The Big Biochar Experiment

The trouble with the internet is that you start out looking for something in particular and before you know it, an hour’s gone by and you are now on the umpteenth web page looking at something you didn’t know you needed! One thing leads to another, until you find yourself with your credit card in your hand confirming your purchase! This is what happened to me and Biochar.

It was May 2011 and I was actually ‘researching’ soil improvers, the kind that get delivered in a 1000 litre dumpy bag, to improve the fertility, texture and workability of the sticky clay in my long front border. Somehow, I managed to stray into unknown territory and ended up on a website proclaiming the benefits of Japanese bamboo Biochar, a charcoal additive which claims to improve soil fertility and structure, increase flower and vegetable yields and capture CO² thereby lowering your carbon footprint. I wasn’t sure how big my carbon footprint was but I knew it should be lower! So there I was, a sucker for a good deal and sure enough, they had one. Takesumi Ltd.was changing the packaging on it’s boxes and was selling off the old stock at a big discount. A few days later and eight 2.5 Kg boxes arrived by courier! It has the appearance of soot and the consistency of finely milled flour, no scent that I could discern but blackens anything it touches. I am not going to try to explain how and why it works, it is much easier and quicker to read all about it on their excellent website at

I resolved to use it extensively in my new borders and raised beds along with the usual topdressing of either blood, fish & bone or chicken manure pellets or Vitax Q4 depending on what I was planting. What I should have done was provide a ‘control’ bed or areas without the biochar added in order to assess differences in performance but I didn’t. All I can tell you at this stage is that all the beds with added biochar have grown wonderful plants this year and the soil is a darker, richer colour. Of course, the added fertilizers would have helped and it has been the wettest summer for 100 years so it is difficult to determine how much part the biochar played. It certainly didn’t do any harm and it is one of those products that has science and history behind it so it should work! I hope so because  despite the discounted price, I hate wasting money and I have still got 5 boxes left!


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