Bokashi Composting

I stumbled across this the other day. It’s an informative podcast about Bokashi Composting and it reminded me that I need to start my Bokashi up again.

For those (many) of you who haven’t heard of Bokashi Composting, it’s an Asian technique re-introduced in the early 1980s which uses a starter inoculated with microbes to start the composting process of all of the kitchen food waste. By all, I mean exactly that, not only uncooked vegetable peelings but, more usefully, cooked food, meat, fish, etc., etc..

It’s an anaerobic process that, over the period of two weeks or so, turns food waste into something that the soil microbes will break down into useable, highly fertile, compost. It doesn’t create the brown, crumbly compost that you can scatter all over your garden, rather it prepares kitchen waste that would otherwise go to landfill into something that you can bury in your existing compost heap or straight into the ground if you prefer.

Why do that (I hear you ask). Well, we bokashi to increase the fertility of the soil, reduce the amount we send to landfill and to reduce the smell of the landfill bin by not putting any food waste into it. When we are running the bokashi bin (we run it is spring, summer and autumn but not over the winter) we know that we have less waste, the kitchen bin doesn’t smell and when we look at the compost, its full if worms and breaks down more quickly than it would without the bokashi.

What is Bokashi & how does it work?

Bokashi is an anaerobic process that “pickles” the waste. Unlike traditional composting, at the end of the process, all of the items of waste are sill identifiable, covered in a white mould and ready for the microbes in the soil to break them down and return their nutrients to the soil. It relies upon mixing your waste with bran inoculated with the micro organisms so that the micro organisms can mix with the waste and prepare it for use. To be honest, the science is beyond me but it seems that the micro organisms create lactic acid which prevents rotting but at the same time breaks down the structure of the waste making it ready to be composted.

When running the system, we use two bins, one bin being filled and the other sitting “maturing” for the two weeks it needs to work. We use it alongside a separate system for vegetable waste that we compost directly (vegetable peelings, etc.), but we sometimes top it up with compostable vegetable waste if its taking too long to fill the bin. Filling the bin involves alternating a couple of inches of waste with a generous couple of tablespoons of bran (one of the possible problems is being mean with the bran in which case the waste can start to rot – you’ll have to find your own balance) and pressing it all down firmly to exclude the air.

Whilst filling and maturing, the bin will generate “bokashi tea”, a brown liquid which contains the microbes and other wonderful stuff. Water it down to use it as a fertiliser or pour it onto the compost heap to help composting.

After maturing for two weeks, we usually bury the bokashi mix into the compost heap where it breaks down and adds to the standard compost but you can bury it directly into the soil and (usually) animals leave it alone (we’ve had one occasion where a fox dug its way in to the bokashi).

Why not run it all year?

We keep our bokashi bin outside the back door. This makes it simple to drain off the liquid and is easily accessible. People say that the process is odourless, but our view is that it has a mild smell, similar to brewing. As we don’t brew in our kitchen, we find that the smell is noticeable but not unpleasant. So we place our bin outside. We tried it over winter the first year but felt that the system didn’t work very well in the colder months so we don’t use it in the three months of winter. However, we know people who do run a bokashi system all year with the bins in their kitchen so perhaps we’re just over sensitive.

Conclusion

Bokashi is good for the environment, improves soil fertility, gets rid of waste that would otherwise got to landfill and overall is a good thing. Why not give it a try?

You can buy a starter kit and bran from Evengreener if you’re in the UK or (if your in the US or Canada) try Bokashi Living either way, you’d be doing your bit to make the world a better place.

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