top_dollar_bread
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Location: Inland Empire,CA

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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Location: Ventura County, CA, Sunset 23

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
Senior Member
Posts: 203
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:34 pm
Location: Inland Empire,CA

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.

The Helpful Gardener
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Joined: Mon Feb 09, 2004 9:17 pm
Location: Colchester, CT

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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