Bokashi (fermented food/garden waste) Composting Discussion

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

There have been a number of Bokashi composting discussions scattered throughout the forums, so I thought I'd create a Bokashi discussion thread to help pull them together.

Here is an article from the DG Newsletter giving an intro:
http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/109/#discuss

Some additional articles:
http://www.cityfarmer.org/bokashi.html

This link has a few videos:
http://www.bokashi.com.au/How-Bokashi-works.htm

I'm hoping that those who have tried Bokashi composting can share their experiences, both good and bad.

Several of the Bokashi sites show the Bokashi fermented food waste being added to the soil next to the growing plants. Sarah (barksy) who wrote the DG newsletter article indicates that the ferment is too acidic to do so. I'm assuming that this may be an issue if one lives in an area with naturally acidic soil. Here in the alkaline west, I've buried my bokashi in a hole in the raised bed, added an inch of soil and then transplanted a seedling on top. It grew up to outperform it's neighbors.

I like to use the Bokashi bran or a misting of Activated EM (a brew of the same mother culture that innoculates the Bokashi bran) in the kitchen food scrap bucket because it keeps the odors down. If Bokashi/EM is used, when I open the bucket I only get a whiff of a yeasty/vinaegary smell instead of rotting veggies. When we lived in the country, it was no big deal to empty the compost bucket out in the pile each day. Now that we are in a more urban environment, I no longer have that luxury. We generate more scraps than my patio worm bin can handle. Everything goes into the Bokashi buckets, then after a couple of weeks I haul them down to the community garden. No nasty odors when the buckets are opened.

I now add the Bokashi ferment to the worm bin as well. It gets layered between the worm bedding (usually coir or shredded newspaper) and the worms love it.

There is another way that I've found the Bokashi fermentation has proven helpful in the garden - composting noxious plants and weeds like bermuda grass and field bindweed. Ordinarily we wouldn't add these to the compost pile to avoid spreading them in the garden. When shredded and fermented, they break down nicely without risk of sprouting.

How are you using Bokashi?

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

I look forward to the discussions on this thread. It looks very interesting. I am not using it currently, but I am seriously considering it. Thanks

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

garden_mermaid (great name, btw):
Thanks so much for creating this thread and for collecting the links for us to read. I am going to try this method this winter, mainly because I feel that my composting comes to a halt in the winter, when my usual compost pile turns into a frozen Kilamanjaro. I don't mind the trek to my bins outside, but everything just sits there. (Corrected to add that I move into a "passive composting" mode in winter and don't turn my compost so it doesn't get warm.)
My question is: what part does temperature play in the fermenting method? In other words, can the buckets of fermenting scraps sit in an unheated (but above freezing) garage? Our family can fill more than one 5-gal bucket this winter and spring and I'd need a place to put them other than in the (crowded) kitchen.
Another question (sorry): Can meat/dairy scraps be used, or not? I would like to use them because I hate to toss anything out, but some of the sources you listed said yes, and another said not to.

Quoting:
We avoid putting any meat or dairy products into it, although small amounts of either are no big deal.
by Brian Smallshaw

This message was edited Dec 10, 2007 9:09 AM

Central Texas, TX(Zone 8b)

Sounds intresting! I would like to follow this thread so I can learn more.

West Norriton, PA(Zone 6b)

Very interesting! Looking forward to following this thread.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Garden_mermaid, I have yet another question: do you use any particular commercial Bokashi bucket, and/or mix? There seem to be different ones available from the on-line sources. I'm not sure which to order. If anyone else has any recommendations, I'd love to hear them.
Thanks in advance.

Kirkland, WA(Zone 7b)

I'll chime in as well - thanks for this thread & relevant info.
I have been composting for over 20 years here, and it was all due to not having a garbage disposal, not a great idea with a septic tank or so I
was told.
I will be anxious to hear from those who are using this - love to have another experiment.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Originally, I bought a "kit" that included a Happy Farmer Bokashi bucket and a bag of Bokashi bran, plus a litre bottle of EM. The Happy Farmer bucket has a grate and a spout at the bottom to allow liquids to seep through and away from the rest of the contents. It holds the same as a 5-gallon bucket. I bought a standard 5-gallon bucket at the hardware store to use as the second bucket when the first is full.
They both seem to work equally well and the standard bucket was cheaper. If your scraps tend to be wetter, you may want the fancier bucket.

