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Can regular lump charcoal be used in orchid mix?

This is a discussion on Can regular lump charcoal be used in orchid mix? within the New Growers: Ask the Senior Members forums, part of the New Growers category; I'd like to start making my own potting mixes. --- I'd like to include charcoal ...

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    MCSchrum is offline Member
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    Default Can regular lump charcoal be used in orchid mix?

    I'd like to start making my own potting mixes. --- I'd like to include charcoal in my potting mixes. I know that charcoal briquettes have dangerous flammable chemicals that could harm the plants. However, I'm not sure whether you can use regular lump charcoal. Is this product dangerous to plants, or is it just plain burnt wood? Can it be used in potting mixes?

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    If you are talking about the stuff you use in your BBQ, no. It is treated.

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    Like the charcoal, not all "wood" from trees can be used for making "bark" or their mixes. Some don't have the appropriate water retention (or drainage) properties that are needed for use in growing orchids. Even more care needs to be taken when selecting the appropriate wood used in media for an orchid mix or bark. Depending on the source, some wood is treated as well.

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    Some good advice above.

    Even briquettes that are not "self lighting" are made from pine, so not good for plants.

    If the lump charcoal is untreated "hardwood" charcoal, then you might be OK. The stuff I have been carrying for the last several years is produced by Royal Oak, and I have seen their grilling versions for sale, although at a premium. Personally, I'd recommend that you contact them and ask if anything has been added to the grilling products.

    If you consider the cost of hardwood barbecuing charcoal, and the effort needed to break it down into usable size for potting media, you might be better off simply buying stuff made specifically for horticultural use.

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    Quote Originally Posted by raybark View Post
    If you consider the cost of hardwood barbecuing charcoal, and the effort needed to break it down into usable size for potting media, you might be better off simply buying stuff made specifically for horticultural use.
    I say, why take the risk? And making briquettes into appropriate sized potting material is probably more work than buying horticultural charcoal costs.

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    MCShrum, if you are talking about lump charcoal, made from whole pieces of wood, then yes, you can (I think we are talking about the same material - not briquets). I have done so myself. This materials tends to come in big pieces that are easily reduced (outdoors) with a hammer. Far cheaper than the horticultural charcoal products.

    A caveat, though. You do need to read the package carefully before you buy. There should be no "'lighter fluid", paraffin, or similar materials added to make it light faster. Stuff that is essentially made and promoted as a natural charcoal should be OK. Inspect the material once you get it home, if there is a fuel-type odor, don't use (except possibly for grilling steaks or chicken).

    Depending on how much you want to fuss around with it, you can also make your own charcoal. Get a strong fire going in a charcoal grill, have small to medium cut-up pieces of hardwood ready, add these to the fire, once the wood catches, put a lid on and cut off the air supply. I have made a lot of charcoal for orchids this way.

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    As 78Terp said/implied, your time is worth something, probably more than the products themselves! (at least my time is worth more than many of the things I buy/could never imagine myself trying to take a big log and getting it down into tiny pieces! Yeah, I guess I could give it to someone who had a wood chipper - if I knew someone...but then, you don't know what else has been in that wood chipper. Never mind, I'll buy a bag of __________

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    Well, like I said, it depends on the level of 'fuss' you want to do. For me, part of what I enjoy with my orchids is seeing how much I can do on my own, rather than what I can buy. So, when a hardwood tree has to come down, I have no problem lopping 1-inch diameter branches into short pieces for charcoal-making later on. Similarly, I have some orchids growing on mounts, but nearly all the mounts are pieces of "found wood", interesting shapes that I have found here and there in nature, or cut when I have needed to fell trees for some other reason. I have grown some orchids from seed, but I opted to make my own growing medium from ingredients obtained at a local store, rather than buying pre-packaged growing medium (I am a year into growing some seedling orchids that were started on the medium I made).

    To put it another way, I know various people that have hobbies such as gold panning, metal detecting, playing golf, etc. The gold an amateur prospector finds, or the stuff dug up on a beach by "detectors/treasure hunters", probably never pays for the cost of equipment purchased or travel expenses - but it is a hobby for the person that does it. Golf is an even more extreme case - hundreds or thousands spent on equipment, course fees (membership fees in the thousands or tens of thousands for some), all to send a ball from the first tee to the 18th hole, not to mention the time taken to whack the ball all the way from one point to another (you could probably mail the ball to the 18th hole for less than 1% of the money and a fraction of the time). So, it really all boils down to what you want to spend your time and money on.

    I totally understand not fooling with making charcoal, or even breaking up the store-bought lump hardwood charcoal, if it seems like too much fuss or not enjoyable. For me, it is part of the hobby, and I would much prefer either of these options, rather than mail ordering horticultural charcoal from a vendor.

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    I was referring to the natural lump charcoal that has become more popular lately. Briquettes are obviously out of the question. They're too processed and have lots of chemicals. But it seems to me like lump charcoal should work, since it is just burnt wood. I might test it out on an orchid that I'm not in love with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MCSchrum View Post
    I might test it out on an orchid that I'm not in love with.
    Do you really have one like that ?!

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