top_dollar_bread
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Greens and browns??

I was wondering if dry cow manure is still considered a brown??? I have a seemingly endless supply of dry cow manure and was curious.

The reason i ask is because i was told that even though grass clipping are left to dry, there still considered a green..??.. Can some one help clarify this for me....Any reliable references???

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rainbowgardener
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brown cow manure isn't brown

Green and brown don't have anything to do with color--brown and green have to do with carbon: nitrogen ratio. Manure is highly nitrogenous, therefore GREEN. Drying it doesn't change that. ( I don't know what the still in your question refers to, it never was a brown and never was considered one) Likewise dried grass clippings are still green, because they were growing when cut and because they don't have the dense fibrous structure that makes things carboniferous.

There is a sticky on Green and Brown at the beginning of the Compost section that discusses all this stuff in detail. Start by reading that.

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Re: brown cow manure isn't brown

rainbowgardener wrote: ( I don't know what the still in your question refers to, it never was a brown and never was considered one) .
My bad,its late... that was a typo i ment green, thanks for the fast response, i need some sleep

but still i always thought that when grass or leafs are let to dry the nitrogen is released, making green grass and leaves a brown (or carbon source)?? manure and fresh grass clippings stink, witch i thought was N being released into the air, dry manure still gots a smell to it but not as bad and dry grass clippings don't smell so bad either after dried?? what makes dry leafs so much different then dry grass??Are dry leafs considered a green and what about hay??

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rainbowgardener
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more on greens and browns

Please read the Sticky on this topic all this is discussed there. I'm NOT an expert on this stuff, but here's my take on your questions, but do the reading, people have addressed these topics that know more about it than I do....

The nitrogen is not released when things like grass and manure dry, only the moisture. The nitrogen is released when they break down, but drying them isn't breaking them down.

What makes dry leaves and hay different than dry grass is the internal structure that gives it stiffness which is carboniferous. Hay was dead already when cut, unlike grass. So it isn't whether they are dry or not, which doesn't change their chemical constituency, except for the moisture content, but what that constituency was and is.

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Re: more on greens and browns

thanks rainbow,
but i still cant get off of the smell. Lets forget the drying, i understand this, but the smell a pile gives once left to dry.

Grass clippings smell because of ther decomposing right?? same with manure right?? I was told the smell of clippings is microbes converting N into ammonia witch is lost to the atmosphere..was i miss informed...i was also told that compost can lose a lot of N when the C/N ratio is off balance and it starts to smell...again N being loss to the atmosphere in the form of ammonia...When i let a pile off grass clipping or manure sit, they first begin to smell and then they stop once dried. Does this affect the C/N ratio??

grass clipping don't smell when ther on your lawn, they only begin to smell when you chop them and they start to decompose. And fresh manure gives out methane, witch i think is carbon being loss..do these forms of gas being loss change the C/N ratio??

p.s. i read the sticky before the thread and again, maybe i missed this some were but instead of pointing me to the thread can you please give a link or quote out of it!
thanks

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Smell needs carbon

..
Grass and grass clippings are high nitrogen. Cows eat grass therefore cow manure is high nitrogen. Actually between the grass clippings and the cow manure you have some of the highest nitrogen materials around. Lucky you. Most other folks have lots of carbon stuff, woody stuff, and are looking for high nitrogen stuff to balance things out.

Green vs brown is simply shorthand for nitrogen vs carbon. Green for nitrogens and brown for carbons. Ignore the color implications. Forget about colors. Tea leaves are very green but are a brown. Leaves are green but are basically browns - in an oversimplified way.

You need lots of carbons for the stink. Tree trimmer services ought to be dumping lots of stuff on your driveway for the endless supply of cow manure you have. Apply wood chipper stuff, leaves and shredded paper. The carbon will balance things out and absorb odors. Think charcoal filters. Charcoal is about pure carbon. Forget about charcoal in the compost because it is already basically carbon and won't break down.

Again, for the stink, cover everything up with leaves, wood chipper stuff and shredded paper. Be aware that carbons take longer to break down but with a seemingly endless supply of cow manure you should have no problems.