Sometimes I don't put enough Bokashi in the bucket and one goes "bad", meaning it rots a little instead of fermenting. I can usually sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the offending batch to feed the beneficial microbes and it goes back to fermenting. One batch couldn't be cured that way. I just buried the bucket contents a little deeper into the ground and the worms liked it anyway.

Speaking of worms.......I was asked to move the Bokashi discussion off of the vermicomposting thread, but in truth, worms are a key part of Bokashi composting.
When we bury the fermented scraps in a trench in the ground, they turn into rich deep compost in a couple of weeks because the earthworms have eaten the stuff! If you digg down to see how well the fermented scraps have composted in the soil, the results are a nice dark mass of worm compost.

Meat and dairy can be tossed into the Bokashi bucket. Many people just scrape leftovers from the plate to the bucket, sprinkle with the innoculated bran and seal the lid. That being said, if you live in an area with wildlife that may be attracted to your compost materials, please do your part to keep the wildlife wild and alive and make sure your compost does not attract them into your yard. Although I haven't had any mammals take an interest in the Bokashi ferment that has been buried in a trench in the ground or in the compost pile, we did have an enterprising raccoon and a mole eat all our worms one winter. We found the tunnels underneath the pile and no worms in the pile. We put a weld wire (construction cloth) bottom and top on the bin after that.

(Phyllis) Flint,, TX(Zone 7b)

I'll chime in here *S* I am using the method too I just started using it after finding
http://www.emamerica.com/data/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=185&Itemid=226
on the net when I was looking for ways to compost that would help me get things going here in our new home in Texas.

Moving from Illinois to Texas I have to learn gardening ways all over since I have clay and sand instead of dirt.

I think it is a better way to use up waste then tossing it in the trash and once it has fermented we either add it to the regular compost pile or dig a trench and put it in the ground and since I also work in a restaurant I bring home food scraps ( melon skins, potato peels etc.) from there when I can to add in.
I use a rubber tub with a lid to collect it in from the kitchen then add it to a garbage can outside to ferment since DH isn't' real hip on having the whole thing in the house/garage.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Thank you so much , garden_mermaid and others who have taken the time to comment and give tips to this newbie! I am very excited about getting started with Bokashi. The tip about adding a tablespoon of sugar to "revive" the pail sounds really useful, too.

One more question: since the ground in my area freezes for the next 2 or so months and I can't dig trenches very easily, can I just keep the pails of fermenting product in my unheated garage until I can work the ground? Would I need keep checking to remove the liquid from the bottom and/ or adding more bokashi? Most sources say to leave the pail to "cure" for 2-4 weeks, but I am wondering if the fermented scraps can sit longer.

Mibus2, I am SO jealous that you have access to restaurant-scraps! I have been known to lurk around the produce section of my grocery store, hinting broadly to the employees about how helpful all those culled, moldy veggies and fruits would be to my compost pile! Often I score a box of trimmings which makes me SO happy!

(Phyllis) Flint,, TX(Zone 7b)

you can leave it longer that is not a problem from what I know and I use molasses in mine to revive it if needed.
check out the link I put in for the emamerica they talk about it staying longer if needed.

You could try hitting up a family owned restaurant in your area if any and see if you could get the scraps and maybe if you can afford it get a trash can to offer for them to put the scraps in and pick it up a couple times a week???

Columbus, OH(Zone 5b)

I hope I don't sound redundant but... my question is why do you have to bury it?
Couldn't it just go into the lasagna garden or the compost heap?

Cheers
Dove

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Good question, Dovey. I was just about to ask this.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

You bury it to let the worms get at it. At least, that's my take on it. Someone else may know more about that aspect.

Yes, you could put it in a lasagna garden or compost heap.
The process was developed in Japan. I'm not sure lasagne gardening is/was being done in Japan at the time.

