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Fuel-up Your Biochar or Stall!
No matter your mode of transportation you wouldn’t start off without the fuel you need. “Charging” biochar gives you and your plants the most benefit. Placing uncharged biochar on your plants can actually stall plant growth.
Charging biochar is as simple as adding a variety of nutrient mixtures to fuel plant growth. These are ancient secrets for today’s organic garden. Combined with your own garden secrets you will develop favourite biochar charges. Future Turtleback Biochar product lines will include charged biochar formulations for a variety of soils.
Charging Biochar with Nutrients
Fertilizers work only for a short period of time on their own. Combining them with with biochar will maximize your results. To charge your biochar, mix enough water or your choice of nutrients to biochar in a mixing container. Stir thoroughly and let sit for a minimum of three hours and up to several days.
Biochar fits into the way you garden. For starters, you can try using organic liquid fertilizers, manure or compost tea, fish emulsion and liquid seaweed fertilizer. It is important that you follow the manufacturer’s mixing directions so that the nutrient concentrations are not too strong.
Instead of liquid nutrients, you can also try adding 1/4 cup of organic dry fertilizer, worm castings or bone meal per litre (16 oz) of water used, letting it sit for at least one day before application. You may also choose to mix biochar and aged compost or manure up to 50% by volume. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for more biochar tips and tricks.
Depending on the type of soil, the response may vary according to the amount of biochar added. As such there is a huge range in reported results for above and below ground growth with increases of 30-880%.
While scientists are testing applications rates for agricultural biochar applications, research for gardening suggests that a maximum application rate be 15 L / m2 or 1.5 L (50 fl oz) / ft2. We suggest this application be divided over three to five years to maximize the benefits to your garden soils.
Once applied at maximum level you will have a garden tool that never wears out, producing amazing results year after year!
Biochar research suggests that to realize benefits from biochar you should apply a minimum application rate (1%) of 300 mL / m2 or 30 mL (1 fl oz) / ft2. At this minimum rate it will take decades to realize the full potential of your biochar.
Depending on your budget, you may wish to concentrate biochar application at your planting spots and seed rows, building upon biochar applications each year.
For accelerated biochar composting you do not have to charge biochar. In a tumbling composter, mix 20% biochar by volume and incorporate into the composting process. For pile composting shake a layer of biochar with each addition of organic material.
Our indoor plants clean the air and add beauty. While talking to your plants may make you feel better, one of the best things you can do for them is to give them biochar. Re-potting indoor plants is the ideal time to mix up to 25% charged biochar by volume to your soil mix. But why wait? Immediate benefits can be had by applying approximately 1 cm (1/2 inch) topdressing of charged biochar.
Biochar can actually absorb moisture right out of the air! Topdressing also provides an attractive finish that filters water, holds nutrients and water extending feeding and watering intervals. For cacti and bonsai biochar can be incorporated in the growing medium and placed on top for visual interest.
For vegetable garden planting put charged biochar directly in your planting hole or along seed trenches. Adding biochar on an annual basis will increase your soil fertility. For established plants sprinkle around the plant and gently rake in charged biochar to prevent loss by wind. For no-till gardens mix charged biochar with compost, mulches & soil to keep the biochar where it’s needed most.
Applying biochar to your lawn creates healthier grass requiring less watering, less fertilizer and less leaching of nutrients. Charged and drained biochar can be applied directly on lawns using a fertilizer spreader. Alternately you can incorporate biochar into your topdressing mix up to 50% by volume and apply to your entire lawn or damaged areas followed by a watering in.
Begin by rinsing off the roots of your water plants cutting away any dead parts. Clean out the container that will hold your water plants. Put down a 3 cm (1”) layer of small pebbles for the bottom layer. Next add another layer the same depth as the pebbles, this time using your favourite charge of biochar.
Biochar will give any bacteria and microbes a place to thrive, keeping your water cleaner longer while feeding your plant. Cover the biochar with another layer of coarse sand. Set the plants’ roots on the sand and cover them with enough gravel to hold them in place. Add decorative rocks on top and fill the container with water until it just reaches the top level of gravel.
The best way to get biochar to the roots is to place several scoops of your favourite charge of biochar in the bottom of the hole prior to planting. In addition be sure to sprinkle in bonemeal which together with biochar reduces planting shock. Since you’ll have favourite trees and shrubs that are well established, you can easily increase surface applications of charged biochar compost or mulch.
If you really want the best for your trees and shrubs consider using a soil auger to drill 25 cm (10”) holes, 1 m (3 ft) apart at the drip-line and angled towards the tree. Fill the holes with your favourite biochar charge. Topdressing with grass seed or mulch makes for a professional finish.
Re-potting container plants or at the beginning of your growing season is the ideal time to mix up to 25% charged biochar by volume to your soil mix. Like indoor plants, immediate benefits can be realized by applying a 1 cm (1/2”) topdressing of charged biochar. Remember, biochar can actually absorb moisture right out of the air! Topdressing with biochar also provides an attractive finish that filters water, holds nutrients and water and extends feeding and watering intervals.
Whether you have your own recipe for a soil-less mix or use a tried and true product, mixing 25% charged biochar by volume will give you results like never before. Seeds in biochar can be started directly on biochar soaked in water. Biochar is especially good for orchid mixes and can be used as a liming agent. Expect huge increases in production for hydroponics.
All plants can benefit from biochar although plants requiring very acidic soils, such as poinsettias, blueberries and potatoes that require acidic micro-nutrients added to biochar charge to compensate.
“Upon arrival the biochar seemed circumspect: so black it swallowed the August sun. I applied it in a swath with a casual flick of the wrist to my Russian kale seedlings in September. Today, in January, after innumerable days of rain, frost, and snow, that SWATH IS GREENER AND BIGGER THAN THE REST” Nanaimo, BC
“I applied the biochar charged with compost to my vegetable garden in the spring and forgot about it, only to be reminded again when I pulled out these beautiful beets and other produce in the summer! Never had such a bountiful crop, especially as my garden’s sunlight hours is so limited” Maple Ridge, BC
“I love how my houseplants responded to biochar application. There was a surge in growth, leaves got darker, plants had more flowers and just keep on blooming. Once, I’ve even forgot to water for a couple weeks and the plants did not show any signs of stress”. Prince George, BC
“Being a gardener for over 50 years, I was amazed with biochar. Our broccoli grew like never before. We grow in small spaces so this is very important to us.” West Vancouver, BC
People often ask us, “what’s the difference between biochar and the charcoal in my fireplace”? Unlike biochar that undergoes controlled processes of pyrolysis and carbonization, remnants from your fireplace or wood-stove are the result of incomplete combustion.
Fireplace remnants will break down in your soil releasing carbon very quickly compared to biochar. The billions of biochar micro-pores that attract air, water and nutrients do not exist in such remnants. Those important living spaces create habitat for microbes and fungi that benefit your plants. Addition of fireplace charcoal and ash to soils can harm your plants. Biochar in fact has very little ash.