Keep moist and the air moving through.
..

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rainbowgardener
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stink

But rot, I don't think top dollar was complaining about stink. I think he was suggesting the fact that these things have an odor means that they are decomposing and giving off/ releasing nitrogen. I guess the implication being if they do that enough they would become a brown.

What we smell, I believe is at least partly ammonia going off in the air.
I think the point about that is 1) it only takes a few molecules for us to be able to smell it, that still leaves plenty behind. 2) even if a significant proportion of the nitrogen were lost that wouldn't make these materials brown, that is carboniferous, because they weren't carboniferous to start with. It would just make them weaker greens, that is nitrogenous materials from which some of the nitrogen is gone. It wouldn't add any carbon, by losing nitrogen, though the ratio would change a little.

thanks top dollar for forcing me to think this through a little more!

In the sticky I mentioned ROT had posted this, which might be helpful for understanding this better:


Here's a good list and if you just want to reduce it to just browns and greens, just compare values to grass clippings, the green, and saw dust, the brown.

The link has remained constant for 3 years or so.

https://compost.css.cornell.edu/OnFarmHandbook/apa.taba1.html

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I think you're not taking into account what the PLANTS are doing. When grass or leaves are green, the grass and leaves are at the peak of phtosynthesis production. By the time they're straw or fallen leaves, the plants have moved all the nutrients out of them -- into the ripening of the wheat/oat seeds or to the branches and on down to the roots in preparation for winter. N must be part of the stuff that got transferred out.

Tree leaves when they're still green -- as in leaves on branches that got torn down by storm, pruned, cut down, etc. -- are, I'm pretty sure, GREENS or at least neutral. When in small quantities, I always strip the green leaves off and add them to the pile. Larger quantitiles, I pile the branches up on or near the compost piles so I can add them to the pile after they've dried up and start to fall off on their own. (Hmm. I wonder if there are any nutrient loss to the branches? Do the branches draw nutrients from the leaves when they realize they're no longer attached to the tree? -- well no matter, the branches get cut up and added to the compost pile at some later point anyway! :wink: )

Hmph! You know, we really should be discussing this in the GREEN/BROWN sticky. May be we should lock this thread and re-convene over there....

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Re: stink

rainbowgardener wrote:But rot, I don't think top dollar was complaining about stink. I think he was suggesting the fact that these things have an odor means that they are decomposing and giving off/ releasing nitrogen. I guess the implication being if they do that enough they would become a brown.

What we smell, I believe is at least partly ammonia going off in the air.
I think the point about that is 1) it only takes a few molecules for us to be able to smell it, that still leaves plenty behind. 2) even if a significant proportion of the nitrogen were lost that wouldn't make these materials brown, that is carboniferous, because they weren't carboniferous to start with. It would just make them weaker greens, that is nitrogenous materials from which some of the nitrogen is gone. It wouldn't add any carbon, by losing nitrogen, though the ratio would change a little.

thanks top dollar for forcing me to think this through a little more!
No thank you rainbow
that makes a whole lot of sense and the link was a great bonus. So N is being loss but not enough to make a big change..right??
applestar wrote:I think you're not taking into account what the PLANTS are doing. When grass or leaves are green, the grass and leaves are at the peak of phtosynthesis production. By the time they're straw or fallen leaves, the plants have moved all the nutrients out of them -- into the ripening of the wheat/oat seeds or to the branches and on down to the roots in preparation for winter. N must be part of the stuff that got transferred out.

