Bokashi Composting

My Bokashi Bin

It was not hard to decide what my first entry would be about.  You see, I’m a bit evangelical about composting in general but especially Bokashi composting!   I recently wrote an article called, “Putting Your Waste to Work”, about Bokashi and deep mulch gardening for Natural Life Magazine.   And I was lucky enough to give a talk on the topic to a packed house at our local library last week.  So, it just made sense to make it my first official post here!

Bokashi composting is just EASY!  I believe it is the easiest way to eliminate ALL household food waste.

A standard American family of 4 sends 2000 pounds of food waste to the landfill each year.  I live in a neighborhood with about 160 homes.  That’s 320,000 pounds of waste from my small neighborhood alone!!!!   Bokashi allows us to make a huge dent in that number AND create amazing compost to enhance our soil and nourish our plants.

Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning “fermented organic matter”.   It is a process that has been used for 100s of years inJapan.  In the 70s, Professor Higa perfected the microbial blend to help the process work correctly each time.  This allowed Bokashi to become more popular and spread across the globe.

The process basically “pickles” the waste, instead of “rotting” as we see with traditional compost.  The fermenting/pickling eliminates the odor associated with rotting.

The microbials work in an anaerobic environment to ferment the waste, once it is fermented it’s transferred to the soil (or compost pile) where the soil microbials take over and finish the job breaking down the food.

This process is happening without emitting gases.  Methane gases being released from decomposing food waste at our landfills is a big concern in terms of “green house gases”.

My compost and a worm friend 🙂

With Bokashi composting we eliminated ALL of the food waste from our home, our trash doesn’t smell and at the end of the week it’s half full and light as feather!  And that waste is now producing amazing compost that I can use around my yard for my veggies and flowers.

What you need:
A collection bin, that can drain. (Two bins are preferable)  There are commercial bins available from Rainbow Worms or you can make your own with nesting buckets and adding a drain valve in the lower bucket.  I chose a “fancy” bin like at the link above because it’s sitting out in our eating area but there are many ways to make it work!

Bokashi – wheat bran that is inculcated with microbials and left to ferment.   You can buy this already made or make your own. (Recipe below)

The Process:
Add scraps (dairy, bones, meat, ANYTHING) to bin and sprinkle with bokashi, cover with plate and seal lid.  Remember this is an *anaerobic* process.  You may choose to collect scraps on the counter in a ceramic bin and move to the bokashi bin once or twice a day or add as you go.

Once your bin is filled, it must sit for 14 days to complete the ferment of the latest materials added.  You can either have two bins or move the contents of the filled bin to a 5 gallon bucket to continue fermenting.

After the ferment is completed, it can then be added to your compost pile or directly to soil in your garden or yard.

You can plant on top of the bokashi after 2 weeks.  It will transform into compost to use elsewhere after 4-8 weeks.  This process is even faster, in as short as 2 weeks, when you add the fermented scraps to your compost pile.   It’s a great way to amend your passive pile and speed up compost production.

Dried Bokashi

                               



Making your own Bokashi:  

A 6-8 month supply can be made for about $13.

You will need:

25 pounds of Wheat Bran or Rice Bran (check local feed stores)
1.5 tablespoons Ceramic powder (I get mine from Teraganix)
2.5 tablespoons Sea Salt
1/4 cup EM-1 (Teraganix sells Prof. Higa’s formula, it’s what I have always used)
1/4 cup Molasses
2 gallons HOT water

Mix the ingredients in large bin.  After thoroughly mixed, it should start sticking together, move to garbage bag and suck out the air with vacuum cleaner.  Let it ferment in this air tight bag for 2-3 weeks.  You will know it’s done by the sweet pickling type smell.  There may be white spots; that is fine. Black or green mold, is not ok to see.  If you see that, air is getting in.  You can scoop out those parts and reseal.

