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Horticultural Biochar

An Organic Soil Conditioner

Horticultural Charcoal, also known as Biochar, comes in a number of forms, it consists of the smaller particles or fines of charcoal made from English hardwood species. It is an anciently used way of conditioning your soil, by helping to retain nutrients and moisture in the soil and aiding with soil structure and drainage.

An Introduction to Biochar

What is Biochar?

Biochar is charcoal produced from cooked plant matter and stored in the soil. It has a highly porous sponge like structure which provides homes for microbial and fungal life while storing water and nutrients.

Our Biochar is made from native English hardwoods and comes straight from the kiln so it is free of chemicals and nutrients. The plant material used in biochar production will determine the efficacy of the biochar itself. 

Hardwood biochar is of the highest quality and unsurpassed in its power. In addition Hardwood Biochar doesn't breakdown in the same way as other organic/carbon material and will benefit the soils structure and fertility for hundreds of years.

Biochar can be mixed into the soil straight away. It can however initially compete with plants for both water and nutrients. So you might not see any results for a year or so, as the Biochar needs time to absorb nutrients before it can then slowly release them back to the plants.

Once Biochar has been Enriched (Activated, Charged or Fermented), it is full of nutrients and microbial life and so will benefit your plants straight away. 

The Dorset Charcoal Company provide both types of biochar.


Biochar Application;

  • Pots and Tubs: Apply one part Biochar to 10 parts compost or top soil.

  • Vegetable Patches or Garden Borders: Mix into the top 30 cm of soil in autumn, winter or at the start of spring to restore soil fertility

  • Seeding: Apply Biochar to bottom of seedling trenches, place and cover seeds and water well.

  • Turf Laying: Apply Biochar to topsoil and rake in 1Kg per one cubic metre turfing area and water well.

  • Transplanting Trees: When transplanting a tree place biochar at bottom of the hole before planting.

All of our prices include Mainland UK postage and packaging

Gardener's Biochar

Charcoal - An Organic Soil Conditioner

Horticultural Charcoal, also known as Biochar consists of the smaller particles or fines of English hardwood species. High in pot ash with a PH value of 8 or 9, the charcoal should be used one part to every 10 of soil approximately. 

Our Biochar is available in 750g bags, 10 Litre/4.5kg buckets and in 22 Litre/10kg sacks. Alternatively please Contact Us if you require larger volumes of Gardener's Biochar. 

We have supplied HRH Prince of Wales Highgrove Gardens, Kew Gardens, Wentworth House Yorks, Bride Valley Vineyard and Chelsea Flower Show.

Gardeners have long been aware of the benefits of adding charcoal to the soil for the following reasons...

  • Gardener's Biochar holds and delivers nutrients to the soil.

  • Biochar absorbs impurities from the soil.

  • Retains moisture in light soils.

  • Biochar helps condition heavy soils.

  • Perfect for hanging baskets & pot plants.

  • Excellent mulch or top dressing.

  • It can help prevent water stagnation in ponds etc.

  • Enhances plant growth and root development.

  • Contains some nutrients such as Potassium, Phosphorus and Magnesium.

  • Enhances disease and pest resistance.

  • Locks nitrogen into the soil

  • Suppresses methane emissions from the soil (CH4, a global warming potential 21 times higher than Carbon dioxide).

  • Reduces nitrous oxide emissions from soil (N2O, a global warming potential 300 times higher than Carbon dioxide).

  • Reduce the loss of added nutrients from the soil.

  • Raises soil pH (i.e. reduces soil acidity)

  • Is able to hold a lot of water and this helps provide water to plants in some drought-prone soils.
    Increase soil aggregation, improving soil aeration.

Biochar Can Double Plant Growth

New research undertaken at the University of Southampton, shows that biochar in soil strongly stimulates plant growth, more than doubling yields. In the first study of its kind, research undertaken at the University of Southampton shows that biochar in soil has acts as a powerful tonic to stimulate plant growth.. Click here to read full article.

And here’s the really clever bit...


Every time you dig in 1kg of biochar to your soil, not only do you see great results, you can be proud that together we have helped a forest to take 3.6kg of CO2 out of the atmosphere and bury it in your veg patch!

Less Fertilizer


By incorporating biochar into your soil you can prevent fertilizer runoff and leaching. This in turn results in less fertilizers  being used and diminishes agricultural pollution to the surrounding environment by reducing nitrate pollution to rivers.


Less Irrigation

Because biochar retains moisture, plants are helped through periods of drought or sporadic watering. Biochar is  extremely porous and its sponge-like structure lends itself well to water conservation. This is extremely important to tree care, commercial horticulture, and those involved with sports turf.

