There was no question that I wanted to use biochar when I decided to have new sod and flowers planted in my backyard. The issue for me was how was the biochar going to be applied by the landscaping company I had hired (Hoy Landscaping) and was the biochar going to have a positive impact on my yard. For a simple summary of my backyard: it had little to no care prior to my purchase of the house. It wasn’t a bad yard, but the ground was compacted. There were plenty of weeds and the grading of the yard needed to be fixed.
It didn’t take much discussion for my wife and I to decide to redo the backyard. We did it in two phases. The first phase was to add a new brick patio. The second phase was to remove all the grass, add new sod and bring in some flowers along the side of the house. For the sake of discussion, the patio went in nicely. Now I had the privilege of introducing biochar to Hoy Landscaping. They did a great job with the patio and we were looking forward to see how they could do with the sod and flowers.
A Passionate Landscaping Company Takes The Challenge – Hoy Landscaping
It is one thing to be the owner of a biochar company, but it is another to transfer that passion to a professional landscaping company. Thankfully, Hoy Landscaping has two forward thinking people at the helm. Tim Hesterman has done a great job as the owner and was willing to hear about the benefits of biochar. He saw the benefits to his customers and the how it could be operationally integrated with his crews to keep added labor and costs to a minimum. Aaron Schlines is a landscape architect and was aware of it and was a great advocate for me and Wakefield Biochar in the Chicago area. Aaron and I discussed a positive way for the crews to bring biochar to a residential customer.
So…. step one: remove the old grass! We had biochar at the ready. The crew cut out the old grass and left a clean surface to lay down the biochar.
One thing that was important is the amount that is needed to be placed around the backyard. Sod is a bit of a special case. In general, I believe that a 10% by volume of biochar should be tilled into the soil up to 4 to 5 inches deep. That would be approximately 1 cubic foot for every 8’ x 4’ area of land. With sod, there is a layer of added soil that comes when sod is placed over the existing soil. What should you do? I believe you need to understand the purpose of biochar and use it the best way possible. For sod, I want the roots of the new sod to have a couple inches of high quality soil to grow into. For that reason, I decided to place enough biochar for a 2-inch-deep layer with approximately a 10% by volume of the biochar.
How To Spread Biochar Evenly Across Your Backyard
I had some good conversations with the landscaping crew. We felt that it would be best to dump each cubic foot box evenly throughout the yard. Then someone would rake it evenly over the yard to make sure we had good coverage. After the biochar was raked smooth (which took about 30 minutes), they used a tiller to mix it with the soil.
Hoy Landscaping worked their schedule to lay down the biochar on a Friday and had scheduled to return on the following Monday to lay down the new sod.
That would have given us three solid days for the biochar to absorb water into its pores and begin to interact in a positive way with the natural and beneficial microbes in the soil. As with any outdoor project, the weather decided to bring heavy rain. We actually had enough rain to keep the crew away from the project until the following Friday. I was actually happy that it happened. You couldn’t have asked for a better situation. The biochar had a week to begin working the soil into a new healthier system.
Let It Charge Up. Watch It Grow!
Hoy Landscaping still had to manage some muddy soil the following Friday. They also had to work on the re-grading of the yard to make sure that the water drained away from the house. You can tell by the picture that the water was definitely headed back to the fence line. When they arrived to install the sod, the crew added a thin layer of screened topsoil over the biochar. Once the ground was smooth with the appropriate grade, they added the sod.
It’s been two weeks and the yard is looking great. We have a solid green backyard with tall…very tall grass. There are seeds coming out of the sod which lets me know that the ground is doing its job and providing nutrients to the sod. We still have a couple weeks before the first mowing, but I couldn’t be happier with the sod and the fact that there is an amazing layer of biochar underneath it.
As for the flowers, the story is very much the same as the sod. The flowers are doing very well.
Biochar is a simple material with an amazing ability to good things for your soil, your garden and the Earth.