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Biochar?

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Re: Biochar?

Post  countrynaturals on 10/20/2017, 7:51 pm

Okay, last question (I hope). We always burn our brush in the same place. Here is a pic of the residue that's been lying out there for about 8 months. Has it lost its potency or filled up on junk food or could I smoosh it down and turn it into biochar? I may have about 3-5 gallons of it, which would be really kewl if it's still usable. Cool
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Re: Biochar?

Post  jimmy cee on 10/20/2017, 8:54 pm

@jimmy cee wrote:I've done hanging baskets & 8 gallon containers for veggies, and flowers this past season.
Everything came out so good I will continue using MM.
I never over watered, adding enough just to keep the baskets from dripping.
On Wednesday's I added miracle gro, on Saturday's I added fish emulsion.
Just enough in my estimation to keep those little buggers happy, and happy they were..
I realize that wouldn't have happened if I had to leave town for some reason.

nasturtium with MM


Marigold with MM


Cayanetta peppers with MM
This plant grew so many peppers, it was mostly red when I picked them

Everything here was with MM, I am sold  a statement here about using Miracle Groon it
I need to clarify a statement about using miracle gro.....Once my compost piles were established and with understanding how microbes work and develop I have used absolutely nothing but a trace of blood & bone meal, and thats only to make me feel good.  Compost when properly made results in very near neutral material, microbes work toward this end. For 3 seasons now I havent concerned myself at all about PH..
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Re: Biochar?

Post  sanderson on 10/21/2017, 12:00 am

Jimmy, once you read and recommended "Teaming with Microbes" I have preached compost, compost, compost. Microbes rock. Thank you

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Re: Biochar?

Post  Yardslave on 10/21/2017, 5:31 pm

Maybe something like this?

UREA
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Re: Biochar?

Post  countrynaturals on 10/21/2017, 6:20 pm

@Yardslave wrote:Maybe something like this?

UREA
I'll pass. Thanks anyway. Shocked
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Re: Biochar?

Post  countrynaturals on 10/21/2017, 7:16 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:Okay, last question (I hope). We always burn our brush in the same place. Here is a pic of the residue that's been lying out there for about 8 months. Has it lost its potency or filled up on junk food or could I smoosh it down and turn it into biochar? I may have about 3-5 gallons of it, which would be really kewl if it's still usable. Cool
Made my first small batch. I picked up about a quart of this stuff, crushed it in a metal bowl with a rock into pieces no bigger than my thumb nail, and spread it around my compost heap. I won't be using that for about 5 months, so I'm guessing it should be ready by then. Next year, I'll collect it right after burn season and compost it separately until fall, when I'll mix it in to finish aging over the winter like this year. It will be very interesting to see if this next batch of compost is better than what I've made before. geek
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Re: Biochar?

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 10/21/2017, 10:22 pm

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Re: Biochar?

Post  countrynaturals on 10/22/2017, 10:40 am

WOW! Beetles,  thanks . I'm not even finished yet, and already two of my biggest questions were answered.

1) What size particles should I use? The smaller the better since it's the coating around each piece that carries the organic material -- small pieces, more surface area for the coating.

2) Was it too late to use after sitting on the ground for almost a year? No, the coating forms more slowly on the ground than in compost, but it's still good. rock on
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Re: Biochar?

Post  No_Such_Reality on 10/23/2017, 12:30 am

@SQWIB wrote:
@countrynaturals wrote:
@Turan wrote:Correct me if I am wrong, but bio char is like charcoal, not fully burned, not the stuff you get from cleaning your wood stove.  The reburner is adding more oxygen to more fully burn the wood, charcoal is done the opposite, it is burned with as low oxygen as possible to only take out some of the volatiles of burning.  
It isn't going to be as easy as I thought. We had a little fire this morning and I separated 3 nice little chunks for biochar, but it was burned to ash by the time it cooled. Maybe I need to drop them into water, but I'm not liking that idea -- too messy and too much trouble. Shocked  Gotta do some more research. geek

