Using Biochar in Urban Landcaping

After reading this article titled “Chicago landscapers turn to ancient Amazonian fertilizer,” I felt particularly inspired to talk about how important biochar is in urban landscapes. There are slew of benefits to having urban landscaping, but I am going to focus on water for this post.

As the article points out, carbon in the soil is essentially the bee’s knees – it makes the whole system tick (carbon being the currency of the soil). As the author points out: “Urban soils often lack carbon and struggle to sustain the diverse microbial communities that are essential to plant growth.”  As we give soil the carbon that it needs to hold nutrients and foster microbial communities, these sub-terrestrial compadres condition the soil and make it a more absorptive space. With towns and cities across the country struggling to handle storm water runoff in overwhelmed drainage systems (that drain to the city’s sewage system), the more water we can hold in the ground and not in our pipes, the better! The worms that make tiny holes in the soil, and the bacteria and fungi that increase the carbon content of the soil contribute a significant amount to the soil’s ability to hold water. Furthermore, roots increase the aeration and permeability of soil so when it rains, the water actually percolates into the soil rather than hitting the top and running off.

By adding biochar into soils, we increase every parameter of water retention in soil and let nature take care of the rain instead of our over-burdened sewage systems. Sounds pretty solid to me!

Be cool to the planet

Biochar Bob

The Seed Of Sustainability

This morning I had the outright privileged to teach a class of 20 some 8th graders about the strategy of sustainability and how biochar plays a very important role in it! I love teaching young minds and I love helping open their eyes to a world bigger than their school, or community, or state. From these classes, I find that time and time again these children are rarely challenged to question the conduct of our society – not enough people are asking them to think about the direly important question of “WHY.” If we were to accept all norms as truths, we would paralyze ourselves from any real progression. Asking why  something is the way it is spurs creativity, critical thought and constructive analysis.

Of course when we’re banging on cans to make small TLUDs and setting things on fire at school, it isn’t hard to keep them focused, but I find that when I start asking the students to think about what happens to the fertilizer that washes into a bay, or to think about what happens when we source non-renewable energy, or challenge them to think about life in a third world country where indoor cooking is a certain health hazard, they are captured. It brings me to wonder how many people have asked them to think that way. Or maybe not even ask, but presenting them with the opportunity to think that way.

I love to tell them my story; about how I was where they are right now and was troubled by the way the world worked. About how I searched for solutions, found permaculture, and identified where my natural talent fit in to that solution. It is so wonderful to see their gears start turning, thinking about what they themselves have to offer. People generally want to be part of a solution more than part of a problem, yet the majority of them don’t even know that they are part of a problem at all! Sometimes you just have to ask them, to challenge them, to give them a chance to think about it. Inspiring the next generation of thinkers and problem-solvers gets me so driven to better myself and better the world. It’s like watering a seed– you know that something is great is just below the surface. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, you just have to encourage it in the right way so that one day it will eventually germinate.

We all contribute to the problem, there is no doubt about that. The real question is, what we are willing to contribute to the solution?

Be cool the planet!

Biochar Bob