Tree leaves when they're still green -- as in leaves on branches that got torn down by storm, pruned, cut down, etc. -- are, I'm pretty sure, GREENS or at least neutral. When in small quantities, I always strip the green leaves off and add them to the pile. Larger quantitiles, I pile the branches up on or near the compost piles so I can add them to the pile after they've dried up and start to fall off on their own. (Hmm. I wonder if there are any nutrient loss to the branches? Do the branches draw nutrients from the leaves when they realize they're no longer attached to the tree?
i would think so, i wish i can i find some studies on this. I also heard that fresh grass clippings, if left on your soil, removes nitrogen from your soil??
rot wrote:..The carbon will balance things out and absorb odors. Think charcoal filters. Charcoal is about pure carbon. Forget about charcoal in the compost because it is already basically carbon and won't break down.
..
thanks rot
but like rainbow mentioned i wasnt complaining about stink. Still i appreciate your help..But id like to add on your comment on charcoal
Im pretty sure charcoal or smoldered wood should be added to your compost and even your soil. From my understanding Carbon is a big part in organic matter(compost,soil,ect) but it is also rapidly lost with in a few weeks. Nitrogen witch is almost always constantly being added to our soil helps speed up the loss of carbon by consuming and releasing carbon to the atmosphere....This is why i think charcoal or coal is a great add to compost..yea compost has a lot of carbon but it is lost with in a few weels...coal helps keep carbon in the soil or compost and im sure it would be a good addition to compost..think of the product called biochar...
[url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar[/url]

rot
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Charcoal in the pile

..
I've never seen the charcoal in my piles do anything. I add it to the soil directly. I haven't added enough to see it do anything really. If I ever get my hands on a bunch of it we'll see about this black earth, biochar stuff.

Woody stuff in my piles takes longer to breakdown in my piles than the greens. I am often adding undigested bits of wood and sticks to the ground so I guess I'm sequestering carbon.

I remember seeing somewhere in this forum about people starting long term gardens by burying a lot of wood at the bottom in whole logs and such. I've got a chipper now so next time I need to plant something, I'll add a bunch to the bottom.

Thanks all for the info.
..

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carbon in the soil

This is turning into a really interesting discussion. I hadn't thought much about carbon being lost from the soil, so I went looking for some reference about it. Found this really interesting article:

https://www.soilcarboncredits.blogspot.com/ author Dr. Christine Jones

YLAD Living Soils Seminars: Eurongilly - 14 February, Young - 15 February 2006

Aggregate or aggravate? Creating soil carbon

Here's a few highlights:

"Sadly, around 50 – 80% of the organic carbon that was once in the topsoil has been lost to the atmosphere over the last 150 years or so, due to our failure to take care of the earth as a living thing.
By inference, degraded soils have the potential to store up to five (5) times more organic carbon in their surface layers than they currently hold, provided we change the way we manage the land."

Nothing she said states or implies that carbon can be lost in a matter of weeks, but it is lost over time.

She talks about how to put carbon back in the soil

"As described earlier, the ‘way in’ for soil carbon is the process of photosynthesis in green leaves. The cheapest, most efficient and most beneficial form of organic carbon for soil life is exudation from the actively growing roots of plants in the Poaceae family, which includes pasture grasses and cereals. The breakdown of their fibrous roots is also an important source of carbon in soils. ...

In addition to root exudation, soil carbon levels can also be increased using principles employed in the rapidly expanding arena of ecological agriculture, which includes biodynamic, organic and biological farming. There are many and varied practices including the use of cover crops, green manures, mulches, worm juice, fish and seaweed products, animal manures, recycled greenwaste, biosolids, composts, compost teas, liquid injection, humic substances, microbial stimulants and innumerable combinations thereof.

Adding organic carbon to soil is one thing. Keeping it there is another. Topsoil is always in a state of dynamic equilibrium with the atmosphere. Carbon additions therefore need to be combined with land management practices that foster the conversion of relatively transient forms of organic carbon to more stable complexes within the soil. ...

Organic carbon moves between various ‘pools’ in the soil, some of which are short lived while others may persist for thousands of years. Glomalin and humic substances are two of the relatively stable forms of soil carbon. ...

In healthy soils, stable humic substances can persist for over one thousand years. Bare earth and practices that destroy soil structure, such as intensive tillage or the application of anhydrous ammonia, result in the loss of humus."

SO, if anyone is still with me after the long dissertation, the bottom line sounds to me like humus which is what we are adding with compost and leaf mold is a very stable form of soil carbon, which is not easily lost with good soil practices. Therefore I don't see any need of adding coal or whatnot.

