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biochar vs hugelkultur

 
gardener
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It's also a surprise to me, and may change how I'm using it. It's on page 93, if you're interested.
John S
PDX OR
 
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John Suavecito wrote:It's also a surprise to me, and may change how I'm using it. It's on page 93, if you're interested.
John S
PDX OR



page 93 of what? lol
 
John Suavecito
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Of the book you and I both quoted: "Gardening with Biochar".
John S
PDX OR
 
Kai Walker
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John Suavecito wrote:Of the book you and I both quoted: "Gardening with Biochar".
John S
PDX OR



Alas unless it's free to download I can't get it.
But thank you for your suggestion.
 
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Interesting lecture and power point, with graphs and descriptive images based on testing soil organic carbon levels with biochar additions in actual field studies of multi year studies.  The soil carbon, biochar carbon, and plant carbon are separated as they give off different isotope readings of Carbon, and thus they can tell how much the soil carbon is increasing (actual living soil systems). It would be interesting to see what the results would be of a similar experiment done with hugulkultur to see what it is doing with existing soil carbon levels.  I would also like to see this done with hugulkultur and biochar combined.  Note:  the study was done on subtropical soils in Australia.  Additional note: the scientist/ lecture dude speaks in heavily accented English which is a bit of a struggle to understand on occasion, but bear with him.  The info is worth it .
 
Kai Walker
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Funny you should mention doing both.
That is what I am doing now.
Had to redo my hugel and this time instead of wood ships in the soil I am using 50% oak leaves plus biochar.
I am afraid my biochar percentage is going to be a little too late though.

I do have a small raised garden next to the hugel.
That one has leaves and about 10% biochar in it.
Right now we have 7 water bottles in there under a mini hoop house.


I make my biochar out of oak wood pellets (all natural is what is printed on the bag)

I can only make very small batches at one time so it takes 'forever' to make enough.

From what I read it takes about 3 months to 'activate'.
Charged is not activated.
I make my batches in a stainless steel 8 quart pot with lid inside my wood stove. Get the heat from it to help warm the place.
And charcoal as a bonus!

I did do 4 rows with 10% biochar on my hugel.
5 inches wide, 1 inch thick, 5 inches deep layer, about 10-12 feet long.

Takes right at a 5 gal bucket to do just one row.
On one end of the hugel, about ground level, I have 2 patches of garden.

One we out in some biochar the other I think I will leave alone as a control.

Too many variables though. Too many changes at one time.

My reason for the biochar and leaves is for moisture control more than anything. Tired of using 1,000 gal of water every 3-7 days.

We tested the moisture of the hugel and it was nearly saturated right now.

So we covered it with a plastic sheet to warm it.

Hoping some of those leaves will break down in time for spring planting.

I don't do soil tests other than pH meter and moisture.
$40 a test is too expensive.



Edit forgot something.
I still smash those pellets up into smaller pieces. BY HAND with a piece of wood and a bucket.
One or two ash shovels full at a time.

Pellets cost me about $5/40 pound bag. Takes 2 bags to make a 5 gal bucket (about 2/3 cubic foot).

Oh each bag produces 35K btu of heat too. So I get a win-win right now since it is winter time.

I used to break up small twigs but that takes as long to do that as it does to convert into charcoal.

Side note:
I found out you can use leftover wood ashes from a fireplace or wood stove to help patch gravel driveways!









 
Roberto pokachinni
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Great that you are doing it Kai.

From what I read it takes about 3 months to 'activate'.
Charged is not activated.  

 unfortunately the word activate (in regards to charcoal) has a definition that predates modern biochar, but I think I understand what you mean.  By activate, I think you mean that the nutrients within the biochar become useful to the living soil community.  I think that this would vary significantly depending on many variables, such as the type of inoculant that the char was charged with, the moisture content of the char, the soil's moisture content, the soil's temperature, the aggressiveness of the particular plant roots to interact with the soil/char, the volume of soil organic matter, the volume of char %... amongst many other possible variables and combinations.  

The way I understand soil microbial action and fertilizers, for instance, or by example, is that compost is not active in or on the soil until the soil reaches a certain temperature, but that manures tend to become active much sooner (or at lower temperatures); a summer application of compost is much more immediately useful to plants than an early spring application, or a spring application of manure is more beneficial in the immediate term than a spring application of compost.  

Other thoughts: Low moisture content soils, combined with high moisture content char, would likely result in the microbes of the soil in contact with the char would more likely involve themselves with the char nutrients more quickly than if the char was equally dry.  Microbes appreciate a certain amount of moisture.  

If the char was dry and the soil at a very high moisture content, the char would draw moisture into it; this could have a draw down effect on the organic interplay (nutrients would be sucked into the char and would be less available in the soil), but might act as a more rapid and complete overall homogeneity with the soil community over the coming years as the local soil microbial community would be quickly drawn into the char substrate.  My guesses anyway.  No science on that.  Just based on how carbon draws toxic stuff, or filters stuff, and how water and nutrients tend to move with varying moisture contents.  

So, yeah, anyway, my thinking is that there would be lots of variables/potentialities on when the charged char would become active in the soil. ,

This would be similar, I would think, with hugulkulture.  The type of wood, the degree of rot, the type of fungi rotting the wood, the type and volume of other innoculants/nutrients, the moisture content, the temperature... all would create significant differences in when the soil was making good use of the woody material.
 
Kai Walker
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Many sites claim their biochar is charged.
Charging means infused with things such as adding minerals, compost, etc.
Activation means that the living things in/on the biochar are active and not dormant.

Mine is a mix of both. Sort of lol

I made my hugel due to watering issues (which it hasn't altered my watering at all so far).
And to keep from having to bend over as much.
STILL having to water a lot.

So with the leaves on there and the biochar, I am holing to cut down watering by 1/2 if I can.

No fun sitting there for hours waiting for the water to run out the bottom.

I usually do not fertilize either. A little 'chick parts' kind of fertilizer lightly. And used coffee grounds.

Things do grow in the past but production is far less than what I expect it to do.
Out of 17 tomato plants I barely got one bushel out of them.
I think I should be getting about 4-5 times that amount.
Of course flooding spring rains and desert like conditions in the summer do not help at all.

Note about coffee grounds:
Worms love them.
And so do GRUB WORMS....

 
Kai Walker
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Drat I used that dreaded S-word again. Sheesh (slaps self on the forehead).
At least it was directed at my dumb self.
Sorry mods. I will edit if you want me to.
 
garden master
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Kai Walker wrote:Drat I used that dreaded S-word again. Sheesh (slaps self on the forehead).
At least it was directed at my dumb self.
Sorry mods. I will edit if you want me to.



No worries Kai, I accidentally do it now and again (and have that same slaps self on the forehead feeling).  No crime no fowl!!!
 
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