I think you are quite correct that there is potential compatibility between the two systems. As mentioned by Bryant, I would put the first addition of nutrient inoculated biochar on the soil surface. I personally don't follow the method of tilling, and don't find it necessary in general, but that's me. Anyway, I would then add a thin layer of your wood chips that have nitrogenous materials like manure or thinner greener plant material added. Then water this with fungal dominated teas, and subsequently add more layers of chips, which you wet down with either mushroom slurry or fungal dominant compost teas. This will greatly enhance the breakdown of your chips into the carbon rich soils that BTE is known for, and this will also further inoculate your biochar at every turn. Later, you can add biochar to your transplant potting soil, incorporating it this way as you plant out young plant, or by layering it underneath new additions of chips, as Greg suggests. There are other ways to get them into the living matrix, but as Bryant mentioned, biochar is best in the soil or into the layers of the mulch itself and not as a surface treatment where it can dry out. That said, I have intentions, if I get my biochar system happening how I dream it (with large volumes), to use the finest biochar dust to powder the top surface of my soil. I am wanting to do this specifically because in my climate which is generally cool temperate with a long dormant cold winter, the darker the soil surface is the faster the snow melts, the faster the beds warm up in the spring, and the more heat that the beds absorb so that they can be planted and growing food for me. A friend of mine spreads char on his snow itself in order to facilitate melting; he doesn't even add much but each black piece forms a hole in the snow that increases air flow and melt water speed. It really works wonders. He is working his garden sometimes a month before his closest neighbors.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't these concepts compatible? They both amount to en situ composting, both conserve water, both are highly biologically active...
Greg Martin wrote:Ryan, whenever I mulch I lay down a thin coating of biochar before laying down the mulch layers. Over the years the biochar works its way into your soil and the results seem quite nice. During the lifetime of a gardener a garden will get mulched a lot of times and you'll build up a beautiful biochar full soil.
I'm a bit uncomfortable laying down the thickness you've proposed in one year, but I've never tried it and would love to hear how it goes for you. Try a relatively small experimental area to see how it works out and please let us know!
John Saltveit wrote:Ryan,
If you're making a food forest (and in Ohio, that makes sense) you won't need to scratch to get your materials eventually to maintain the organic matter. My food forest has matured so I'm not in dire need anymore, and it is quite resilient and productive. I'm a nerd so I'm always trying to find out about some weird new vegetable, berry, or medicinal plant, but it is no longer necessary.