But topdollar is continuing to make me think and learn about all this soil chemisty/ soil biology stuff...

rot
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no bad experiments

..
No bad experiments only more data.

I will look into the link when time permits.

I think the thousand year carbon sequestering kicks in with the charcoal stuff. Meanwhile plants here and now need food so I'm not going to stress it.

I will continue to spill coffee grounds and composted stuff from my bio-remediation bins to feed the soil that feeds the critters in the soil that feed the plants. The charcoal will be added as it becomes available.

In time, the organic material being added to the soil will build humus. Little by little a little later ...

Thanks for the data.
..

top_dollar_bread
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Re: carbon in the soil

rainbowgardener wrote: In healthy soils, stable humic substances can persist for over one thousand years. Bare earth and practices that destroy soil structure, such as intensive tillage or the application of anhydrous ammonia, result in the loss of humus."

SO, if anyone is still with me after the long dissertation, the bottom line sounds to me like humus which is what we are adding with compost and leaf mold is a very stable form of soil carbon, which is not easily lost with good soil practices. Therefore I don't see any need of adding coal or whatnot.

But topdollar is continuing to make me think and learn about all this soil chemisty/ soil biology stuff...
Again im going to have to disagree with you on your no need to add coal comment, i think it was the helpful gardener that said diversity is key for healthy soils.
The link you gave was a good read but coal or smoldered organic matter does hold lock carbon in your soil and adding it to our gardens/ compost/soil IMO would be considered good soil practices.

Think of the pre-Colombian AmerIndians of the amazon and there extremely healthy fertile soil. These guys lived as one with nature and people are still amazed on how ther soil is able to keep its fertility for thousands of years. Many soil scientist have gone to the amazone to study this magic fertile soil and the answer was they were combining charcoal and unfired ceramic pieces to the soil. Ther soil was consider a microbial reef that promotes and sustains the growth of mycorrhizae and other beneficial microbes. Mycorrhizea that produce Glomalin, witch was mentioned in your link...
here's a nice read
[url]https://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/Feb07_TerraPreta.pdf[/url]

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Top$, you are mistaken about grass clippings robbing nitrogen; in fact clippings from a mulching mower left on the lawn religiously will provide at least half of the nitrogen your lawn needs for the year. Only Scott's want's it bagged up and thrown away, the rest of us can cut our expense and lawn chores with some better practices...

As for using coal as a carbon sequestration tool, I prefer my carbon sequestration to leave out the arsenic, cadmium and other nasties coal brings to the picture. Wood ash is fine, coal ash is not... The best carbon sequestration method for coal is LEAVE IT IN THE GROUND. As for "seeing (charcoal) do something", rot, bust out a good microscope and I can show you charcoal doing things. And ask yourself what your best visual cue is for really fertile soil? THAT's seeing something isn't it?

Amazonian terra preta (dark earth) was made from charcoal and broken pottery. Both the charcoal and the clay shards helped provide a colloidal storage for nutrients that would have otherwise washed from the soil. The honeycomb structure of wood charcoal is completely lacking in coal, drastically decreasing it's surface area, and therefore it suitability as nutrient sump. Add that to the registery of toxins that comes along with coal ash, and you couldn't PAY me to use coal in any garden setting, let alone a food garden. Wood in compost is good too; fungal food par excellence, but it's long term sequestration in the soil is poor. Charcoal gives us these colloidal benefits in the long term; the "brown" that keeps on giving. Humate or brown coal, is another great way to get this effect, but now we are mining and shipping from limited locales; not so green. Charcoal can be a by-product of pyrolic fuel manufacturing from biomass, done close to home from local product. Guess which I choose?

As for smells, most of the time when Nature composts she avoids them, right? That's because Nature prefers aerobic decomposition; it's far more biodiverse and Mother always chooses biodiversity given her druthers... Swamp gas is a product of an oxygen poor decompostion, which can also produce alcohols and other plant unfriendly compounds, which is why many plants won't grow in swamps. If we are making compost for planting, then aerobic methods, with their lack of stench, are our best method. More browns, more turns= more carbon, more oxygen. No better way to put it...