Biochar will increase water-holding capacity and cation exchange capacity of sandy soils; water-holding capacity in sandy soils can be increased by up to 22% and soil compaction ameliorated by 15%. Significant yield increases have been found where medium and coarse textured soils have had biochar added, likely to be due to improved water holding capacity


More Growth

Biochar added to exhausted or marginal soils increases its organic carbon and fosters the growth of soil microbes essential for nutrient absorption, particularly mycorrhizal fungi.


It also cleans up contaminated soil. Over the years there have been a number of studies into the effect biochar has on remediating soils that are contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and zinc, dangerous chemicals, such as arsenic, pesticides and organic pollutants.


We have supplied biochar for this purpose to The Forestry Commission Research Establishment at Alice Holt, Hampshire.


Biochar can effectively reduce soluble cadmium and zinc from contaminated soils by up to 300 times (Cadmium) and 45 times (Zinc). Once sorbed onto the biochar the metals aren’t released following further washing with water (Beesley and Marmiroli, 2011).


Enriched Biochar

Enriched Biochar

The Dorset Charcoal Company now offers Enriched (Activated or fermented) Biochar in 10 litre buckets or 10 kg bags.

This is our standard biochar mixed with 'Digestate' (dried fibre from anaerobic digester – the material left at the end of the AD process – a nutrient rich soil conditioner) and fermented for a minimum of 6 months. It saves you time in seeing the benefits of adding biochar to your soil by already having completed the process of capturing nutrients into the charcoal. This increases the soil microbial activity which promotes the soil’s trace mineral supply and improves plant nutrient uptake. 


(We no longer use cow manure to Enrich our Biochar).

Graden flowers and alliums
All of our prices include Mainland UK postage and packaging

The Big Biochar Experiment...

Modern use of ancient Amazonian wisdom

Horticultural Charcoal has been in use for milenia, but much of that knowledge has been lost in modern times. You can get involved with the Big Biochar Experiment and help study the amazing benefits that Biochar can bring to soil and crop improvement.

"This is the first large-scale experiment on the use of biochar in allotments and gardens. It aims to gather quantitative data on above and below ground productivity, and qualitative data on plant and soil health of widely used fruit and vegetable varieties. These data, combined with existing information on weather and soil quality, will be used to assess the effects of biochar on the productivity of plants across a range of soils."

You don't need much space and it's a great project for children so get involved.

Raised fowerbed with Biochar

Charcoal Soil Mixes

Charcoal Soil Mixes

Charcoal can be either mixed with potting soil, compost or peat moss, charcoal is useful in lightening the soil and bringing out all its benefits. 

Terrariums - Due to its absorbing properties, charcoal is used as a water reservoir, an odour absorbent and at the same time it prevents rotting of the roots. Charcoal is usually deposited on top of small rocks in order to help with drainage. 
This charcoal is particles of between 5 and 10mm.

Orchids - All orchid lovers around the world have discovered the virtues of adding charcoal to most soil mixes. 

African Violets - It has been used by many African violet lovers since carbon is useful for this particular plant. A fine granular size is added to the soilless mix in order to stabilise the humidity level and prevent it from fluctuating. 

Lawns - Fine charcoal powder used on lawns (Especially for Golf) absorbs and eliminates excess amounts of fertiliser and chemicals present in the soil. 

Transplanting trees - Before transplanting a tree, you may place a few charcoal pieces at bottom of the hole before planting. It will absorb and purify any stagnant water and help with drainage.

Tree Planting

Give young saplings a head start;

The addition of Biochar when planting new trees has been proven to not only reduce the risk of loss of saplings, but also to increase the growth of those that do survive.

"There is nothing great in planting a million trees if 80% die before becoming established!"

We have many customers who swear by the benefits of incorporating a small amount of biochar when planting a new tree, ranging from commercial tree planters, local authorities, landscape gardeners to private individuals.


We're currently writing an article on tree planting to give you more information - so please check back soon.

Turf Treatment & Sports Pitches

Green Keepers of Golf Courses take note;

We offer a charcoal soil improver particular to golf courses;
Using the soil improver harks back to common practice of a century ago, when greenkeepers used charcoal to keep greens porous and firm, and to improve the appearance and colour of turf.

Now greenkeepers have a new incentive to rediscover the old methods, following an EU ruling to withdraw products containing the chemical iprodione, which are used to treat fusarium patch (Microdochium Nivale) among other turf diseases.

We have supplied greenkeepers as far as way as Norway to improve their golf courses.

Customer Reviews

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