How long do we need to inoculate with nutrients before putting the biochar in the garden? I guess that depends.
Many people soak their biochar continuously in a liquid for a long time before applying to the soil.
I see several problems with this. First of all, the most common inoculant that I read about is compost tea. I have been making compost tea for a long time, and one of the people who taught me was Elaine Ingham. Compost tea is only really Actively Aerated Compost Tea for a short time after you stop bubbling it (oxygenating). If you leave it in a bucket or a giant vat for awhile, it goes anaerobic and will be spreading disease carrying microbes into your garden. Bad idea. I intend to put compost tea on my biochar today, but only just before I dig it into the ground. Then it will be aerated and bring healthy microbes to the soil.
Is it the only inoculant I use? He** no. I do use liquid inoculants, primarily urine. However, I drench the biochar with urine after having put several solid inoculants into it, and put a plate in the bucket, then pour it out afterwards. And I keep inoculating it like that for 7 days or more.
I have read where people said that you need to inoculate it for 2 months at least. Well, it's hard to get much done that way. My data shows that my method seems to be making a huge increase in flavor and production of my fruittrees. I think you can inoculate it for 2 months or more if you are putting it in a compost bin or leaving it for chickens to eat, etc. To say that it is a requirement makes no sense to me.
I add compost to my biochar, rather than biochar to the compost. In other words, there is more biochar than compost in the container. I also put crushed oyster shells, a cup of whole wheat flour, several pieces of rotten fruit, worm compost, and rotten wood mycelium.
I think that there is a difference between putting your inoculated biochar into the ground after it has been drenched in liquid, and putting it into the ground after it has liquid and solid inoculants mixed in with it. The solid nutrition I put into the biochar in the ground stays with the biochar, making sure that it has nutrition in it for a long time. In addition, I can still see and identify the circles of dripline around the trees where I put the depths of biochar. When I have to take a whiz, I directly pour it onto those dripline rings of biochar. That way, I keep it nutrified for a long time.
This is an area I really need to work on, and haven't. I either mix biochar in when making compost, and as you said, that takes a long time, or I wet it slightly and put it in my chicken coop and run, or I just put it on the ground around plantings and cover it with wood chips. None of these are ideal, and I would like to do better.
Trace, I think your process is pretty much spot on. We all want instant results; but that's not what char is about. Many of the benefits will accrue long after we leave our properties, and likely nobody will know why.
I have added this stuff for 20 years in growing areas, no additions at all; but it was wet clay soil and rototilled in with tons of compost. Results: positive.
Now I'm in deep sand, and I'm trying an experiment, started earlier today. Fish water, compost, live soil, raw char ground fairly fine, a chunk of forest soil with obvious fungal bits, and a few liquid upgrades from me. All in a trash bin with regular stirring to keep it aerobic. We'll see.
Time needed for Microbes to colonize water: 24hrs
BioChair: Maybe 2weeks
Time needed for Fungi to colonize water: 14 days
Time needed for Fungi to colonize woodchip:
Time needed for Fungi to colonize bio-chare:
Time needed for NPK to be dissolved in water:
Time needed for NPK to reach rootzone in the soil:
Time needed for NPK to be adsorbed into biochar:
Time needed for rockdust/gypsum/manure to be reach rootzonte in the soil:
Time need for the above to be adsorbed into the biochar:
Some of this is scale dependent. if all I am working with is a 5gallon bucket or even a 55gallon drum. Then I can probably make it all happen pretty quickly, but as it scales up, the process has to be less human intensive and take on a more machine/time intensive process.
I will not pre-inoculate the charcoal because charcoal is very alkaline. I just want to rinse it with water to make it neutral. Nature, like soil bacteria, is a very aggressive environment if not disturbed.
I will only add urine from above.
I love all of the shared ideas, and I am experimenting with several of them. I have been noticing that after a week of driving over the char, I can remove the more crushed parts and add inoculants to it. After another week of driving over it, the other half is quite crushed. Then I'm ready for another biochar burn. I have just started adding small amounts of water to it between the plywood panels, after noticing some of it turning to dust and starting to get out of the panels, and blowing away in strong wind conditions.
When I add the final ingredient, urine, I have started mixing the inoculant ingredients after being questioned why I layer them in this forum. I had earlier found my flour unmixed and caked in a lump, which isn't helpful. I have since found that it now accepts larger amounts of liquid urine. It feels to me like it will allow more microbial integration into the biochar.
I am also experimenting with using two buckets for the inoculation. If I remove the crushed char for inoculation after a week, I don't have to place the one-week inoculated biochar into the soil of the dripline of the tree yet. I can work on the first week with one bucket and complete the second week with the other bucket.
I have been using leftover blended raw fish parts into my compost tea for years. I may also try to blend some of my regular fish parts that I don't use for bait into the inoculation. It smells pretty bad already, and it won't make it smell better, but it might add another element of fertilization.