I hope to get to worm's way to purchase some azomite to add also. (Thanks, Lou.)

Then I will let it stew far a couple of weeks. I am debating whether to make it watery and add an air pump. But, I think I will save that for later.

To answer your question, Tom, I plan to put it on some roses, some in my little hugleculture bed and use the remainder in new rose beds I am putting in (and old ones I hope to rework this year).

Those beds will be used for planting veggies among the roses.

I have also purchased a 35 lb box of bio char which will be charged and spread (in several batches) when this batch is done.

I think I'll go rummage around in my specialty fertilizers tomorrow, too. I am pretty sure I have some kelp and maybe some other interesting things.

This post was edited by thonotorose on Sun, Apr 6, 14 at 1:02

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 10:48PM
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thonotorose

>>a light green bag named 'Publix Green Wise Market' 100% natural wood charcoal.The Publix flyer has this item on sale this week. If memory serves, it is 8.8 lbs for $5.00. Much better price than I paid.

I think I will go and get 4 or 5 bags. Thanks for the tip, Lou.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 3:03PM
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