Yesterday I drove out to Dunster to attend the area’s annual Seedy Saturday event. Gardeners from around the Robson Valley gather to attend workshops about gardening and exchange ideas and stories about the subject. I have always found the event both interesting and helpful and yesterdays kept the same high standard.
There were talks on wild foraging, soup stocks, growing celery, and using raised beds, but I found the talk on biochar the most intriguing. Biochar (charcoal) is a recently discovered benefit to food growing. I first heard about it around 2007 when I read the book “1491” that described what North America was like before it was infected by Europeans. It discussed recent archeological discoveries in the Amazon that totally changed the known history of the region.
The book showed that there were large settlements of people living in the jungle, something that was thought to be impossible because of the dependence on “slash and burn” agriculture that limited populations to small mobile groups. The discovery of black biochar laden soils that could be farmed year after year changed not only history, but also modern agriculture.
Just up the road from where I live there is a company that is producing biochar and yesterday’s talk on the subject was given by their engineer. Biochar can be made from any organic matter and it is a very eco-friendly procedure that seals 50% of the carbon in the resulting charcoal and captures most of the rest that can be used for other products, so very little escapes into the atmosphere.
Added to a garden, biochar prevents nutrients to be lost in the soil, holds moisture in sandy soils, and air in clay soils. Tests have shown it to really makes plants grow better.
I wrote a blog about biochar in 2012:
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