By now, you may have heard about the benefits of biochar for soil health in commercial agriculture and at home. For many backyard warriors, the activated charcoal in biochar blends is the key to recreational gardening success.
But why is it such a beneficial gardening tool, and how do you use it to cultivate a beautiful garden?
Below, we’ll explore the what, why, and how of using activated charcoal for soil health.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal (also known as activated carbon) is made from the same thermal process as regular charcoal, but the gases produced during the process gases are not allowed to condense back on the char which is what happens during the production of regular charcoal. The activated carbon that results has a higher porosity and absorbency. Its ability to better absorb pollutants and chemical impurities are helpful for use in many applications, including healthcare products and cosmetics.
Horticultural charcoal is a higher quality carbon than charcoal used for fuel. Both products like to use the word charcoal, but remember “coal” is a fuel. We need to focus on the “horticultural” part. On the other end of the spectrum, if you compare horticultural carbon to high-grade activated carbons, you would see that horticultural carbon is not heated to as high a temperature as the activated carbons which results in the horticultural carbon having a lower surface area. Also, you can use activated carbon in various applications, including soothing a tummy ache and brushing your teeth. As you might’ve guessed, horticultural charcoal isn’t recommended for those uses.
What are the benefits of using activated charcoal in your soil?
Above soil remediation, there are plenty of reasons you should consider using activated charcoal in your garden:
- It improves soil drainage.
- Absorbs extra moisture due to overwatering or heavy rains.
- Activated charcoal encourages aeration.
- It optimizes fertilization.
- It balances an acidic soil’s pH.
- Great for drainage improvement in container gardens and potted plants.
- It can be mixed as a powder with potting soil for potted plants.
- Activated charcoal is low-maintenance and enriches the soil in your garden beds for years.
Our Compost + Biochar blend works magic on your compost by increasing maturation rate and microbial activity while decreasing unwanted odors.
How do you use activated charcoal in soil?
Activated charcoal is easily found at your local hardware store or garden center. Before we get started in the garden, let’s make sure we have everything we’ll need:
- Measuring Tape
- Activated charcoal
Step One- Measure the dimensions of your garden bed so you can be sure the amount of activated charcoal you use is appropriate. As a general rule, you should use 1lb char for every 2 sq ft of land.
Step Two- Assess the moisture in the soil by making a “soil snowball.” The earth should crumble (softly) in your hand. If your dirt is sticky, you’ll have to be patient and wait for a rainy day or two. If the soil is dusty, give your garden bed a robust drink of water.
Step Three: Till the bed to 8-10 inches deep and clear out any rocks or roots.
Step Four: Distribute your charcoal (1 lb per 2 sq ft.) and work it about 6-8 inches into the soil.
Step Five: Water your charcoal/soil mixture. If you wish, you may work compost, worm castings or other fertilizer before watering.
Step Six: Let everything sit until the soil is at a workable moisture, then plant away!