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Charcoal for grow?

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This article will explain the benefits of using a great soil amendment like bio char.
As a child I was lucky enough to have travelled to many countries around the world and one thing strangely enough that would confuse me, would be the drive from the airport to my Grandmother’s house. You could see farmer’s fields full of vegetables and orchards bursting with fruit, yet next to each of the blossoming fields there would always be a barren field. Occasionally the barren field was covered with burnt like black char. This made me wonder what had happened; maybe careless children may have been playing with matches I’d think.


Slash & Char method

My questions were answered the very next day, I witnessed a farmer, lighting a fire in his own field. What this was all about, at that age I had no idea about what the farmer was doing. In fact the farmer was actually planning ahead for the next season, opposed to the initial thought that the farmer may have had too much cider and had given up on the world of farming.
After studying and researching soils and farming techniques, it became more and more apparent that what the farmer had done to his fields had actually been happening for thousands of years and intentionally. History shows that as far back as 2000 years ago people were using this method of enriching the soil. It was discovered that a civilization in the Amazon basin region of South America used this ancient soil treatment. Researchers found extensive regions of dark, highly fertile soil and when this soil was analysed, it revealed high concentrations of charcoal and organic matter, such as decomposed plant and animal remains.

Without Bio Char                                       With Bio Char

Soil scientists theorised that the ancient Amazonian used a “slash-and-char” process to develop this rich soil. With slash and char, plant material or crop remains were cut, ignited, and buried to smoulder (rather than burn), which eventually produced char, now commonly referred to as “bio-char”. This process isolated most of the carbon in the vegetation, creating a particularly hospitable amendment, which in turn nurtured and housed beneficial micro-organisms that transformed the degraded soil to extremely rich and stable growing humus.

Image courtesy of International Bio char Initiative

These ancient Amazonians referred to their treated soil as terra preta – Portuguese for “black earth” and this finally explained why and what the farmer had been doing to his fields.
Bio-char does not contain any nutrients, in actual fact it is the physical properties that provide your soil with the benefits. Bio-char’s negative charge simply attracts positively charged plant nutrient ions (calcium, potassium, magnesium, etc.), preventing them from leaching out of the soil, and making them readily available to the plant roots. In addition, the high surface area and porosity of bio-char attract and hold water and provide a refuge or housing for beneficial organisms. These homes for micro organisms are immense thanks to its microscopic honeycomb- like structure. They literally act as an ark and provide a perfect habitat for beneficial soil microorganisms, such as mycorrhizae fungi.

Bio char under microscope

Bio-char also acts like a sponge, drastically improving the water holding capacity of your soil or compost, thus reducing the risk of drying out and lowering the frequency of watering.
One of the best attributes of bio-char is that it does not decompose and will stay in your soil almost indefinitely, enhancing and improving the natural health and fertility of your soil for years to come.
Now you know the facts about bio-char, which one do you buy for your garden if slash and char is not an option, considering that the majority of our readers are indoor growers? There are many producers of bio-char but we believe in the Soil Association Approved kind and therefore Go Grow is happy to introduce Carbon Gold’s Grochar soil improver to our shelves.