What is biochar?
Biochar is a type of charcoal that is made from organic matter, such as wood or agricultural waste.
It's made by heating the organic matter to between 400-800 C without oxygen. This process, known as pyrolysis, converts the organic matter to biochar which is mostly made of pure carbon (up to 90%), oxygen and hydrogen molecules.
Our biochar is made in modern production facilities but biochar is naturally produced by forest fires as well.
Why is it good for the environment?
- It is made from renewable materials, such as wood or agricultural waste, which means that it is a sustainable source of soil amendment.
- When biochar is added to soil, it can help to improve soil health and fertility and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Using biochar sequesters carbon in the soil, which helps to mitigate climate change.
How does it help soil fertility?
Biochar has a very high surface area, which allows it to absorb nutrients and water. These nutrients and additional moisture are then slowly absorbed by the roots of your plants as they need them.
The porous structure of the biochar also acts as a home for beneficial microbial activity, and further increases the porosity of your soil which helps conduct air, water and nutrients.
How long does it last for?
Biochar will stay intact in your soil for millenia (hence its carbon sequestration properties) however eventually it will be pushed below the root zone by new soil creation. Re-applying biochar into your soil every 3-5 years is recommended.
Are there any plants that I shouldn’t use biochar with?
All plants can benefit from biochar but use caution with plants that are potted without drainage holes. Retaining too much moisture may lead to water-logging and root rot.
What time of year is best to apply biochar?
In general, it's recommended to apply biochar when preparing the soil for planting, or during the early stages of plant growth.
If you are using biochar as a soil amendment for a garden bed, it's best to apply it in the fall or winter, when the soil is not actively growing plants. This will give the biochar time to integrate with the soil and begin to break down, which can help improve soil structure and nutrient availability for the following growing season.
If you are using biochar for potted plants, you can add it to the potting mix at any time, but it's best to do so during the early stages of plant growth, before the roots have become fully established. This will give the biochar time to begin breaking down and releasing nutrients into the soil, which can help support healthy plant growth.
What does peat-free mean?
Peat-free refers to products, such as potting soils, composts, and mulches, that do not contain peat moss as an ingredient. Peat moss is a type of partially decomposed plant material that is harvested from bogs and wetlands, and is often used as a soil amendment to improve water retention and aeration. However, the harvesting of peat moss can have negative environmental impacts because it can lead to the destruction of fragile ecosystems and the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
All Common Ground products are peat-free and do not contain any harmful substitutes.
How does biochar sequester carbon?
The process of making biochar sequesters carbon by burning waste organic matter in a low-oxygen environment, which locks the carbon in a stable, storable form. This process, called pyrolysis, prevents the carbon from the organic matter from decomposing naturally and reentering the atmosphere.
This is a sustainable practice because only waste organic matter is used — organic matter that would otherwise have no purpose and would be left to decompose. Lastly, pyrolysis releases much less carbon dioxide into the air than would have entered the atmosphere from decomposition.