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Terra Preta is no longer only used in agriculture, because more and more hobby gardeners swear by the advantages of the black Indian soil. In this article you will find out whether it is actually worth using them and how you can make them yourself and use them in the garden.

What is Terra Preta?

Terra Preta (Portuguese for "black earth") is also known as the Indian Black Earth Amazonies. However, from a pedological point of view, this is not black earth per se, but an anthropogenic soil and is therefore not natural. However, the soil mixture has proven itself in agriculture for many years, as it is considered to be particularly fertile and promotes the growth of many different plants. This is mainly due to its composition, which consists of a mixture of charcoal and vegetable charcoal as well as other components that can vary from time to time:

  • human feces
  • dung
  • compost
  • interspersed with potsherds
  • sometimes also bones and fishbones

Notice: "Anthropogenic" refers to everything that is created, caused, produced or influenced by humans. One example of this is plastics, as they are entirely man-made.


However, Terra Preta is a very fertile soil mixture that is mainly used in shifting cultivation and slash-and-burn cultivation in the humid tropics. Today, however, it is used in agriculture in many parts of the world, but also in domestic gardens:

  • South America (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador)
  • Africa (Ghana, Sierra Leona, Liberia Guinea)
  • Southeast Asia (Indonesia)
  • Europe (Germany and Sweden)
Slash and burn method. Source: Frank Vassen from Brussels, Belgium, Slash and Burn Agriculture, Morondava, Madagascar, crop from Plantopedia, CC BY 2.0

Features and Benefits

First and foremost, the "Black Earth" is known for its fertility, but it has many more advantages. It is characterized, for example, by its high carbon content, which is why it is particularly rich in nutrients. The carbon can in turn be stored in the soil over the long term, which is why the use of Terra Preta is advantageous for climate protection. Thanks to the high nutrient content, additional fertilizer payments can be significantly reduced. Sometimes it is even possible that no further fertilization is necessary.

In principle, one could say that this soil is a biological long-term fertilizer that also stores large amounts of nutrients. But that's not all, because it has other advantages:

  • The humus content in the soil is improved
  • contains effective microorganisms
  • Soil becomes vital and alive
  • Biochar stores nutrients until plants need them
  • CO2 is bound and not released

Make Terra Preta yourself

The numerous advantages speak for themselves, which is why more and more hobby gardeners are using the black earth. Numerous specialist dealers offer these for sale, but usually at an overpriced price. However, the biological long-term fertilizer can be produced in just a few steps. Various methods are available for this, some of which differ in their approach and their "ingredients". One option is to simply mix the ingredients below and let them sit for a few hours:

  • 20 liters of biochar
  • 6 liters of urine, manure, liquid manure or plant manure
  • 1 l EM-A (activated effective microorganism solution)
  • 2 kg bedrock flour

How to use Terra Preta?

The biological long-term fertilizer is not only used in agriculture, because the mixture has also proven itself in the home garden. As with most fertilizers, certain factors should be considered with this mix. Otherwise, the mixture can damage the plant roots, especially when they are very young. Therefore, it is advisable to use the Black Earth as follows:

  • Dig the planting hole deeper than usual
  • for tomatoes e.g.: 10 cm deeper
  • Mix Terra Preta with potting soil
  • put about 2 hands in the planting hole

Notice: If you mix the Black Earth with fresh urine yourself, you should make sure that the roots do not come into contact with it. Because the fresh urine could damage the roots and thus the entire plant.

For which plants to use?

In general, it can be said that Black Earth is suitable for almost all plants and areas of application. Hobby gardeners can use the biological slow-release fertilizer in vegetable or flower beds, for example, but also to fertilize fruit bushes and trees.

Plant lovers can also fall back on the Terra Preta outside of a garden, because it is also advantageous for planting in tubs and pots. However, it is less suitable for over-fertilized garden soils, as these can be stressed by the additional nutrients. Even acid-loving plants, such as rhododendrons, should only be supplied with the mixture if they have been acidified beforehand.

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