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Terra Preta comes from Portuguese and means "black earth". It is native to the Amazon region. For plants, the black earth offers a particularly fertile basis for magnificent growth and a high-yield harvest. The export is forbidden and in the specialized trade some kind of dark soil is usually referred to as "Terra Preta". However, if you want to benefit from the “real” black earth, you can easily make it yourself. With the right instructions, making it is child's play.

Why Miracle Earth?

The black earth, which tends to be dark brown in color, has the ability to store nutrients for a particularly long time like no other type of earth. It has a significantly higher humus content than European soil, which therefore has to be "treated" regularly with nutrient-rich fertilizers. With the use of Terra Preta, additional fertilization becomes unnecessary. In addition, no carbon monoxide or methane gas is released, which has a gentle effect on the climate. Because numerous practical experiences show noticeably higher harvest yields with the black soil, it is called miracle soil, especially among fruit and vegetable growers.

areas of application

As enthusiastic as many hobby gardeners are about the black soil from the Amazon, it is clear that it is not suitable for every application/use. Here are a few things to consider before crafting:

private use

Use only makes sense in private gardens because microorganisms/soil creatures are active in the soil here and are not restricted by mineral fertilizers, pesticides or heavy equipment.

Note the pH value

You should not use the black soil for growing plants that need a low pH value (acidic environment) in the soil to grow, such as peas, beans, lentils and some herbs. The charcoal contained in black earth increases the salt content and thus automatically the pH value.

young plants and sowing

Since the "miracle soil" stores a particularly large number of nutrients from the soil and releases them generously to the plants, this can lead to problems with the growth or germination of young plants and seeds. As a rule, nutrient-poor soil is used when raising young plants. Too many nutrients can lead to oversupply and, in the worst case, death.

soil quality

Experts largely agree that Terra Preta has little effect on high-quality soils. There can only be small savings in the areas of irrigation and fertilization. The black Amazon soil offers an ideal solution for sandy, barren, nutrient-poor soils on which plants grow poorly or not at all. It is also ideal for heavily consuming plants that quickly leach out normal soil.

Make Terra Preta yourself

Materials needed:

  • garden waste
  • kitchen scraps
  • charcoal
  • stone flour
  • Effective microorganisms (available in garden shops and on the Internet)
  • A large bucket with a lid
  • Something to mix and pound, such as a log
  • Conventional garden soil

NOTICE: Numerous experts advise against the use of conventional charcoal for grilling, because the origin and quality are often unclear and it may contain pollutants that have a negative effect on the plants. It is better to use special biochar for the production of Terra Preta or burn wood yourself.


  • Cut garden and kitchen waste into small pieces and place in a bucket
  • Add good quality charcoal (about ten percent of the total volume should be charcoal)
  • Add some stone flour (supply of minerals)
  • Mix well and mash (similar to mashing sauerkraut)
  • Add effective microorganisms for fermentation (top layer should be well covered)
  • Close bucket tightly with lid
  • Recommended ambient temperature: at least 15 degrees Celsius
  • Waiting time: two weeks
  • Pour off seeping juices in between (ideal as fertilizer for watering)

TIP: At the latest when you open the bucket, an unpleasant odor will rise. If the bucket is not airtight, it can already escape and be extremely annoying. Therefore, do not place the bucket near occupied areas or windows and doors.

Further processing:

Once the waiting time has expired, the mass is further processed as follows to produce an earthy consistency:

  • Pour out the mass evenly in a bed (there should be direct contact with the ground so that other microorganisms promote the enrichment of the future black soil)
  • Spread garden soil over the poured mass (must be completely covered with garden soil)
  • Put foil or tarpaulin over it (protects against rain)
  • Ideal location: warm, dry
  • Waiting time: around six months

Apply Terra Preta

After the six-month waiting period, the once fermented mass has developed into a substance rich in humus. It can now either be incorporated into the soil on site, stored or transported to another bed. It is important that before spreading or working into the soil, the upper normal garden soil is mixed with the humus mass. The best way to do this is to turn it around with a small shovel or a rake. Between 0.5 and 1 kilogram of black soil are expected per square meter of bed.

Soil preparation instructions

If the black soil is moved to another bed, soil preparation is recommended for maximum effectiveness. The procedure is as follows:

  • Change of soil before planting: Dig out the garden soil as deep as the depth/width of future planting holes is planned
  • For planted soils, dig out a few centimeters of soil around the plants (must not come into contact with roots)
  • Pour Terra Preta into the planting hole or all-around channel
  • Replanting can be placed in black soil after a waiting period of around 14 days
  • Always press the soil lightly (so that water can be absorbed and stored well)

Make Terra Preta in the compost heap

If you have a larger compost heap and want to make significantly more black Amazon soil yourself, you can use your compost on the spot. That is how it goes:

  • Tamp up partially and/or fully rotted compost
  • Distribute charcoal generously over the mass (chopped charcoal or use as a powder - amount: 10 percent share)
  • Mix 2 deciliters of effective microorganisms per 10 liters of water (enough water to soak through to compost soil)
  • Lay tarpaulin/foil over the compost (so that microorganisms and developed humus are not washed out with rainwater)
  • Best time to start: spring/early summer when the sun gets warmer
  • Waiting time: six months
  • Then simply mix in normal garden soil in the bed

durability and storage

After the waiting period, when the black Amazonian soil is ready to be used but not applied, it can be stored. To do this, it must be filled into containers that offer the best possible air seal. The location should be dry, light and pleasantly cool, but in any case frost-free.

Terra Preta has a shelf life of several years, regardless of whether it is stored or spread out in the bed. During the shelf life, it does not lose the positive properties that distinguish it from ordinary soil.

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