Bio Char

konadogOctober 3, 2009

Has anyone experimented mixing Bio Char in there worm bins as a way to seed the char?

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11otis

I have followed conversations in the SCM section about bio char and am curious what you mean with "seed" the char?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 1:24PM
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fosteem1

I am also wondering what Bio Char is.

Could someone take the time to explain what it is and how it is made etc.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 2:53PM
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konadog

Otis11, Bio-char has an immense internal surface area that beneficial micro-fungii (mycorhizae) can colonize. This is the part where the worm bin comes in. I was just wondering if anyone has used this method before.

fosteem1, Bio Char is a process of making charcoal from plant waste, wood, just about anything and using it in your garden. Search for Bio Char or Tera Preta and you will find enough info to last a few weeks :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 8:31PM
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fosteem1

Ok, Thanks for the info.

But??? It is my understanding that worms don't like anything that has been burned. Am i wrong? How would the charcoal get soft enough for the worms to slurp it up?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 9:26PM
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konadog

I'm not thinking that the worms would eat or process the Bio Char, but it just being in the worm bin mixing with the final product that would be beneficial. I did read something that said that up to 50% could be mixed, but that sound a bit on the high side of things.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 10:15PM
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fosteem1

It would then be just as beneficial to add the bio char to the harvested compost and skip the addition to the bin. Or, Better mix up a batch of worm tea and soak the bio char in it. You would still get the microbes colonizing the bio char without taking up room in the bin.

When mixing things that wont break down like bio char into a bin it would be a little hard to know how much to put in. The feed and bedding shrinks all the time. I understand that the feed/bedding mix shrinks down to under 25% of its original volume in a tote type bin. I wouldn't know how much to add.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 10:42PM
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equinoxequinox

Yes. I have biochar in each of my systems. I made it myself. I would say it is in the experimental phase. I imagine benefits for both the biochar and the vermi. The addition of biochar to vermi systems should also make the vermi system more pleasant to deal with. I agree, those interested should "Search for Bio Char or Tera Preta" as there is no way to explain what took weeks of reading without turning this into a biochar forum. It would be like trying to explain vermicomposting in a few sentences on a biochar Forum.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 5:57AM
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konadog

Great, someone actually doing it. How much have you added to your bins? Did it change anything in regards as to how the worms have been working, like slow down, moving, anything noticeable? I just don't want to wipe out any of my bins.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 10:25AM
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equinoxequinox

Biochar and vermiculture go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Biochar with its nooks and crannies added to the garden without microbes is dead, barron land unfit to grow plants. Vermiculture weebeasties need a place to bring up billions of children. Together they make soil Eden.

Add biochar as a top coat to shreds of coffee tray type material. Eventually, as food is added below and above, both incorporate into the bedding.

How much biochar is added is limited by how much biochar one can make. Like money, land, or chocolate one always wants more.

It is hard to tell if anything has changed in regards to the vermi because I have only had vermi for over a year. Also of the small amount of worms I have, I keep giving away half. Thus I want more worms and more chocolate.

To experiment and spare innocent worms ask for volunteers.

For Halloween maybe dress the wigglers in little ninja costums and invite them to a party in a month old jack o lantern filled with biochar.

Does one char for the vermi or does one vermi for the char?

I add biochar as I add cover shreds, as a function of the moisture level of the bin. As shreds, biochar, is used as a drying agent. A dry bin would get no char. A too wet bin would. I do not drain or have drain pans on the bins. Food that will melt to water is balanced with extra shreds and or char. If the bin is dry, more food is added.

~ May your worms be fruitfull and multiply, leaving good castings in their wake.

Toss in some char and you can be doing it too.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 12:12AM
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equinoxequinox

The following is my opinion and not backed up by any facts. For all I know it is totally wrong. But that is why we are all here, to toss it all down on the table, experiment, and see what we see. And learn from one another.

Biochar that has spent time with vermicastings is a living system. Adding biochar to harvested vermicastings is like mixing oil and water. They will eventually mix but time is part of the living system. The weebeasties need time to get to know one another and form teams, culture, history, soccer teams and tradition. If time is short, and you have biochar, add 'em when ya got 'em.

Room in the bin? There is no room in the bin for biochar? Then let the biochar stay at the stable, near the horses.

Worm tea. Yes. This matches with the idea of adding biochar to a wet bin. The moisture gives the biochar a candle in the window and a welcome mat to the weebeasties. If only adding char to worm tea or worm tea to char, time would be short. No time for square dancing or holding hands.

