Biochar for Houseplants
November 10, 2022 5:24:16 PM PST November 10, 2022 5:24:16 PM PSTth, November 10, 2022 5:24:16 PM PST
Biochar for Houseplants
The more we use, the more soil and planetary health
While the recognition and appreciation of biochar's many benefits to both the soil and the environment have dramatically increased during the last few years, its history of use goes back thousands of years. Pre-Columbian Amazonians made it, Yasusada Miyazaki described it in a Japanese textbook written in 16971, and it helped create the famous Terra Preta soil in Brazil which grows mango and papaya 3x faster than grown in normal soil.6
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Biochar rejuvenates soil by stimulating microbial activity, sequesters twice as much CO2 as regular soils6, expands the earth's water and oxygen holding capacity, reduces nutrient runoff, and increases crop harvests and quality. When made in fire risk reduction projects, it turns logging and forest wastes into a useful product instead of letting them increase CO2 levels and make forest fires more dangerous. It can triple biomass and in the tropics increase the number of growing seasons per year6. Like a sponge, it absorbs and holds water and essential nutrients in the soil near the roots, decreases the need for and cost of fertilizers, and makes organic farming and gardening more economically competitive. Like a natural filter, it captures nitrogen that would normally leach into the groundwater and keeps it available as needed by the plants.
A long-term solution for improving soil fertility, a single application of biochar synchronistically combines with manure, compost, additives, and fertilizers and provides benefits for many years.
Today, we burn huge amounts of forestry and agricultural wastes or just leave them to decompose. This releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into the atmosphere. Instead, we can use biochar for "Carbon Farming" methods that sequester carbon while increasing agricultural production. Made from locally available materials, biochar reduces greenhouse gasses by creating a stable "carbon sink."2 One report estimated reducing carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions by up to 1.8 billion metric tonnes per year.3 A recent study estimated that it could remove 1.6 to 3.2 billion tons of CO2 per year.4 All this while improving soil health and reducing forest fire risk!
The more ways we can find to use biochar, the more we can rejuvenate the soil and mitigate the negative consequences of climate change. We developed a version for houseplants, and we're experimenting now with one for a composting toilet mix, as well as garden and large-farm scale versions. It’s also great for cattle feed (reduces methane emissions by over 10%), animal bedding, and many sanitation and industrial uses. If we use it in just 10% of our cement, it would reduce another 1% of the methane polluting our atmosphere.
- If you compost your food scraps, add some of our biochar mix to speed up the composting by improving its nutrient and water-holding capacities. We add it to our indoor compost container and add regular biochar to our three outdoor composting bins.
- In gardens, biochar gives the best results in acidic, sandy, and low-fertility soils. In heavy clay, highly fertile, and alkaline planting mixes, you will still get the water-holding and environmental benefits but could lower the plant yields a little. Because most houseplant mixes mainly have only perlite and peat moss, which have little or no nutrient value, biochar can make a big difference in houseplant health.
Using Biochar helps your plants as well as the environment. You may not have a large-scale opportunity to use it on a farm or garden but if you even only have one houseplant, you can participate in the regenerative farming process the world needs so badly now.
- Why Biochar? What else is in it and where does it come from?
- The Biochar Cookbook - A great book (and only $4.95) by Kelpie Wilson, an old friend who goes all the way back to our Real Goods days.
- Ring of Fire biochar kiln - Another great Kelpie invention. If you're interested in making your own Biochar, this could help you get started right away.