In South Florida, much of our soil is primarily full of sand. This soil is often devoid of the nutrients which our favorite plants and flowers need for their optimum health. If you are noticing that your spring and summer plants are not doing as well as you hoped, you may need to add a nutritional boost to your soil. Biochar, compost and other fillers are among your options – but which should you choose for the best results?
What is Biochar?
Biochar is an organic soil supplement which is known to significantly improve soil quality, as well as to help reduce waste and promote energy production. Like its name implies, biochar is substance similar to charcoal. It is useful for many purposes, including strengthening the structure of your soil, increasing water retention, minimizing acidity, reducing the emission of nitrous oxide, and improving microbial properties in the soil. Manufacturers produce biochar by burning agricultural and forest waste (known as biomass) utilizing a specific process which reduces contamination and stores carbon safely. Biochar is burned with very little oxygen, resulting in an exceptionally stable form of carbon which will not escape into the atmosphere.
Biochar is predictably black in color, and is porous, lightweight, and very fine grained. It is made up of 70% carbon, as well as nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen. It is beneficial for composting since it reduces greenhouse gases and maintains nutrients.
How Will Compost Help My Soil?
Compost accomplishes several benefits for your soil that synthetic fertilizers are unable to do. As mentioned, here in Florida we have sandy soil. In this environment, compost functions similarly to a sponge, to aid in water retention. This is important as without keeping some of the water from draining through the sand, the roots of your plants may remain thirsty. In soils comprised primarily of clay, compost adds a porous quality to the soil, allowing it to drain more quickly so that it doesn’t become waterlogged. Compost also infuses the soil with a significant amount of beneficial microbes such as bacteria and fungi, which extract nutrients from the soil and provide these nutrients to your plants.
Compost is comprised of billions of microbes which digest yard and kitchen waste. Worms and insects often assist the microbes in breaking down these organic materials. Spread compost around your plants, trees and shrubs, adding 2-3 inch layers twice per year ro increase the fertility of the soil.
Some people make their own compost by combining food waste in a pile, providing circulating air and sufficient water. You can also purchase nutrient rich compost from a local landscape supply company.
Other Products You May Consider
There are many products on the market which will help you to balance out your soil, and make it most optimal for plants and trees.
You can adjust the acidity with a soil acidifier, add chelated iron, or add soil conditioner. You can perform a soil test to determine your soil’s pH, and use appropriate products to raise or lower that number based upon what you are hoping to grow.
If you are having trouble with your soil and need advice as to how to best augment it, come in to speak with the experts at Big Earth Landscape Supply. We are happy to help Sarasota and Tampa homeowners to enrich their soil, promote the growth of their gardens, and improve their landscaping and curb appeal. How can we help you?