Re: Minimal prep of biochar for gardens #garden
Nando, Paul et al.,
Not advisable to let it sit too long - biochar is alkaline, and mostly the mineral fertilizer mix with biochar starts to reek of NH3 (NH4+ shift to NH3 due to high pH). It’s different with organic nutrients, i.e. compost.
If you want to use mineral nutrients, I advise to cook a solution of organics such as tea leaves (spent or otherwise), coffee leftover or something alike, soak the biochar in the solution and let it dry up. Then mix with your fertilizer in such a way that most of the liquid is soaked up and apply it to soils quickly (in one day). Check the pH – too alkaline, put into alkaline soil, is not good, you lose the N.
We had a nice nitrate retention against leaching when the biochar was coffee-liquid coated before it was put into the soil.
Von: main@Biochar.groups.io <main@Biochar.groups.io>
Im Auftrag von Paul S Anderson
Nando (and to the others who have replied),
Nothing special in my vegetable/ flower garden efforts. Minimal effort. What should be done (thinning and plucking lower sucker leaves) generally does not get done. And not organic.
What about putting the biochar into a container and mixing in store-bought fertilizer. With some water. Let it sit for a week. Then spread the biochar. Any pros or cons to that?
Doc / Dr TLUD / Paul S. Anderson, PhD --- Website: www.drtlud.com
Email: psanders@... Skype: paultlud
Phone: Office: 309-452-7072 Mobile & WhatsApp: 309-531-4434
Exec. Dir. of Juntos Energy Solutions NFP Go to: www.JuntosNFP.org
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Author of “A Capitalist Carol” (free digital copies at www.capitalism21.org)
with pages 88 – 94 about solving the world crisis for clean cookstoves.
From: main@Biochar.groups.io <main@Biochar.groups.io> On Behalf Of Nando Breiter via groups.io
Sent: Monday, April 20, 2020 10:57 AM
Subject: Re: [Biochar] Minimal prep of biochar for gardens
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I'm curious. What do you normally do when preparing a garden bed? Are you following a more conventional path in terms of fertilization or using permaculture techniques?
I assume your char is produced at a higher rather than lower temperature range, correct? If so, it may have a tendency to adsorb and retain nutrients from the soil solution in a way that will not be plant available, deep in the pores, particularly if the particle size is not reduced to a rather fine powder, as the internal pore structure will be more developed in a higher temperature char. I suspect that once a mineral is trapped "deep" in a pore, deeper than say 50 microns or so (the depth to which the soil solution seems to circulate more freely as evidenced by the depth to which microbes survive in pores) it is much more likely to remain unavailable to plants, particularly as these pores become clogged over time.
If you are curious if this may be the case, you could set up a small trial with tomatoes for instance in pots, perhaps 4 with your char and 4 without. Don't fertilize them. If the growth and productivity of the tomatoes with char is reduced, then you might assume the char is adsorbing scarce nutrients from the soil solution in a way that the tomato plant cannot manage to access again.
If you grow tomatoes, you could try this. Plant the tomatoes, spread the char on top of the soil and work it into the surface of the soil. Head off to a nearby stand of trees and collect some leaves, and use that as a thick mulch over your tomato bed, building up as the plants grow to a good six inches or more. Hopefully the leaves will inoculate the char and the soil with mycorrhizae.
Next year, repeat the same procedure in the same bed with the same crop. No need to dig the soil, just work the biochar into the top few inches so it is in contact with the soil, and layer leaves on top as a mulch. As you trim the suckers and bottom leaves of the tomato plant, add more leaves so you get a nice thick layer, like you might find in the forest.
You could of course use the same technique with other vegetables, as appropriate, if you have enough char and leaves, broccoli, kale, zucchini.
You could also sow a winter rye cover crop, as shown below in my beds. This will keep the biological soil life alive and productive through the winter months, mining soil minerals and making them available to the soil solution, so at planting time in the spring, your soil is minerally and biologically ready for your productive crop. Just before planting, cut the rye at the base, lay it flat as a mulch, add your layer of char on top, work it in a bit, and then plant directly into the bed, and add a leaf mulch when the plants are mature enough if appropriate. I don't add leaf mulch, for instance, for onions or lettuce or beets, but rather a layer of compost (from horse manure).
What I'm doing here is gradually building up the soil health. I'm not aiming to use the biochar itself as a magic solution for a single crop, but as a part of a strategy to produce a terra preta like result without excessive effort. I've noticed that the surfaces of the larger char oxidizing in my topsoil have become more powdery. I suspect as the years go by, that very fine powder, perhaps in the 10-20 micron range found in terra preta soils, washes down into the soil and immediately binds with other soil particles into aggregates. If I can encourage a mycorrizial network to form with fungal nutrients like leaves, this may help to mine and transport minerals from the large char particles. Incorporating these fresh particles near the surface, rather than clustering them close to the roots, would prevent the char from adsorbing nutrients from the root zone.
Going forward, I will crush my char into as fine a particle size as I can manage. I don't see the particles breaking down substantially over the years, but only becoming a bit more powdery on the surface as I've described. It has the texture of a soft chalk after 4 or 5 years. This will distribute the char much more widely in the soil, signficantly increase the exposed surface area, potentially by several orders of magnitude, make any adsorbed minerals much more easily available to the soil solution, and promote soil aggregation, the char becoming deeply integrated into the soil matrix rather than sitting in the soil separately, like a small pebble.
On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 2:45 AM Daniel Pidgeon <daniel.pidgeon@...> wrote: