Aussies Living Simply

Biochar article

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    Richard T. Haard, Ph. D.

    Plant Propagation Manager

    Fourth Corner Nurseries

    We are encouraged by our early results from our block treatment study, a project that will continue for several more years. From our local fieldwork and also from reports of other hands on workers around the globe charcoal is an excellent material to use as a soil additive.

    I have personally been using Biochar for 2-3 years now and believe it has great potential for any home garden that can access to biomass produced Biochar.



    Hi Baz de Man,

    Do you buy Biochar (with a capital ‘B’?) as a product from a garden supplier, or do you char-your-own, or what’s the story? I ask partly because we’re indulging a fantasy about buying a very beautiful property that’s too big to be just a lifestyle/hobby/couple-sustaining home, and thinking – well fantasising – about how we might work with it. I’ve thought for a long time that if ever I was in a position to crop for cash I’d look at lucerne. Now I’m thinking that some form of biochar production in a long term rotation might further benefit the very beautiful property and perhaps directly generate a few cents a year???

    We won’t be buying the very beautiful property, but the fantasy is fun and it does generate questions that might be seriously useful later on.




    Thanks Baz. Had a bit of trouble reading the article, the first bit of text was overlaid by a picture and I couldn’t read it. The font used was not conducive to easy reading either. Nevertheless, the whole idea of Bio-Char is a good one and it’s something I would like to employ some time. Sounds like it isn’t easy to do, though. Would buying activated charcoal and adding it to my compost system work? How are your own experiments in this field going?



    own experiments in this field going?

    They are going really well, it’s more like a wide scale use and taking mental notes on areas which excel, my main garden bed is full of Biochar now and all of my citrus have had it added in the last few compost feeds but it’s still above the top soil (under mulch) and above feeding roots, it will take time. I have a new 3mx25m garden bed in development, Biochar is going in and will be dig in with the green manure crops, I’m going to run green manures crops for another year before using this garden bed for food production. It will end up with as much Biochar as I can make and will be an example of all the development work I have done and processes I have picked up from my fine scientist friends.

    Would buying activated charcoal

    yeah you could as long as it’s clean and chemical free.

    Get yourself one of these stoves and make your own in your city backyard without smoke, and cook your dinner on it.

    The Flanastove

    I have thought about importing a heap of these stoves from Robert Flanagan as they will burn almost anything (biomass) and create Biochar is a by product of your cooking. Robert Flanagan is a kick ass guy too.

    If you want to produce Biochar to sell it and happen to be a rocket scientist look up Pyrolysis.

    Fit one of these in the back yard?

    I have a good friend building an amazing system in NZ, they can create Biochar and energy from Biomass in 15 minutes. It can also blow up and level a large building, but it has not as yet. πŸ˜†

    Once it’s in the soil you don’t need to keep topping it up as Biochar does not break down so for cash croppers adding Biochar to your soil has real long term productive benefits. But you do have to have a good idea of what your doing to get the most out of you soil and the adding Biochar.

    If I could get a high pressure Pyrolysis system up and running I would making it here, but it’s all new tech and still in development.

    In the mean time I’ll keep using my drum to make it when I have excess dry biomass.

    Got any more questions fire away. πŸ˜† ha “fire” get it…. heh


    Your drum?? :shrug:

    How about piccies?:wave:


    Cut the end out of both ends of a steel drum and there you have it. I fill it tipped on one end with light dried timber on top of news paper, light it and keep adding timber as the news paper burns to ash, then I jam as much timber as I can in while it’s burning and once it’s alight and burning well I place a stone under one edge of the drum and the added up drafting oxygen mixed with volatiles from the wood ignite and you get no more smoke just a heat haze and some flame, when I get about half a drum of hot glowing coals I put the whole thing out with water (active Biochar has jetted stream) so this process is sort of close.

    It’s a low tech process that I do a few times a year, be warned it’s real hot and I always wear a hat, dark glasses, thick leather gloves and long cotton army shirts, but I have lost some hair when the drums volatiles ignite when I’m to close.

    This process takes about an 1 1/2 hrs if I have dry timber ready to go.

    I’ll dig up some piccies for you.


    Hi Bazman- great thread! Thank you.

    I’ve followed your links – had to laugh at the mid- sized Pyro 7. Can just hear the comments from the neighbour with that big shiny contraption sitting on the back deck :jawdrop: πŸ˜†

    Could you explain how the biochar is different from the charcoal remains in a slow combustion stove? (Biochar for dummies!) πŸ˜† πŸ˜† I’m not really scientific but I’d like to understand the process in simple terms! Would it be possible to add ‘normal’ charcoal to a compost pile; what else would you need to do to ‘activate’ it?

    I’d love to see some photos of your setup too! Excited to think it could be done on a back yard basis! Considering it involves fire I could probably get DH involved too!

    Sorry for all the questions!


    I’ve emailed for info on the Flanastove but haven’t received a reply yet. I was wondering how much they were and where to get one.


    slow combustion stove

    add all of this into your compost and you will be on your way to making quality biochar.

    The main difference is the size of the pores in the char, and the biomass used to create it, I use a hammer to break it up into smallish bits 5-10mm even rough powder is ok, I like different sizes in my mixes and I have even added unglazed smashed clay pots to my composts. Wood Ash is not biochar, you need to have lumps of char pore structure for Bacteria to live in.

    This is what you are trying to make when adding Biochar to your system.

    Mined Coal is not suitable as Biochar so I have been told and is better left where it is. Brought BBQ coal often has nasty chemicals added to make them light better so don’t add this stuff either.


    Thanks for the explanation and wikipedia link – both very helpful!

    I’m off to the ash pile now to source some charcoal to smash up and add to my compost! DH broke a couple of my terracotta pots on the weekend so they will end up in there too! :p

    Thanks again! :tup:


    You can also add the ash to your composts too, it’s a great source of potash which is great for citrus. Just add it a little at a time as you add layers of other organic matter.

    Glad I could help, will try and put together a write up on Biochar in the near future (with pics)


    Hi bazman!

    DS9 thoroughly enjoyed smashing up charcoal and terracotta to add to the compost! :clap: :clap: He’s more of a book and gadget geek (dare I say)!! :geek: so it was great seeing him outside helping in the garden!

    my main garden bed is full of Biochar now

    Does this mean that this garden bed is developing a noticable rich dark colour as per the cross sections seen in wikipedia and various other websites? Just interested! πŸ™‚


    I noticed that there is an article on Biochar in the latest edition of Organic Gardening magazine, by Peter Cundall. I haven’t read it, but imagine that, like most magazine articles, it is short on detail.



    Sandi, Did you mix it into compost or compost teas before adding to your garden beds? This is an important process which needs to be done with Biochar, Yes it will darken the colour of your garden soil depending on how much you use.

    it is short on detail

    Yes they are which is a shame, but I can try and offer as much info as I can.

    I found an old post I made to the bio-energy lists about my processes, the pic don’t link to larger images any more.


    Kookaburra Dreaming wrote:

    I noticed that there is an article on Biochar in the latest edition of Organic Gardening magazine, by Peter Cundall. I haven’t read it, but imagine that, like most magazine articles, it is short on detail.


    Actuallyl I found it really helpful and enough detail to follow for me to give it a go :tup:

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