I have read that it is best to add ash lightly to a compost pile, it is lye that washes out of it, a little goes a long way.  If your pile and soil tend to be alkaline (like mine) it would seem to be more harmful than helpful.  I wonder if it would be good to sprinkle around the barn/chicken coop areas. 
Our soil is acid, so I dump all of our ashes right into the compost. It's still a very small part of the heap, and only happens for part of the year, so I'm not worried about it.
There is such a huge difference between the East and the West and I got myself into soil trouble listening to some one in a very different climate than mine.
Ain't that the truth! Every seed packet I read says "6 hours of direct sun". I don't know of a single crop that could survive 6 hours of direct sun in our brutal summers, but I had to learn that lesson the hard way. Mad
Build a fire wait till the wood is burnt up completely, cover with dirt and smoother.
I used to make it in a retort. 55 gallons then I used 5 gallon.
For retort put chunked wood on 5 gallon Pail, or on lid that has a few ½ holes, toss on the fire, it will smoke then flames will come out of the hole, once the gas has burnt of, remove the bucket and place upside down to choke, open the next day and crush.
Make sure not to use a lid with a gasket.
I now just put out the fire with a garden hose, crush the next day and wash or more with a hose then after a few dry days I'll put in buckets, add urea for a week or two then add too my beds with rabbit manure, or just dump in the compost heap after adding urea of course.
I used a little store brand version of a Weber smoker joe.   Split my wood chunks into inch and half fat kindling, stacked it thick in the kettle.  

Lit it.  Let it fully engulf in flames, give it a couple minutes to burn in, and then close it and all the vents and let it smother.  Wallah, lump charcoal.  Aka uncharged biochar. Dumped it into a bucket and smashed it up.  Properly charred smashes easily.

I charged mine with compost tea ( which doesn't really work), mixed it with compost and peat and used to fill a potato tower.  The tower struggled.  The tower always struggles due to accidental damage of plants, too dry, etc. time give give up on the tower.  That was four months ago. 

Anyway, couple weeks ago, noticed some potato volunteers poking up.  

The volunteers are robustly growing.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  SQWIB on 10/23/2017, 8:18 am

Well, I did my end of year cleanup this weekend and I made another batch of Bio-Char while making my Gardeden Jambalaya.

I start off with pallets, cardboard, junk mail, documents, dog poo (only what was collected this week), Bones, woodsy plant trimmings and tomato plants..
Then I toss on some hardwoods once all the junk and pallets is burnt up.






After I was done making my Garden Jambalaya, I spent a few more hours burning up some hardwood then when the last flame flickered out I busted up all the hot coals let it burn down a bit more then covered the coals with some potting mix from a 10 gallon of spent potting mix, perlite, peat, potting mix.

The next day I mixed the rest of the potting mix in with the coals real well, dug it out and put about 20% in my raised beds and the rest in the compost heap, then poured 3/4 gallon of urea on top of the bio-char in the compost bin.
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Re: Biochar?

Post  sanderson on 10/25/2017, 12:18 am

Garden Jambalaya - hungry

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Re: Biochar?

Post  SQWIB on 10/25/2017, 9:04 am

@countrynaturals wrote:
@countrynaturals wrote:Okay, last question (I hope). We always burn our brush in the same place. Here is a pic of the residue that's been lying out there for about 8 months. Has it lost its potency or filled up on junk food or could I smoosh it down and turn it into biochar? I may have about 3-5 gallons of it, which would be really kewl if it's still usable. Cool
Made my first small batch. I picked up about a quart of this stuff, crushed it in a metal bowl with a rock into pieces no bigger than my thumb nail, and spread it around my compost heap. I won't be using that for about 5 months, so I'm guessing it should be ready by then. Next year, I'll collect it right after burn season and compost it separately until fall, when I'll mix it in to finish aging over the winter like this year. It will be very interesting to see if this next batch of compost is better than what I've made before. geek

I don't thing it will be better as far as seeing a difference in performance, but rather different. The Bio-char will hold onto the nutrients and prevent runoff of nutrients.

This is more of a long term investment in your soil and I think it will slowly get better over time and help with the soil food web.

My hopes are that the Bio-Char will help hold onto the nutrients in my "New" raised Hugelkultur beds and
help with the soil food web, over time of course.