HG
Scott Reil

rot
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All well and good

..
It's all well and good but the point of composting in the bio-remediation bin or pile is to break down stuff. Charcoal is already charcoal it doesn't break down into anything but smaller bits of charcoal.

The benefits of charcoal are in the soil. If I have charcoal, I put it in the soil. I see no need to try and process it any further. It's not really going to bring structure to the soil until it is in the soil. I see nothing gained by letting it sit in some composting gravy.

I suppose as long as one is dispersing bio-remediated organics one might as well add some charcoal in the composted mass to get dispersed with the rest.

I didn't recall the shards of pottery being part of the terra preta recipe but it's been a while since I had come across anything on the subject. I don't recall anyone composting that stuff either. I just recall getting it into the ground was the name of the game.

Exactly what is gained by putting charcoal in a compost pile as opposed to just putting it into the soil?
..

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Re: All well and good

rot wrote:..
Exactly what is gained by putting charcoal in a compost pile as opposed to just putting it into the soil?
..
I think it would be a great place for micro's to call a home..in other words im guessing hundreds or thousands of microrganisms will attach to it??? but im not sure just a guess....
The Helpful Gardener wrote:Top$, you are mistaken about grass clippings robbing nitrogen; in fact clippings from a mulching mower left on the lawn religiously will provide at least half of the nitrogen your lawn needs for the year.
I was told this, never claimed it to be true...notice the question mark at the end...
The Helpful Gardener wrote:As for using coal as a carbon sequestration tool, I prefer my carbon sequestration to leave out the arsenic, cadmium and other nasties coal brings to the picture. Wood ash is fine, coal ash is not... The best carbon sequestration method for coal is LEAVE IT IN THE GROUND. As for "seeing (charcoal) do something", rot, bust out a good microscope and I can show you charcoal doing things. And ask yourself what your best visual cue is for really fertile soil? THAT's seeing something isn't it?

Amazonian terra preta (dark earth) was made from charcoal and broken pottery. Both the charcoal and the clay shards helped provide a colloidal storage for nutrients that would have otherwise washed from the soil. The honeycomb structure of wood charcoal is completely lacking in coal, drastically decreasing it's surface area, and therefore it suitability as nutrient sump. Add that to the registery of toxins that comes along with coal ash, and you couldn't PAY me to use coal in any garden setting, let alone a food garden. Wood in compost is good too; fungal food par excellence, but it's long term sequestration in the soil is poor. Charcoal gives us these colloidal benefits in the long term; the "brown" that keeps on giving. Humate or brown coal, is another great way to get this effect, but now we are mining and shipping from limited locales; not so green. Charcoal can be a by-product of pyrolic fuel manufacturing from biomass, done close to home from local product. Guess which I choose?
HG
when i BBQ i use hardwood lump charcoal, im kind of a green guy and like to keep the chemicals to minimum especially when cooking or growing. I think this kind of coal is better for the soil and cooking..or people who use wood smokerers to cook could probably get a good end product.
[url]https://www.allnaturalcharcoal.com/[/url]
[url]https://www.cowboycharcoal.com/[/url]

But smoldering your own wood or even manure (i read you can do this) would be more convenient and more green, considering all effort to get commercial products to the shelves..I also don't think its the ash of wood or coal that has the most benefit, noticed the word smolder ive being juggling around. I read that its the smoldered end product that has the most benefit..

the reason i mentioned biochar is because i heard theyre trying to use it to also make clean energy, i believe many are trying to make this a green product but they are still a long way..
i first heard about this product on the discovery channel, on earth day, they had a special on going green, and they shined the light on many sweet and good idea's that made me happy to see many are actually trying to improve or ways of living in harmony with mother nature. :D

rot
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OK

..
>I think it would be a great place for micro's to call a home..in other words im guessing hundreds or thousands of microrganisms will attach to it???<

I just assume that home be in the soil. Let the microbes in the soil nest in the charcoal pockets. I want the microbes in my pile to eat and not hide out. The sooner the charcoal goes in the soil, the sooner the microbes in the soil will be seeking that shelter. Humus means a structure. Humus structures are built on carbon. Get carbon into the soil as soon as you can and you will be that much closer to humus or a structured soil.

