A successful garden requires good soil. Many homes are built on relatively infertile ground. If your garden soil consists largely of sand, clay, or silt or is degraded in some form, using biochar as a soil amendment can make it more productive and fertile. While any soil type can benefit from biochar, it is especially effective on poor-quality soils.
You want to buy the right biochar for your needs. At Wakefield BioChar, our products help you grow healthier plants with less work!
Identifying Your Needs
Before adding soil amendments, knowing exactly what type of soil you have and what it needs is vital.
Here’s how to determine what your soil requires:
- Testing methods–Purchase a DIY soil testing kit to determine if your soil lacks crucial nutrients. You can also contact your local Cooperative Extension Service, which will perform the testing if you send them a dry soil sample.
- Soil pH–It’s vital to know your soil’s pH level. It is key to the nutrient availability of your plants. On the pH scale, a 7 is neutral. Soils above 7 are alkaline, while those under 7 are acidic. Although biochar is not considered a pH modifier it does have a pH of ~9. Knowing its characterics is important. Adding biochar may increase soil alkalinity.
Soil Amendment Types
Soil amendments or conditioners fall into two basic categories. Organic soil amendments derive from something that was alive. Inorganic soil amendments generally result from mining or manmade materials. Here are examples:
- Mulch–While mulch is often used to create an attractive appearance in landscaping, it also reduces evaporation and inhibits weed growth.
- Compost– Consisting of partly decomposed organic matter, compost helps to aerate soil, retain water, and increase the number of beneficial soil organisms. While you can purchase it, you can also make your own compost using organic matter from your kitchen and yard.
Mixing biochar into your compost or mulch can improve soil health and boost drought resistance. Wakefield BioChar offers a rich, pre-mixed blend of biochar and compost with mycorrhizal fungi, making conditioning your soil even easier.
- Lime–Made from ground limestone, lime consists primarily of calcium and magnesium carbonate. Adding lime to the soil increases pH levels, making it more alkaline. Biochar also increases soil pH levels. Most plants find it easier to access nutrients in alkaline soils.
- Sulfur–All living things require this essential mineral. As a soil amendment, sulfur lowers pH levels in alkaline soils, making them more acidic. It’s generally used only before planting. Using too much fertilizer over time or excessive leaching can deprive the soil of sulfur. Like biochar, sulfur offers some protection against certain plant diseases. Sulfur is found in naturally decaying materials such as compost, so mixing compost into your soil will add this mineral.
- Bone meal–It is derived from dried animal bones ground to a fine powder. It increases phosphorous levels, which helps to develop healthy root systems. Since it takes time for bone meal to break down in soil, plants receive a steady supply of phosphorus during the growing season. Keep in mind that bone meal only works in acidic soils. Bone meal also contains calcium. In alkaline soils, the calcium binds to the phosphorous, creating a calcium-phosphate compound, and plant roots cannot absorb it.
Biochar as a Soil Amendment
Using biochar as a soil amendment reduces the need for fertilizer, one of its many advantages.
The other ways biochar helps soil include the following:
- Increases water retention–Because more moisture is retained, less watering is required, and lawns, gardens, and crops may do well even during prolonged dry periods.
- Increases nutrient retention–Biochar can increase nutrient retention significantly, especially the uptake of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Biochar does not add nutrients per se but increases their availability to plants.
- Increases microbial activity–Biochar helps promote the growth of beneficial soil microbes.
- Improves soil structure–Biochar improves soil structure by encouraging soil aggregates to bind together for greater stability. These aggregates allow for better aeration and water penetration.
What to avoid with biochar
- Avoid over-amending–Adding more biochar than necessary does not further improve soil. Biochar can last centuries, so there is no need to overdo it.
- Consider using pH modifiers to lower the soil pH if using biochar with plants needing acidic soils. The list includes azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, begonias, and nasturtiums.
Learn More from Wakefield BioChar
When you learn more about biochar, you’ll understand that soil health increases in a time-honored, natural way. In an era in which global warming threatens to upend societies, a soil amendment such as biochar helps mitigate some of these dangers via carbon sequestration. Using biochar not only provides you with stronger, healthier, higher-yielding plants but also enables you to do your part in fighting climate change.
Better Soil. Better World.