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bio-char

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by homemade, Aug 13, 2012.

  1. homemade

    homemade New Member

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    any comments on this

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  2. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    I do throw all the bits of leftover stove charcoal in my garden and into my compost, along with my ash. Work I've seen on terra preta from S.America indicates that it greatly improves soil. I don't think that I put in enough to reach the intensive levels that they have found there, of course, and heavy amounts of compost probably accomplish similar results. My garden is very high in organic matter as it is.
  3. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    AP - is there a "limit" to how much ash/char can be applied to a compost?
  4. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    The "char" is the charcoal part I believe. When incorporated into soil with good compost levels it acts as a reservoir for certain nutrients. I would think you could put in a LOT of that. Archaeological evidence shows that large areas of rainforest in S America were cultivated using this method- it's startling to look at the scale of the effort!

    People worry about applying too much ash- we know that it will kill plants in pure form in high doses (I dump mine on areas with poison ivy- takes a lot to kill it). I have dumped 3+ gallons into a 1 yard pile without issue. Compost naturally goes through swings in pH associated with microbial activity (there is a fairly acidic phase), but ends up with a pH near 7 no matter what you put in there. (pine needles, oak leaves- it all gets neutralized biologically), and I would guess that moderate amounts of ash will likewise be neutralized.

    Potassium is one of the nutrients that ash provides, but it's very soluble and may wash out. Biochar and compost (high residual humus levels) may act to retain this and other soluble nutrients via ion-exchange mechanism.

    I dunno- compost helps everything. Add compost.
  5. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    My question stems from the fact that 2 years ago, all my ash went to my garden. Haven't been able to grow a hot pepper since. Tomatoes are killer.

    Sorry OP, I really don't want to hi-jack your thread.
  6. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Ya, that would be a problem with too much ash- the char is the charcoal- very different composition.
  7. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Yep, believe it or not, I have actually read up on the use of char in those ancient cultures. Turned crappy ground into very stable, fertile ground.
  8. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Jags- you know tomatoes are weeds. I have a hard time keeping them down. Peppers want a little love- you could check your pH or (this is what I do) put down some compost and load up the beds with shredded leaves this fall. I'd bet that would rectumfy your issues.
  9. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    No leaves to speak of. Mine all end up in the fields around (wind). Got availability to horse bedding/chit, pig slop, grass clippings, etc. I need to be careful with the critter stuff though - that can burn a garden with too much. I would bet that the bedding/chit combo would be a good start for a compost pile.
  10. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Peppers can end up with the too much nitrogen thing where you get a damn tree with no fruit on it. If you apply crap in the fall, it should mellow by the spring and not cause burn unless you put heapum poop. Too bad about leaves- they're a free garden fix.

    That would be a good compost pile- normally they say you want a minimum of a yard of material to get good sustained heating. That stuff will get to 160F + if you get the right mix. If it stinks, then you need more low nitrogen materials
  11. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Hmmm...seriously thinking of compost heap. No problems with size. I can turn it with my loader tractor.
    Dune likes this.
  12. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Didn't see it mentioned yet but biochar is a lot like activated charcoal. The surface area is immense and it does a great job of absorbing stuff, including nutrients that might be needed by plants.
  13. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    My compost pile is practically a member of the family. If it once lived- I compost it. paper towels, pest critters, food scraps- everything. With a real hot pile, even the stuff they tell you not to compost (fats, meat, cheese, bones) is OK.
  14. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Won't be able to toss protein food stuff in it. That would be the dinner bell for a bunch of unwanted critters around me.
  15. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    I am surrounded by woods and composted the remains of a deer carcass. Got to bury it in a hot pile, but it works. Then wait for more critters to show up to add into the pile, and so on.
  16. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    I am more concerned with the yotes it would bring in. My dogs and cats would not be happy.
  17. lukem

    lukem Minister of Fire

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    We used to compost hogs at a farm I worked on by burying them in sawdust. Didn't take long to get rid of a 500 lb sow in a hot pile. Never had any 'yote trouble.
  18. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    A few years back, my closest neighbor had a cow go down. Drug it to an open field withing my line of sight. Didn't take long to get gone. Any given night I could take my bajillion watt light and hit several pairs of eyes. My dogs went nuts listening to them whoop it up.
  19. homemade

    homemade New Member

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    this is what comes out of the pellet water heater i am making
  20. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    Bio Char is not just charcoal. Its charcoal that is mixed with compost. Fresh charcoal can be detriment to a garden as it actually absorbs available nutirents and fixes them in the charcoal. The tera preta excavations show that the ancient farmers mixed a lot of orgainics in with it. I ran into a bio char proponent last summer and I asked him how he added nurtients to his bio- char, his recomendation was to pee in it. As long as it didnt smell it was absorbing the urine. Once it started smelling he knew it was ready for the garden. I always thought that it might be a good idea to mix bio char with chicken litter or hog manure as both are too strong for most plants but the biochar would grab a lot of the nitrogen and amonia and fix it into the char so that it released slowly.

    If the US ever gets into CO2 sequestration, there are some interesting potential scams where some one would partially gasifie wood and generate power with the volatiles, then buries the bio char to get credit for the carbon sequestration.
    Adios Pantalones likes this.
  21. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Right- that's why I said "with good compost levels". urine only adds N, so compost would be a better option I think than urine
  22. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    I agree Adios, I just thought the urnine approach was a interesting method.
  23. homemade

    homemade New Member

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  24. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Humus does much the same thing as far as nutrient storing capacity, and is the natural long-lasting product of compost degradation. If you have a good sized garden,rather than tracts of rainforest and a ton of time and charcoal, there are cheapo ways to come up with lots of compost.

    I am a big proponent of heavy mulching with 1/2 finished compost or just a variety of compostables that will break down in place enriching the soil, seriously reduce weeds, reduce watering needs, providing the perfect environment for rhizobia bacteria, prevent many diseases (proven for compost), and provide all the nutrients that your garden needs. Whew.
  25. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    wasn't there a Hitchcock movie about some guy composting his wife in a hot pile?

    seriously guys, this thread is blowing my mind.

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