You may use it right away but if you dry it then it will last for years.  To dry, spread on garbage bags or tarp (layering over newspaper helps it dry faster).  Once dry you can store in bags or bins.   It’s a fun process and really easy.  Children especially enjoy helping!  You can make small batches in buckets or huge batches on tarps.  It is safe, actually good for birds and the environment.  So, don’t worry if it spills outside.

Pros –

  • having no food waste
  • the trash not smelling and being light and not needing to go to the curb each week
  • the convenience
  • no smelly food to be carried out in the yard
  • soil enhancement, generating a lot of compost

Cons

  • You need a place to bury it
  • You need to make or buy your bokashi (though it’s easy to make)
  • “Fancy” bins are expensive but buckets work fine (account for liquid)
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24 Responses to Bokashi Composting

  1. Barry Hopking says:

    Your lecture at the library was great and I will be trying out both deep mulch gardening and Bokashi.
    Thank you for your time and effort

  2. Kay says:

    Hey Anna. Also enjoyed your presentation at the library. I live in south Charlotte and wanted to know where to buy the large bags of wheat bran. Thanks for both your help and your enthusiasm.

    • Thanks! Any feed store, Neighborhood Feed and Tack is in Matthews. I’ve gotten it there before. Renfrow’s in Matthews would probably have it too.

      • Kay says:

        Which Ceramic powder do you use from the Teraganix website? Thanks
        By the way, Renfrow’s did not carry the wheat bran but I found it at Neigborood Feed. Thanks

  3. It’s called “Terra Powder”. If you put that in the search, it’s the 1.5 pound bag. (around $16) I’ve hardly made a dent in mine over the three plus years I’ve been using it. If you live nearby, you are welcome to come by and get some for your first batch. Glad you were able to find the bran! ~Anna

  4. Jennifer says:

    Found you on pinterest- This is great! Any suggestions for doing this in an apartment with little/ no outdoor space? Are there places you can dump compost for free? I would love to reduce my food waste but not sure that I have a place to put it…

    • No outdoor space is definitely a barrier. I do know people who cart to a friend’s yard/compost pile. In some cities in Europe they are doing Bokashi pick ups at apartments. I would love to see that in the US one day! You would only need a small space to start a compost pile (it’s not smelly because it’s buried and converts quickly in the soil). Maybe you could convince the apartment complex that it needs a community garden and compost pile 🙂 Or even just for amendments for their landscaping.

    • LS says:

      Hi Jennifer I would be interested in picking up your end product and feed it to my worms !!

  5. Pam says:

    Just read your interesting composting ideas. I love composting, too. One suggestion to those who have no outside ground area; use pot in windows, on balconies, or any surface you can add a container.

  6. As far as not having a place to bury it, couldn’t you put the bokashi in a paper grocery sack and send with regular trash. It seems like that way you’d be helping the landfill break down others un-composted waste. I don’t know if that would work or not, but it seems like it should.

  7. Lance says:

    Can both cooked and uncooked food be used?

  8. Geri Boychuk says:

    I have read all the information on the composting method and it sounds great. Hope I can get these products, as I would definately like to try it.
    would sure cut down on any smelly garbage, and on the amount going to the dump. Geri

  9. Pingback: Another April Harvest

  10. Andrea Matias Lemoine says:

    Thanks for your class today 10/05/13. I can’t wait to start Bokashi method in my garden! We will keep in touch!

  11. Andrea Matias Lemoine says:

    Anna…. I could not wait and we started today. My husband helped me by building the bin and I already damped food ( actually I prepared a vegetable soup form my garden vegetables and used the part of vegetables that I did not want). Absolutely we will keep in touch! I will recommend your class with my coworkers and friends.

  12. Michelle Styers says:

    can you use the tea outside this time of year? or is it too cold?

    • I don’t see why not. I’m in the south and things are already blooming. The tea would still have benefits for the soil. But if the ground was frozen it probably wouldn’t do much until things start to thaw.

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