How much biochar to add. Somewhere between salt on french fries and avalanch. Depends upon how much you have. If ya got it shake it.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 1:02AM
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konadog

Wow, I haven't checked back in some time, thanks for the responses.

equinoxequinox, your posts made my day, lighthearted and some interesting ideas.

This one makes the most sense and goes along with my thoughts about "seeding" the bio char.

" Biochar with its nooks and crannies added to the garden without microbes is dead, barron land unfit to grow plants. Vermiculture weebeasties need a place to bring up billions of children. Together they make soil Eden. "

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 11:37PM
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iamlook

In these 2 experiments they do seem to eat the biochar and prefer it to the pile of food that does not contain it.

http://www.woosworms.com/VermExperiments.html

Oh, and for a good overview of what Biochar is check out the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzmpWR6JUZQ

This post was edited by iamlook on Sat, May 3, 14 at 0:22

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 12:19AM
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equinoxequinox

It would stand to reason that the pile with less food would be eaten quicker. I would like to think the experiment was due to more surface area available to grow more weebeasties. The experiment only proved it is quicker to eat less food than more food. I think even the experimenter came to that conclusion.

I do not think it matters for our purposes if the worms eat the biochar or not. It matters how many rooms to rent it has for the microbes and also how much surface area is available to have for nutrients to grab onto. Also it captures excess water and lets it go when it is dry.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 10:19AM
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barbararose21101

I'm buying a bag of biochar next weekend. To sell me the whole bag they had to order it. I am looking for a small bio char stove that could be used in a fireplace. In the interim, I screen the ashes and put the chunks in the garden. The sales clerk, who has had years of commercial vermicomposting experience, and I, discussed whether the commercial biochar POWDER was as good for housing soil nutrients as shreds or chunks. We tentatively concluded that the powder represented something like a refugee camp with lots of spaces for lots of tiny critters. Might get active faster than the equivalent of a McMansion piece of charcoal.

I'm pretty sure no one on this forum would use charcoal briquets in their worm bin -- esp not the quick-to-burn.
I think some such briquettes might be OK but I am imagining it would be a good idea to break them up & maybe rinse them.

I'll mention, tho probably it doesn't need mentioning, that the charcoal doesn't have to be pretreated, but like pureeing and rotting food, probably speeds up habitation. If you put untreated charcoal in the garden, the soil nutrients will be stored there at some pace or other (as I understand it).

I'll use horse poo tea to condition the biochar powder.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 7:05PM
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equinoxequinox

I have stopped making my own. My experiments were tiny. Instead I purchased Cowboy charcoal. It is natural wood not briquette shaped. The large pieces are for grilling the ones that are too small and the dust is for the worms. When I harvest I toss the larger of these reefs of weebeasties back into the bin.

I would try to use the biochar for something else first. Maybe add into animal feed. Or sprinkle onto deep litter bedding. Or filter water. Or something. It seems too good to just get all dirty at first. Maybe even keep a box in the refrigerator to keep it sweet smelling and then toss the old box to the worms.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 7:23PM
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barbararose21101

I 'm not understanding you here. Is the idea of keeping it sweet a joke ?
What old box to toss ?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 10:31AM
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equinoxequinox

Charcoal is often used to prevent odors in refrigerators. It is also used in water filters and air filters. To take pure charcoal and dirty it without getting another use out of it first would be like purchasing an expensive dress and wear it to clean the kitchen floor without ever bothering to wear it to a nice event first.

The biochar reef rather than put into the harvest material could be retained and put back into the worm bin along with new food and bedding. The host of life on the biochar would be like a probiotic for the bin.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 11:02AM
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barbararose21101

Oh. Thanks. Makes sense.
( I use soda in the frig )

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 10:17AM
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barbararose21101

Report on my most recent "research":

Biochar can take as long as a year to "charge" or get "innoculated" or "seed" -- these are the words used to mean that the char goes from being full of holes (created by burning stuff out) to being full of water and microbes. Optimally, as I am presently understanding it, one wants the char right at /> the roots of the plant. A purveyor posted a picture of a worm tunnel through some char intending to show that the wormed liked it. When char is still fresh, not charged, it is taking in water and nutrients and can slow plant growth.
Source available: it's long.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 6:30PM
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barbararose21101

Steve Solomon replied that adding bio char at the start of a compost was a good way to charge it. Also that charging it in a wormery or as the tea bubbles, is good. His most recommended way of charging biochar is expensive and not related to vermicomposting.

As for quantity & ratios, from what I think I've learned so far, more is more & not less. The best quality commercial biochar is expensive enough that we are not apt to use too much.
(Silly point, I know, but I'm just saying . . .)

