Easy biochar! AS SEEN ON TV!
Biochar is being touted as the cure for sandy soil, nutrient leaching, global warming, toxic residues, cancer and Bieber Fever.
I made some with Ricky and Winky a few weeks ago, as you probably saw from my previous post. Rick basically takes a ton of branches and logs, gets them blazing, then covers the half-burned fire with a bunch of wet leaves and pine needles… then waters the heck out of it for hours.
Of course, this is also a great excuse to drink beer, smoke cigars and burn stuff.
Rather than making a big barrel or something that actually takes infrastructure, Rick’s method makes for easy biochar cooking – and it’s based on his own experimenting, which makes it double-plus-good. Hurray for experimenters. I went home with four buckets of char from one of his previous burns… and there was still plenty left behind.
I’ve read conflicting reports as to biochar’s effectiveness, with some trials showing poor results and others showing the opposite. It seems the very best way to make biochar effective is to mix it with some kind of nutrients or compost so it can be colonized by fungi and bacteria. Soaking it in compost tea, worm tea or urine is also apparently a good way to kick-start it.
Here’s more on how I make easy biochar… just another way to compost everything! Or check out my presentation on making biochar!
Anyone else using the stuff?
I think you're right about the effectiveness of biochar. My experience is that the char mounds I have watered the longest, mixed with dead leaves and grass, and just left for months without disturbing (or mixed with long-term compost), has turned out the best soil. Going straight from burn to garden bed hasn't seemed to work so well.
Also, it seems like the bigger the mound, the more likely it is to get colonized by the right bacteria and turn into rich soil. My best success so far was with a mound that would have filled about 4 pickup truck beds when finished.
Of course, when working with mounds of that size, it helps to have a tractor with a front-end loader to push leaves and dirt onto the smoldering fire. The wood pile I started with was the size of a large house, and was full of brush, tree limbs and leaves that had already been sitting for months.
Very good. You've experimented more than me. I'm going to do some tests with what I have and report differences, if any, between places with and without char. I also believe fungi is much more important than we think… if the charcoal acts as an attractant, we'll be golden.
The big smoking pile method of making biochar is not the best solution. We have a farm scale retort that makes good quality biochar without all the smoke. http://www.facebook.com/biocharcentral
Looks like a good system you have going there. However, making a nice big pile and burning it down requires zero infrastructure, hence our use of that method. Thanks for the link.