Keep in mind that the effective microbes that are used to innoculate the Bokashi bran are also beneficial soil microbes. It's the microbes that feed our plants. We feed the microbes.

(Phyllis) Flint,, TX(Zone 7b)

Bokashi will ferment the food waste, preventing it from rotting, and therefore eliminate odor or the attraction to flies. After the food waste is pickled, you can add it to an existing compost pile, feed it to worms, or bury it in an existing garden bed. But what I have read it is best to wait at least 2 weeks before actually planting anything in the spot where you buried it.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Thank you for answering this question. I suspect I will be putting my Bokashi onto my compost pile, or in my lasagna gardens, during the cooold part of winter.

Columbus, OH(Zone 5b)

Thanks to both of you, like CapeCod I think I will toss it in the compost heap or a bed I'm working on. I've always got a spot I'm preparing for future planting.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

I'm very excited; I just ordered two pails and some Bokashi from emamerica.com--couldn't resist the nice guy with the 'Strine accent on the video (or was it New Zealand?)
I'm curious; on the video the man said to be sure to drain off the liquid from the bottom of the pail because it could kill my plants. Yet I thought that I could use this liquid, much diluted, as a fertilizer for houseplants. Is it just too concentrated in its original form? But it seems like the liquid should easily be dispersed when buried in a trench, as the video shows.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Well, I drained the liquid from the Happy Farmer pail, diluted it in the watering can, and doused the garden. Nothing died and the plants seemed to like it. Dilution may be the key. The standard 5 gallon bucket doesn't have a convenient drain at the bottom........so it doesn't get drained until I bury it. I do put a layer of the bokashi bran or coir at the bottom of the standard bucket, so maybe that absorbs enough of the liquid, or I just have "dry scraps". You'll need to experiment and see what works best for you.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Thanks, garden_mermaid, I'm going to dilute the liquid and go from there. . . not that I HAVE any liquid yet. In fact, I don't even have any buckets. But I am SO ready. The thought of being able to recycle meat, fish, and dairy products (as well as the usual vegetative material) for the good of my garden is incredibly appealing.
Are we composters crazy? I have to stop myself from asking my hostess at dinner parties if I could just have those scraps. . . and I usually do anyway!

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Have fun and keep experimenting. You'll soon find which combination of composting styles will work best for you.

Perhaps you could also encourage your local city council/township would like to encourage the local restaurants, hospitals, grocery stores etc to install the industrialized worm bins like these:

http://www.wormwigwam.com/wormbins.htm

(Phyllis) Flint,, TX(Zone 7b)

Wow y'al sure make me feel better I had posted when I first got the Bokashi in the composting forum and some fellow Texans keep saying to me know you can not compost using kitchen scraps such as the meat etc and I kept trying to explain to them yes you can and gave the link to emamerica but felt so down hearted as no one seeeds to get it and now to find here how excited you are on it makes me feel so much better and what I thought as being worth while really is...thanks

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

It's a matter of finding the right "tool" for the job. There a many ways to compost, so you once you determine what materials you have on hand that need composting, and how much space/time you have available, you can find the best method for your personal situation. Some folks think the only good microbe is a dead microbe. Thankfully, more and more folks are learning about beneficial microbes and the roles they play in protecting our planet and our health.

Central Texas, TX(Zone 8b)

I like the fact that you can use meat scraps for this method of composting.

(Phyllis) Flint,, TX(Zone 7b)

Me too and I found on my first batch it is best to let it sit more then 2 weeks so it ferments more so the dogs stay out of it ...DH didn't so where we put it in the ground the neighborhood time share dog thought he should dig a lil to check it out. LOL

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

LOL Time Share Dog! I'd like a couple of time share cats!

West Norriton, PA(Zone 6b)

All I want for Christmas is a Bokashi Bucket ... I'm hooked on yet another gardening topic.

