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Old 01-12-2013, 11:20 AM
Dstrnad Dstrnad is offline
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Default Mulch and biochar

I know that you should use hardwood mulch around fruit trees, but what about biochar? Does biochar matter what wood it is made out of? I have tons of red pine branches, needles, etc. So I have started making biochar out of it for my fruit trees. Any Thoughts?

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Dave
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Old 01-12-2013, 05:43 PM
fruitnut fruitnut is offline
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Originally Posted by Dstrnad View Post
I know that you should use hardwood mulch around fruit trees, but what about biochar? Does biochar matter what wood it is made out of? I have tons of red pine branches, needles, etc. So I have started making biochar out of it for my fruit trees. Any Thoughts?

Thanks
Dave
Dave:

Thanks for bring this up. It is indeed an interesting concept. I don't have any answers for you but if it works in the Amazon rain forest it should work where you are.

Could you describe how you make biochar? Do you get any use out of the bi-products? I hope this is as good as it sounds.
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Old 01-12-2013, 06:10 PM
peaplum2 peaplum2 is offline
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Originally Posted by Dstrnad View Post
I know that you should use hardwood mulch around fruit trees, but what about biochar? Does biochar matter what wood it is made out of? I have tons of red pine branches, needles, etc. So I have started making biochar out of it for my fruit trees. Any Thoughts?

Thanks
Dave

I think that using pine needles and pine bark as compost will turn your soil from neutral to acidic. The soil would fall below 7.0 PH. Its is bad for your fruit trees but good for blueberries.
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Old 01-12-2013, 06:52 PM
Fascist Nation Fascist Nation is offline
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Originally Posted by peaplum2 View Post
I think that using pine needles and pine bark as compost will turn your soil from neutral to acidic. The soil would fall below 7.0 PH. Its is bad for your fruit trees but good for blueberries.
Fruit trees need below pH7 to take up their elements (nutrients)---figure pH 6.5 optimal. While pine needles may lower pH they accumulate pine resins in the soil that will over time build up and inhibit tree growth. It takes about 5 years here to rehab the soil once pine needles are discontinued. This is not a problem with the bark.

Since this was about biochar I suspect the ash/charred wood would raise the pH of the soil---a terrible idea in the Southwest (SW). But I don't know what wood that has been charcoaled and then allowed to degrade in the soil effects the soil. Any ash, which is minimal in the biochar process, is certainly a bad addition to soil in the SW.

Blueberries need a pH of 4.5-5.5.
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Old 01-12-2013, 06:52 PM
Dstrnad Dstrnad is offline
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Biochar and compost are different things. I am using very simple methods, currently I am using the drum from a dryer blocked a couple inches off the ground build a raging fire feed it untill the wood is mostly coals. Then I pull out the blocks and put a piece of osb over the top let it smulder. I have found it may be better to just shovel out the bunt coals from under the drum as they accumilate and put them in a metal can with a lid. This seems to make better char and can do so continulously. Most the people making it regularly us a double barrel kiln. What I don't know is if it carries any of the woods properties, such as the tannins in pine. Anyway I am going to try an experiment with it this year.

Thanks

Dave
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Old 01-23-2013, 08:57 PM
RandallW RandallW is offline
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I have a lot of charcoal (biochar?) that was produced simply by setting a pile of branches on fire, then dousing them with water when the flames subsided and the coals were glowing. I have delayed using them in my garden because I don't know how it would affect the pH. I do know that archaeologists and anthropologists get excited when they find such charcoal because it doesn't deteriorate like wood, and it can be thousands of years old and still radiocarbon dated. Now wood ash is another story. Ash is alkaline (used to make lye) and would raise soil pH. It would seem to me that charcoal, separated from the ash, would not break down in the soil and raise pH, but that is my guess. I am intrigued by reports of Amazon soils that were farmed by pre-Columbian Indians retaining fertility after hundreds of years. The soils contained large amounts of charcoal and broken pottery but I doubt the pottery contributed anything. Comments anyone?
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Old 01-23-2013, 09:10 PM
RandallW RandallW is offline
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Thanks for the warning about pine needles leaving resins in the soil. I have a fairly large quantity of litter from under juniper bushes that I planned to use on my Blueberries. Would there be a resin problem with that material?
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Old 01-24-2013, 09:37 AM
Fascist Nation Fascist Nation is offline
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Thanks for the warning about pine needles leaving resins in the soil. I have a fairly large quantity of litter from under juniper bushes that I planned to use on my Blueberries. Would there be a resin problem with that material?
Good question. I doubt it.
1. I don't even know if juniper "leaves" contain pine rosin...they don't seem to inhibit the area away from the tree the way pine does. The do inhibit under it.
2. People have used pine needles with growing blueberries for years and I have never heard of a problem and I am sure some of them have repeatedly added to a pine needle mulch layer for many years...so if there was a problem you would think someone would have said something by now.
3. Blueberry bushes are often found naturally growing under pine trees.
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Last edited by Fascist Nation; 01-24-2013 at 09:41 AM. Reason: corrected my hideous spelling errors
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:50 PM
halh halh is offline
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per my understanding, the pottery and charred wood found together in the Amazon basin are in the trash middens of the extinct villages. That ground was not farmed and therefore maintains fertility today. There is a good bit of speculation and wild conjecture floating around about farming practices of aboriginal peoples in the america's... unfortunately for those peoples, imported disease decimated those populations by upwards of 98%, leaving us without any means to determine their practices in agriculture or life.
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Old 02-23-2013, 03:32 PM
RandallW RandallW is offline
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per my understanding, the pottery and charred wood found together in the Amazon basin are in the trash middens of the extinct villages. That ground was not farmed and therefore maintains fertility today. There is a good bit of speculation and wild conjecture floating around about farming practices of aboriginal peoples in the america's... unfortunately for those peoples, imported disease decimated those populations by upwards of 98%, leaving us without any means to determine their practices in agriculture or life.
Halh; I think there is more to it than that. It is the heavy rainfall in that area that leaches nutrients from the soil which tends to be very thin in any case. I doubt that the pottery had anything to do with it as it is inert material. However, it could affect drainage.

It seems that some people are using elaborate means to produce 'biochar' which seems to be another name for charcoal except that other cellulostic materials can be used. Burning in a reduced oxygen environment should produce charcoal with less ash, but I question whether the end result has any different characteristics from the simple method I mentioned.
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