I looked at a couple of methods of making charcoal. Maybe a rocket stove with one of those pots inside but it seems to me the ends don't justify the means. Burning stuff to make a soil amendment strikes me as inefficient. Too much is consumed in the flames and goes up in smoke.

I have little further to add.

two cents
..

top_dollar_bread
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rot wrote:Let the microbes in the soil nest in the charcoal pockets. I want the microbes in my pile to eat and not hide out.
First of all ,from what i understand, microbes (in compost) only hide and go dormant when the temperature isnt suitable and other microbes dominate. These other microbes consume, out number and win in the competition of decomposing due to the temperature swings a compost goes threw. So if bacteria or fungi are hiding out, its because ther dormant. All microbes need to eat to live(eating = decomposing) and if ther not eating then there probably getiing eaten or turned to a protective endospore, waiting for more favorable conditions to become active again.
[url]https://compost.css.cornell.edu/microorg.html[/url]
[url]https://www.homecompostingmadeeasy.com/compoststages.html[/url]

throwing a handful of charcoal or smoldered organic matter during the heating stage of composting may be extremely helpful to the numbers of mesophilic microbes in your end product. And i would imagine the same benefits during the curing or cooling stage of composting too. Microbes in compost can accumulate/breed or nest in the pockets right before you apply to your garden soil. Helping compost support a more diverse microbial community.

I also would imagine the coal or the smoldered organic matter would make nice air pockets, witch will improve the decomposing in the compost.
rot wrote:Humus means a structure. Humus structures are built on carbon. Get carbon into the soil as soon as you can and you will be that much closer to humus or a structured soil.
Humus by definition refers to any organic matter that has reached a point of stability, where it will break down no further and might, if conditions do not change, remain essentially as it is for centuries, if not millennia. Humus is also sometimes used to describe matured compost.

SO If matured compost is sometimes described as humus, then wouldnt your humus structure built on carbon comment, be enough to answer your original question?
rot wrote:Exactly what is gained by putting charcoal in a compost pile as opposed to just putting it into the soil
I also don't know any buddy who compost and doesnt eventually add it to ther soil.
rot wrote:Maybe a rocket stove with one of those pots inside but it seems to me the ends don't justify the means. Burning stuff to make a soil amendment strikes me as inefficient. Too much is consumed in the flames and goes up in smoke.
Biochar i believe is being pushed to be used by waste management. Landfills are a problem and biochar (burning organic matter) can help... alot. Also i think its the fumes from burning this stuff that is used as energy?? could be wrong though

SO if this is true, all the cow dung (in my neck of the woods) that spews out methane a GHG can be burned and use as energy and the end product would be biochar, a good soil amendment...Sounds good

But thats me & to answer your orginal question, to me i see plenty of benefits when adding a stable carbon source to compost.

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My understanding of biochar is as a soil amnedment, rather than a compost addition but Top$ is right; it all ands up there eventually, and charcoal does act as a humus as far as lliving quarters for biology goes. Assuming a no till garden (my BMP for most crops) adding it to the compost seems a decent idea...

The original charcoal method for terra preta was drop the trees, get them burning and cover it all in the soil you were going to plant in. I think the biochar you find for sale would be the greenest way to do it now, as it is a by-product of pyrolic fuel production where stack gas and heat are captured and used, and because true bio-char is innoculated. Doing it yourself isn't really bio-char (not that that will matter a bit to the soil biology and increased cation exchange capacity of the soil...), just clarifying a bit. But charcoal (not COAL, which is a mineral, but charcoal) is a good thing in your soil. Use good clean stuff; Matchlight is NOT going to help your soil biology...

HG

HG
Scott Reil

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