Burlingame, CA(Zone 9a)

Great thread g_m. I have been looking for ways to compost our kitchen scraps for ages other than vermicomposting I have a question that I'm hoping you can answer. My garden is tiny and I don't have a compost heap. There's not even a lot of space in the garden part and I certainly don't have any room to make a trench like in the video on the EM America site. Have you ever run out of space to bury the Bokashi compost? Or do you know of a way around this? Could I store it in a bigger, and open container mixed with some soils and worms?

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

I'm interested in your question too, wgnkiwi, because I'm not going to be able to dig a trench for some months (frozen gound) and I'm wondering what to do with the fermented Bokashi-materials.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Cape Cod, you may want to phone the folks at EMamerica or SCDWorld and ask that them their thoughts on that topic. We don't get the hard freezes that you get, although my DH filled me in on weather conditions in MA (he lived in the Berkshires for a spell).

I don't dig a big trench like in the video. I just dig a hole (away from any foot traffic) that can accomodate a 5 gallon bucket's worth of fermented scraps, cover with about 4-6 inches of soil and let the earthworms do their work. You could cover the hole with chicken wire if critters are a concern.

Since I feed some of the Bokashi to the worms in the Wriggly Wranch and bury the rest in the garden hold, it doesn't take a lot of space. When I'm ready to bury another bucket load, I just dig out the finished product from the hole in the ground and spread it over which ever plants look most deserving at the time.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Mr. Clean *still* hasn't gotten me a Christmas present, so I told him I wanted a Wriggly Ranch and a Happy Farmer bucket, and without even asking, he said NO!

I told him *all* the Cool Kids had one, and he still said, NO!

So to get even, I told him that was a shame because you got one free with your Victoria Secret Purchase, but the sale ended today. ROTFLMAO!

Suzy

Scotia, CA(Zone 9b)

Suzy, do what I do when DH says NOand won't buy me the gift I really want... buy it for him instead and don't let him know where you got it so it can't be returned or exchanged ;~)

(Phyllis) Flint,, TX(Zone 7b)

the time share dog(Austrialian Shepard) is a pet to one couples son and the son left so he adopted the couple living caddy corner behind us and he visits everyone between the two houses as he goes from one place to the other.

I agree with Zany and besides he must not realize how much it saves in buying fertilizer let alone the environment.

Suzy I do like your way of thinking though on the free purchase ..ROFLMAOBIGTIME

Burlingame, CA(Zone 9a)

Thanks g_m, thats a great help. I think I could probably designate a smallish hole at the back of the garden as a "bokashi hole". I wonder if Santa has room on his sleigh......

Burlingame, CA(Zone 9a)

I found a few websites where folks asked the same question as me. One poster referred to the Bokashi New Zealand site and their recommendation is...

Quoting:
Alternatively you can add it too a bottomless bucket with a good lid that is buried up to its neck in the soil. Mix a little soil to each batch of compost that you place into the buried bucket.


Heard back from Santa. Definitely room on the sleigh!

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Zany, Good idea!
Milbus, :)

All,

I didn't see where you keep this bucket if you live in the freeze zone. Can you keep it out in the (sometimes freezing) garage instead of in the kitchen, or do those microbes die when they freeze?

Does anybody besides me have trouble getting those lids on and off those 5 gallon buckets? Can't imagine doing it 2x a day.

Suzy

mulege, Mexico

Someone posted for a lid that goes on a 5 gallon bucket and comes off easier. It was at Amazon. It was pricey but worth iit for saving hassles with lids.

katiebear

mulege, Mexico

I went to Amazon and searched for "bucket lid. " The one I had aseen came up as #26.

kb

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

There is a tool available at most home improvement and lumber supply stores that makes it easy to open the lids on the "contractor's buckets", eg, the 5 gallon ones.

I would think you could keep the buckets in the garage in cold climates if you clustered them together for mass. Best to call the EM folks to be sure.

Helena, MT

Suzy,

Take a hack saw and make four cuts in the side of the lid at equal distance (i.e. 12, 3, 6, & 9 o'clock. Make sure you don't cut the rubber seal. Lid comes off easy, but put a rock on it if you want to keep out any nosy four legged varmits!

morgan

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