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Epic pie cherry harvest with biochar
John S
2564 Posts
July 1, 2021 - 9:08 am

We couldn't believe how full the tree was with cherries.  It had also grown every year since I put biochar in the dripline of the tree. Earlier, it had plateaued at a standard size.  This year, all the new growth grew lots of beautiful cherries!  I couldn't believe how long I was out there in different ladders.  Now the tree extends all the way above the shed roof and extends most of the way up it.   I save some to eat with pits in, but we save some that are pitted for desserts, like, say, pies.  When my wife got super tired of pitting the cherries, and I did too, we gave some to the neighbors.  When they tasted them, many said, "But I thought that pie cherries were sour.  These are really good!" I have grown pie cherries for decades, but nothing has made a difference like properly made biochar.  Some people have noted elsewhere in various forums that when produce is grown in a soil that is more rich with minerals, the flavor improves.  I think that is what is going on.

John S

Vancouver SW Washington
656 Posts
July 2, 2021 - 12:30 pm

I have not tried biochar but I believe this and I'm sold on the idea because something similar happened to me. In the 1990s I purchased a group of 5 'evans' sour cherry from Raintree that were true to typical because they were not grafted to anything else. I nursed them for a few years in bare ground here in Vancouver Heights the way your instructed to, then they all got sick. Over ten to 20 more years the original trees died back and never fruited. But at least one of them evans roots found better soil in my slightly enriched garden, produced new upright shoots that were still unfruitful, then at year 20 a root found my recycling of grass and composting area. This is a move 18 feet from the original location to a very happy location and there are lots of sour cherries produced every year even matching the production of your 'montmorency' and all as a result of having a good compost base of soil. 

That's why when I have trouble with apricots here in the heights I try planting pits under large cottonwood trees near the Columbia river at the bottom of me. The tree there is well nourished and had cropped well for the last 3 years. Psuedomonas is a symptom of another problem with the soil around here and not the primary issue, just a secondary one.

That last paragraph (this whole topic) deserves scientific study by the community.

John S
2564 Posts
July 5, 2021 - 8:56 pm

Yes, Rooney,
I am excited about all the data coming out about this, but I'm also busy making it happen with my different trees.  It will be quite interesting to see how the particular details come out as more and more people try this.  For sure, some corporation will come out and try to say that you have to buy their product because theirs is the only one that's good.   I will be looking into how the different experiences pan out with different soils, climates, and species.

John S

Clark County, WA
519 Posts
November 23, 2021 - 3:13 pm

John, can I ask where you got your biochar?

Im thinking about adding it to my new raised beds, which contain purchased, recycled, screened topsoil.  I'm adding compost, leaves, and wood ashes and I think now would be a good time to add biochar too.  The first main crops for those beds will be tomatoes, with a crop of peas first to provide soil structure and nitrogen.

I read, add biochar one gallon per four square feet.  I would need to buy four gallons.  

Lewis Co., WA
374 Posts
November 23, 2021 - 10:02 pm

I was pretty much away from the computer this summer,  so I missed this discussion of biochar.  

The biochar, as it was found in the Amazon, indicates that the original inhabitants of the Amazon had come up with an incredibly efficient way of preserving nutrients in the ground in order to make it more fertile for cultivation of crops.  It has only been in more recent times (--perhaps the last couple of decades--) that the value of biochar has been recognized.  Here and there in the Amazonian forest, people have been finding profoundly fertile ground which is underlain with biochar and fragments of baked clay which are capable of holding nutrients in the soil.  The fact that these areas of "Terra Preta" [Portuguese for "black soil"] are so widespread in the Amazonian basin clearly indicates that the pre-Columbian population was considerably higher in population levels than earlier estimates.  The giveaway is the commonality of sherds of baked clay intermixed with the biochar in the soils.  

The biochars are still under considerable study, but apparently they assist in holding nutrients in the soil for use by those plants that are growing upon them.  I presume that the biochars, and the fragments of baked clay, are able to 1) provide a large diversity of substrates for occupation by beneficial organisms, and B) are also able to hold, electrochemically, many elemental nutrients and make them available to the roots of the plants growing above.  

That's my current understanding of it.  The new field of agriculture with biochar has arisen out of this "Terra Preta" discovery.  I've noticed in recent years that there are many who are at least producing biochar for sale.  It certainly doesn't hurt to experiment with it.  All too often, the ancients were wiser in their land use than "we" are today.


John S
2564 Posts
November 25, 2021 - 9:38 am

Hi Daniel,

I decided several years ago to make my own biochar. I looked at the prices and figured that there was no way, at my pathetic income level, to be able to put enough biochar into my soil. PLus, I enjoy working on projects and sharing design ideas with others. This is the video that really got me into thinking that I could do this:



Yes, Tim, I think one of the biggest impacts of biochar is "hotels for microbes".  In our current wet season of the year, the rain washes nutrients out of the soil.  If we have biochar in there, the microbes in the biochar hotels can hold onto the nutrients because they create a structure in the soil.  Elaine Ingham has written extensively about the soil biology as a huge impact in the health of our plants.

John S

Clark County, WA
519 Posts
November 26, 2021 - 5:47 am

Thanks John,

That's pretty impressive.  Thanks for the video.

I think I'll have to look for some commercially.  It is pretty pricey.  Plus, let the buyer beware - some (lot?) of it out there is a mixture with cheaper compost.  Compost is good, but I can and do make my own anyway.

I plan to look next week.  No use going to store during the highest crowd days.

Apparently, once the soil is charged with biochar, that additive lasts for 1000 years.  So it seems like a one tine thing,

I've been reading up on it.  I don't know that i believe everything, but a lot seems to be reliable. 

- Long lasting benefit.

- May raise pH (my soil is acidic as is most maritime NW soil).

- Reduces harmful nematodes (I don't know that I have any, but not a bad thing).

- Helps drainage (my soil is heavy so might beca good thing) yet holds water like a sponge, so less watering need (those seem contradictory but I don't know).

- Binds heavy metals so plants don't take them up.

- Yet, holds on to beneficial minerals so they are available to plants (K, P, Mg, Mn, Ca?).  Again, can it do both?

- Of course there is the carbon sequestration aspect.  I did read a study that humus might break down faster, so that needs more study.

Using raised beds -very raised - is a big step in making my gardening more accessible for less work.   If I had a lot of biochar, I could also add it to fruit trees.  However, $$$ matters.


Reference(there are many)

John S
2564 Posts
November 26, 2021 - 7:26 pm


That article you listed under "reference" was fantastic! Great information! They explained it so well that someone like me with no science degree can even understand it. Thanks,
John S

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