Do you want to grow healthier plants that are more productive, disease-resistant and nutrient-dense? A stupid question…I know! Of course, you do!
But how?? Well …there is one substance that might help you get very close to this goal. It looks a bit like charcoal and is simply carbonized organic matter. Soo...what is Biochar? Let's explore...
Nowadays we call this charred magic Biochar but this stuff has already been used thousands of years ago in the Amazon region to turn infertile soil into what we now call Terra Preta. To this day these soils are fertile and full of carbon whereas fields created through the 'slash and burn' method are unusable after one or two seasons in the tropical climate.
The capabilities of Biochar are truly fascinating! It can remarkably improve your garden soil and it might be a dream come true for many organic gardeners.
Here is an example for you: one of the problems we have here in the SW of Ireland are high rainfalls which leach a lot of nutrients out of the soil particularly during the winter. By incorporating Biochar into our soils it can hold on to nutrients that otherwise would be washed away. And this is only one of the problems biochar can solve for your garden!
Biochar is any organic matter that has been pyrolyzed. During pyrolisis the organic matter is roasted without oxygen at a temperature around 350°C. You can use all sorts of organic waste materials like e.g. garden trimmings, wood shavings, straw, twigs…any plant material that comes free and is non-toxic!
During the roasting process, the organic matter doesn’t burn down to ashes because there is no oxygen available. This preserves the cell structure of the organic matter you chose for your biochar. These cell structures are like little chambers which offer a cozy home to microorganisms and nutrients once it is incorporated in your garden soil.
Don’t mix up biochar with charcoal! Although it might look similar it is not the same thing. Charcoal is produced at much higher temperatures with oxygen in the process. With biochar, the aim is to preserve the cell structures and pores of the organic matter so it can do its magic in the soil.
In short…no! In itself, biochar has no nutrients of any significance. It is simply a form of very stable carbon. So you might be wondering why and how this stuff can make such a difference to your garden. It mainly works in two ways.
1. Biochar can hold onto nutrients until the plants need them and prevent them from being washed away by rain or irrigation water.
2. Biochar gives soil microbes a cozy home and shelter from predators. It supports beneficial soil life which will help to improve plant health.
Biochar is a very stable form of carbon. It can stay in the soil without breaking down and being released as CO2 for a very long time. It is estimated that it stable for several hundred if not thousands of years! So by using biochar in your garden you are not only improving the productivity of your soil... but you are also taking the climate gas CO2 from the atmosphere. A true win-win! There is no better way to reduce your carbon footprint while growing more and better quality food.
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