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questions about buried biochar and cover cropping

 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Hey so its 1pm and HOT out and I'm taking a break - but this is the project I am working on right now - at this moment - well not this moment but you get it
I've been reading and watching too many lectures (mostly from cornell - they seem into the char) and I think I have an alright understanding of this. Mostly I guess I'm looking for reassurance so a thumbs up is fine if you don't feel the need to comment.

I have 3 burn piles on my property. I have used two next to each other (7x7 and 3x3) to clear an area of nearly full sun (11am on) of grass and creeping buttercup. These fires burned fairly hot at I ended up with more ash than biochar however since I built them on top of wet vegetation (I did my burns this spring) the grass has charred. The third pile has yielded about 20 gallons of char from very fine to egg sized lumps.

I have cleared away most of the white ash from the 2 piles that I am putting the main veg patch in. I have mixed the biochar with about 5 gallons of goose poop and feathers and am soaking that mix with water from my makeshift goose pond. I am doing the same with 20 gallons of wood chips (the droppings/pond water mix) once it cools down a bit this evening I was going to dig up these bare patches (where the two fires where) to a depth of about 1 foot and put down half of each mix - fill with dirt about 4 inches and lay down another layer of char/chips.

I also have some pretty good looking compost (i think it looks good - none of the farms I worked on composted - they had rot piles) I made from cleaning out goat stalls (droppings/straw) and nettles. But I am hoping to use this (about 2 cubic yards) as a starter for more compost as I have acces to lots of goat straw, seaweed, and nettles. In fact I think I'm going to see about borrowing a truck and doing that now while I wait for the sun to cool down.

Its going into the second week of august and I am going to want to cover crop this with something thats going to be easy to remove and work around come spring. any suggestions? I was thinking a rye/vetch/daikon mix?

How does that sound? Passable? Awesome? Disastrous?

Edit
2ish pm: Alright well I went for it. I figured if I'm going to be driving around in a car with the windows down I might as well be dripping with sweat (I am) Still looking for input. Hopefully I wont get any "Oh no! you've wrecked your land perminantly!" observations after the fact. It sounded like a good plan to me.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Sounds good to me. I think you can amend with biochar just about anywhere, anytime. I have taken to adding ground up biochar to the compost tea, and it goes on top of everything.

I saw your post yesterday on trees, but had no comment to give. No experience with those unusual and exotic species. The only little bit of overlap we have is that your cherries and my plums are of the same genus. But if you ever want to try growing a bald cypress or a magnolia, I'll be happy to send you some seeds.
 
Tim Malacarne
Posts: 226
Location: South central Illinois, USA
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FWIW sounds to me like you have your duc ......er geese in a row!

I am a plain old gardener, new to bio-char and HK, BUT I do know that you won't need your whole 2 yards of compost to use for starter in another pile or piles. In my experience with compost piles, usually you don't need a starter, but if you wish, you can add just a few shovelsful to a whole pile, it doesn't take much at all... If you are in farm country, I would try to play nice with a dairy farmer who has bag silage. Spoiled silage is one of the best compost additives I've ever used. Very often it's heating when you get it. It is a high-quality animal feed, stands to reason it's be a high-quality compost ingredient, doesn't it?

I might close with, I always wondered where people obtained granite dust..... Finally asked about it at a headstone engraving place, they give me all I can ever use, free. Just started using it last year, hope it's a good source for microelements.

Have fun, enjoy yourself and take time to smell the flowers. Life is quick!

Best, TM
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Right. Thanks guys. I ended up more 'mixing' in the char and chips than layering. If I where to do it again I'd poor the liquid off first - my soils fine enough that I ended up with a bit of a 'slurry' which I think will make for less than Ideal soil structure. I guess that where time and worms come in handy.

Speaking of worms and other living things. Once thing I have noticed is that there was nothing living in those bare parcels of soil as I was digging. Now that's notable because my soil is usually absolutely crawling with life. Bare soil exposed to sun really is dead soil it seems. Also its been very dry and nothing has tried to grown and fill the gap. I was expecting this in the pile with all the white ash, but I purposely shoveled the other one clear after my burn to see what would spring up. My best guess as to why is because it's been so damn dry this year. Anyone have thoughts?

So, my logic in soaking the wood chips and char (other than that char should be soaked according to the soil science department at cornell) in a nitrogen rich solution is to help mitigate (totally mitigate?) the nitrogen that is used in the decomposition of wood.

Looks Like I won't have access to daikon seed but I'm entertaining some other ideas (austrian winter pea) and thinking of adding crimson clovers to the mix as well.

The straw I get is usually compacted into sheets and has often gone super anaerobic so I really do like to layer it really well and give it a good soaking - I don't know if this actually helps or not but I still do it. Now I have a near dumptruck load of compost to be (two standard truck beds added) of course it'll shrink back down to next ta nothin' and I haven't set up my system to capture leachate... neither is it in a place where I want to plant - but it is shaded well and stays good and moist way long even during mid summer. I've never though of using rock dusts but I do toss some crushed shell in from time to time.
 
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