Horticultural Charcoal
Posted by Pat Harper on September 20 2012 09:01:37

What Is Horticultural Charcoal?

There is some debate over the true merits of adding horticultural charcoal to the soil or compost used for planting, however, as it is totally organic and the grade of charcoal that has had nothing added to it, there is likely to be more benefit than harm from using it in the garden. Horticultural charcoal comes in smaller fines than that used for barbecues, cooking or in aquariums. It is not advisable to use either barbecue or aquarium charcoal on your garden as both contain additional chemicals that will not benefit your garden.

Benefits Of Horticultural Charcoal

So, why should you use charcoal of this fine grade in your garden? Those who are fans of horticultural charcoal say that it is a top quality soil improver that retains moisture in light soils, yet it can improve the drainage and conditions of heavy soils. Most recommend that you mix your horticultural charcoal with your compost as a 50/50 mix. Certainly using horticultural charcoal in potting up plants that will be transplanted several times, is useful as it shakes loose of the plant root ball easily. It is particularly good in hanging baskets, pot plants or bottle gardens with its lightweight, moisture retaining properties. A specific plant related use for horticultural charcoal is for orchids although you may want to check on orchid forums as some growers swear by charcoal and others do not use it at all. Certainly horticultural charcoal is totally organic and does not contain any binder so is a completely natural addition to your soil. According to scientific research by the International Biochar Initiative the benefits of this type of charcoal are significant; it enhances plant growth, reduces nitrous oxide emissions, reduces the leaching of nutrients from the soil, suppresses methane emissions and raises the pH of the soil. Research is continuing into whether the charcoal gains from being activated, and how much is beneficial. Estimates currently suggest that soil gains from the application of biochar charcoal even at a level of 1 kg per square meter. Certainly there is a lot of interest in horticultural charcoal, and it would seem that the benefits are such that your garden will gain should you decide to add some horticultural charcoal to your soil.

Where To Buy Horticultural Charcoal

You will find horticultural charcoal for sale in some large garden centers, online from garden compost suppliers, and there are, also, specialist charcoal suppliers. Although it is lighter than many other soil improvers, it is still best to source your horticultural charcoal from a company that can deliver, as it is heavy in bulk. Some companies in the UK call this type of charcoal, Bio- charcoal. It is not freely available, so your best option is to contact the manufacturers directly for a list of suppliers in your area.