I put equal parts ! biochar and VC ( pints) in my latest 4 gal batch of tea with a cup of a kelp/humic acid "eco nutrient." It's haphazard. Wont' get tested unless it kills the strawberry starts. I could report that.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 11:17AM
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armoured

Personally I'm far away from purchasing or producing charcoal/biochar just to add to my worm pile. But I do throw any bits of leftover charcoal/deeply charred wood to my vermicompost with enitrely positive results.

I'll also add modest amounts of woodash from time to time - but I'm careful not to overdo it with that.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 3:46PM
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barbararose21101

Steve Solomon recommended wood ash for charging biochar.
It's nutrients are water soluable.
Didn't give a recipe, that is, ratio of ashes to water to biochar.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 12:52AM
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equinoxequinox

armoured, "bits of leftover charcoal/deeply charred wood" count as biochar in my book. If that is not biochar then I do not know what is.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 1:28AM
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armoured

@equinoxequinox: thanks - only meant to say that while looking hard for 'biochar' has not been a priority, my experience is also positive - with the 'found/free' kind.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 1:39AM
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11otis

armoured: But I do throw any bits of leftover charcoal/deeply charred wood to my vermicompost with enitrely positive results.
What is the positive result you noticed? Since I have no access to bio char but I know from "olden" days when people put charcoal floating in aquariums, I put charcoal pieces in my bin. I just assume it's something good, w/o really noticing the difference.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 2:24PM
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armoured

@otis11: good question. Don't know that I have an answer that will satisfy anyone, and not scientific, but broke down and integrated well with the compost. Seemed to make soil that drained but held water well. Probably most noticeable was a bit less tendency to turn into muddy paste in excess water.

Overall reminded me a bit more of 'soil' than compost.

i can't make comments on effects on plants etc though, I'm just not that organised to notice a difference.

YMMV, just my impressions, not an organised experiment, etc.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 2:34PM
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barbararose21101

Just as I bought all the burlap I had money for when I took the long drive,
when I bought biochar, I filled up the car and used a credit card. (Got a better price).
I've invited several iron work guys to make a biochar burner I could use in the fireplace.
None reponded.

Consensus is accruing, on how to make it, how to use it and how it works.
The guy Who Knows is Hugh McLaughlin.
There is a pdf with his name on it that will come up if you use
McLaughlin TLUD Jolly Roger Oven. as search terms. (I think)

Please don't make your own charcoal without watching this video or a similar one. The Top Lift Updraft design minimizes the
environmental impact and the heat wasted with other methods.
I'd have to review to see what the methane does if you don't capture it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Jolly Roger TLUD oven for biochar

This post was edited by barbararose21101 on Mon, Jan 5, 15 at 9:43

    Bookmark   January 4, 2015 at 11:44AM
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barbararose21101

this is the video I'm watching now.
This that irritating John interviewing Josiah Hunt.
Josiah is listenable.
Video is almost an hour.
Josiah makes and sells good biochar. The first half of the interview is the positive side.
I posted this link for Doubters.
Josiah explains why the hype and hasty products confused
people who want to use and make biochar.
There is important information in both videos.

IMO biochar is like vermicompost in that there are enough variables that one needs both research and experience to get clear results.
The more one understands it,
the more effective will be the the efforts.

Here is a link that might be useful: Why Biochar Doesn't Live Up to the Hype & Biochar FAQ

This post was edited by barbararose21101 on Wed, Jan 7, 15 at 10:53

    Bookmark   January 4, 2015 at 12:02PM
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nexev - Zone 8b

Interesting and fun thread. Love the idea of inoculated char. Came across the link below for making char that looks simple and best of all I happen to have the two barrels needed. Will have to file this one for a when the mood strikes.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Naked Whiz - making charcoal

    Bookmark   January 4, 2015 at 2:10PM
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solst1ce

just a note of caution when it comes to wood ash ...
It is pretty alkaline- in fact I use it to raise PH in my teas. Also I've crushed "cowboy charcoal" to use as bio-char- pretty easy to do and no issues with PH

    Bookmark   January 10, 2015 at 12:46PM
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barbararose21101

I failed to report that there are two cups of Black Owl biochar in the present brew.
See Tea in Winter with Charity's worm warmer.

My thinking is, since it has to be charged or innoculated one way or another,
it might as well be added to vermicompost and tea.

This post was edited by barbararose21101 on Sun, Jan 18, 15 at 14:52

    Bookmark   January 18, 2015 at 12:28PM
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