How to use biochar to grow abundant vegetables and plants

Posted by Aiden McRae on

Five simple steps to call up biochar in your growing area

Biochar is a remarkable soil amendment to power up your growing projects in the Yukon. No matter what you’re planning to grow this season, adding biochar to your soil will improve growing conditions for years to come. 

Rich in carbon, biochar is a solid black organic material varying in size from small chunks to powder. It is made from pyrolysis: “cooking’’ biomass at high temperatures in an oxygen-restricted environment. 

Increased water and nutrient retention, exchange, and beneficial microorganisms are just a few of the benefits of growing with biochar. The end result is exceptional vegetables, plants, cannabis and more!

chunks of biochar

At YukonGrow, biochar is our top choice for boosting plant growth and mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration. Read Five things you should know about biochar for in-depth understanding of the science and benefits of biochar.

Note that all blends of YukonGrow living soils already contain biochar. The steps below will be helpful if you are planning to add biochar to your growing area yourself.


Step 1

Plan out your growing area. Are you planting in pots, containers, or growing boxes? Raised beds or an open garden plot?

ruby kale

For gardening applications, it is recommended to use biochar particle sizes 2-6 mm and smaller (< 2mm), while larger particles (> 6 mm) can be used in soil reclamation and large-scale agriculture.

Calculate the surface area x depth of the project (e.g. basket, bed, garden, lawn) to find your project's volume. Then, multiply your volume by the recommended proportion of biochar (5-10% v/vt). Remember to keep all measurements in the same unit.

For complete instructions and helpful tools, including calculating depth requirements, refer to our page How much of the good stuff do I need. 


growing boxes


Step 2

Choose a high quality source of biochar. We carry a variety of softwood biochar products and formats according to your growing needs. 

  • Our top pick: Char+ from Canadian AgriChar is made exclusively from select upcycled forestry residuals. All YukonGrow blends of living soil contain Char+ biochar.
  • Explore all of our biochar offerings here.


Step 3

gardening boots and soil

Now for the magic–here are some general guidelines for preparing and applying biochar.

To activate the power of biochar, we recommend that you charge it up and inoculate it with nutrients and microorganisms, which you can easily do by combining compost or manure with biochar. You can choose a 50/50 mix for a small project, or a 80% compost/20% biochar mix for a larger growing area. A beneficial microorganism boost can definitely help too.

Some biochar suppliers recommend blending biochar with food and garden waste. During the composting process, nutrients are absorbed by the biochar, which makes them available for plant when added to a garden or grow area.

Once you have blended your compost, let it stand for ten days so that the biochar can absorb nutrients. 


Step 4

gardener hands in pot

Add some water to create humidity in your biochar (not too damp). Then, apply biochar according to the size of your growing area calculated in Step 1. For pots and container gardening, carefully mix and sift the mix evenly into the soil. 

For raised beds and open gardens, you may decide to top-dress your beds with an even sprinkling of biochar mix. Microorganisms, insects, and rain will work to pull the biochar into the soil over time.

Alternately, you may decide to gently till the mix into the soil for a larger growing area. 


Step 5

After growing with biochar for the first time, you may decide to top it up next year with a mix of 80% compost and 20% biochar. 

Michel’s Pro Tips

Michel Duteau holds soil
  • Co-composting and adding beneficial microorganisms are great ways to boost your biochar!
    • Increase the biochar content year-on-year up to 20% of the soil mixture. Unlike compost and manure, biochar is non-degradable and adding a bit every year will build optimum grow conditions.
    • Make sure you source the biochar from a quality supplier; not all biochars are created equal!

    If you have any questions about growing with biochar, don’t hesitate to refer to our helpful resources, or contact us!

    Stay tuned for a blog article exploring how biochar is a practical way to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration.

     *Note that SoilMatrixTM biochar from AirTerra no longer is available.


    YukonGrow resources

    All images by Canva and Aiden McRae

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