What is BioChar?

Biochar made at The Charcoal Hut

BioChar is loved by gardeners and growers the world over. The Amazon tribes planted the rain forest on a bed of it. It is made from wood that has been cooked in a kiln, deprived of oxygen. It is an excellent form of carbon-capture. Think of it as nature’s perlite.

Biochar, natural soil improver and so much more.

BioChar is used by many farmers and allotment owners and across Europe and the USA they have known about its benefits for decades.  Crops are regularly reported to have achieved outstanding yields (a recent study with tomatoes reported a 60% increase with plants which had BioChar added to the soil), and also improved plant health and resistance to pests and diseases.

BioChar is a natural product, which is made when making charcoal. At North Lodge, we make our BioChar from hardwoods in our coppice and also specialist BioChar mixes from soft woods and brambles.  BioChar locks in the carbon which has been stored in the plant and keeps it from re-entering the atmosphere. It’s great news for the environment even in the process to make it.

“Charcoal is a commodity of the greatest value in connection with improvement of soil” – Arthur J Simons, Vegetable growers handbook

Biochar is known to:

– enhance root growth and development
– increase microbial life within soil
– has large internal surface area, making nutrients more available
– reduces the amount of fertiliser required
– reduces nitrogen oxide emissions
– reduces loss of added nutrients from the soil
– reduces soil acidity
-reduces heavy metal contaminants in soil

Soil Improving Properties…..

For a heavy clay soil, BioChar particles create a more porous structure, helping plants to have a more regulated flow of water, avoiding the flood/famine that clay often causes.

With sandy soils, it helps retain water and release it over a slower period.  In addition, it helps prevent over-watering as it absorbs the excess and thus prevents the roots from drowning.

With potted plants, whether you’re using a potting compost or soil, the addition of BioChar will again help with water retention.  In addition, it helps the plants absorb fertilisers over a slow-release period.

In the book The complete book of composting, J I Rodale talks about the benefits of BioChar being added to plants growing in pots, particularly if they are to remain restricted for more than 12 months.  “It is a distinct advantage not only because of the better drainage it affords, but also because it prevents the soil from souring” he tells us.

Our own experience with BioChar here at North Lodge in Myddfai, Wales, will be constantly updated on our Blog.  We’ve put back vegetable plots here, where concrete and grass previously reigned, and with the heavy clay soil we have, BioChar is playing a vital role.

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