My long term goal is to ditch fertilizers and rely strictly on my own compost after a few more years.

I'm also hoping that the wood material in the beds do the same and will eventually provide a slow release of these nutrients and hold on to them in heavy rains or over watering, in any case this is how the Hugelkultur beds are supposed to perform.

So don't expect to be able to gauge a difference after using the Bio-Char in a year or two, it may take many years, but in a few years you may see you will need less amendments or fertilizers (if you even use them), as the Bio-Char will hold onto these nutrients, especially in raised beds.

Also a heads up, using Bio-Char may decrease the worm population slightly (from what I've read anyhow).

This is my (limited) understanding of Bio-Char from what I have researched, I could be wrong, who knows?
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Re: Biochar?

Post  SQWIB on 10/25/2017, 9:16 am

I just dug this stuff up and figured I would post it here if anyone was interested in a retort. I used to make Lump Charcoal for my Pit but it was just too much work.

Here's an article I wrote on my Website, use at your own risk  Wink
Charcoal Retort



  • Here's a low res video of the 5 gallon retort, you can at least enjoy the music Very Happy .







  • 55 gallon retort indirect method go to 3:28


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Re: Biochar?

Post  No_Such_Reality on 10/25/2017, 10:01 am

I've done the can retort in the fire and TLUD set up.  Yield in the TLUD is about 50%.  In the can much higher but that's not counting external fire source.  

At seven gallons to the cubic foot, very time consuming without a 55 gal drum setup.

I made a couple cubic feet and said enough.  I'll see how it ages in and decide if I do more.

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Re: Biochar?

Post  countrynaturals on 10/25/2017, 10:19 am

@SQWIB wrote:
Also a heads up, using Bio-Char may decrease the worm population slightly (from what I've read anyhow).

This is my (limited) understanding of Bio-Char from what I have researched, I could be wrong, who knows?
This worried me so I did a little search. Shocked 

https://growabundant.com/biochar-with-worms/

This one mentions ashes, too, which i never considered as bothering the worms. Rolling Eyes Since our chickens turn my compost heap, I may have to raise worms in a separate location, anyway. Embarassed

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/aess/2011/541592/

Here's a whole discussion about biochar and worms.

https://permies.com/t/62378/Experiment-biochar-worm-bin-bedding
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Re: Biochar?

Post  AtlantaMarie on 10/25/2017, 11:19 am

Just kind of jumping in here, but keep in mind that ashes are used to make lye. So it would make sense that worms aren't really fond of them...
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Re: Biochar?

Post  SQWIB on 10/25/2017, 12:51 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:
@SQWIB wrote:
Also a heads up, using Bio-Char may decrease the worm population slightly (from what I've read anyhow).

This is my (limited) understanding of Bio-Char from what I have researched, I could be wrong, who knows?


This one mentions ashes, too, which i never considered as bothering the worms.

Ashes are no good for worms, a little may not hurt, I use ash sparingly as a top dressing and more so when I have slug problems. I do not mix into the soil.

Agreed with AtlantaMarie, this is one of the reasons I heavily rinse my Bio-Char in the pit.

Ashes can be used as a fertilizer, but you need to watch the PH of the soil and if used excessively, salt can build up in your soil.

Wood Ashes as a Garden Fertilizer

Again... this is from my Limited understanding of Bio-Char.

I'll be doing a trial next year using Bio-Char in my aquaponics next season.
I'm hoping the Bio-Char helps with the water quality while providing for the plant.
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Re: Biochar?

Post  sanderson on 10/25/2017, 11:22 pm

Marie, you read my mind.  Ashes + water = lye, an alkaline

Squib,  How does rinsing help with the alkalinity?

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Re: Biochar?

Post  SQWIB on 10/26/2017, 11:46 am

@sanderson wrote:Marie, you read my mind.  Ashes + water = lye, an alkaline

Squib,  How does rinsing help with the alkalinity?

If you gather char like I do, in a firepit, there will most likely be a lot of ash with the bio-char. I use a garden hose and flood out the firepit and a lot of the ash washes away into the yard.
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Re: Biochar?

Post  sanderson on 10/26/2017, 1:15 pm

Okay, thanks.

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