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Bokashi, too much info maybe?

Disputanta, VA(Zone 7a)

I'm still getting bummed when I go to figure out the bokashi threads. Bokashi, EM1, activated EM 1, soil or microbial innoculants?, kimchee, yada, yada, yada. I know you guys have figured it all out so I'm back asking for help & I'm asking you remember to KISS (for me).

I have a bokashi bucket & bought a small amount of the bokashi (the grainy looking mixture to throw on the food waste). So in effect, bokashi is the mix & bokashi is the method? If so, I need more bokashi mix now.
I have the liquid EM 1. I have litmus paper (can't remember why, except someone suggested I get it). I have my first batch of bokashi fermenting in my garage. DH swears it smells. Using lg cat litter cntnr for my 2nd batch of bokashi. I know after the end of 2 weeks I get to bury my bokashi mixture. Should I attempt to drain the liquid off & then mix w/water & use it as a fertilizer?

Pls don't reference me back to the bokashi threads (3, long, time consuming threads, sometimes too technical for me). Any chance a "sticky" could be done for Bokashi? Just a basic info guide?

Until then, how would you make a small batch of bokashi (the grainy looking mixture)? Only like a 5-10 gallon buckets worth. What do I do w/liquid em1 & litmus papers?

Good news? I'm trying to do it, to make my little bit of area a better place for the next person. Way cool! Thanks to everyone here, I've also got a nice looking compost pile going (all in less than a month)!

Burwash Weald, United Kingdom(Zone 9b)

Davis1676 - first, WELL DONE! and a full round of applause - you have done really well to get this far, and yes it is true the Bokashi threads do get long and complicated. What I can promise you is that as you get more confident, you will find they are a lot less complicated. Honestly, I'm fairly new to this, and I do find it is a simple, forgiving system.

1) KISS - you said it in your message - and with that in mind I would suggest that, for right now, you stick to the purchased bokashi bran, and don't try to make up your own. Instead, just relax a bit and get used to using it. Keep it simple. That way you can see how easy the whole system is before launching into the next stage. (don't worry about the EM1 you have purchased - it will keep for sometime).

2) Do draw off the liquid from the container - I store mine in a plastic litre bottle, keeping it in a cool, dark place (don't leave it in direct sun). This is where your litmus paper comes in - if you want to you can test it to see how acidic it is - ideally you would like something showing around 4. I find leaving it sit for a day or two brings it to that level (the white flakes on top seems to indicate when it is at the right acidity). Dilute the liquid in a watering can - I use about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons for a 2 gallon can. I am finding that this doesn't have to be an absolute measurement - plants are pretty tolerant - this can be used either as a root drench or as a foliar feed. During the growing season you can feed weekly - especially vegetables. Okay to spray on to vegetables, doesn't harm insects.

3) The smell of the bokashi container should be a bit vinegary - (it actually smells quite cow-y, but if you haven't been around a farm, you might not know what that smells like). I've not had one go off yet, so don't know what it smells like when it goes bad - but I suspect it is a very intense odour. As far as husband saying it stinks - it is all relative, he may be very sensitive to this kind of smell. One of the things that might help is to make sure that you have compacted the material in the bin - I use a gardening hand tool - one of those claw cultivators - and tamp all new material firmly, then add bokashi bran. This takes out air, and really keeps the smell down. When your bin is ready, try burying the first one in soil - I just dig a trench about 6" deep, spread the bokashi evenily along the trench, and cover over. No smell, earth loves it - as do worms.

Hope that helps, if you have any more questions, ask away - I'm sure we can figure it out between us. All the best, Laurie

Tucson, AZ

Yes, I agree, the threads quickly started going in many directions. This does tend to happen as people get comfortable with the technology and begin to experiment.

I was looking for a manual that was avaialable. I laid out all the details of making and using the bokashi.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Regarding using bokashi-juice in the garden:

Quoting:
ideally you would like something showing around 4. I find leaving it sit for a day or two brings it to that level (the white flakes on top seems to indicate when it is at the right acidity).

Laurie, you gave really good advice to davis. I have a few questions: I thought I read somewhere that one should use the drained-off bokashi-juice within 24 hours--or the microbes died (or something--I'm not really sure why.) I'd rather have the flexibility of storing the juice for a few days because sometimes it isn't convenient to fertilize immediately.
I also didn't know that a PH of around 4 was desirable before fertilizing with bokashi juice. I thought this was for when you were making augmented EM.
As you can tell, I am also a newbie but have learned a lot from reading your comments. Thank you!

mulege, Mexico

Hi - Here are my Keep It Simple, Sweetheart suggestions:

Remeber you can go to the www.emamerica.com website and read both basic and advanced articles. It took awhile for me to keep things straight so let yourself go over stuff several times if you have to.

Here's the BASICS: EM is the brown liquid in a bottle. When mixed with molasses and water it becomes AEM (activated em) which you can mix with water the same as the basic EM. By activating it, you are extending it and geting a lot more for your money.

Bokashi is made by adding EM, molasses and water to a "base" to get dry stuff to sprinkle on garbage to pickle it. The same results can be achieved by spraying the garbage with an EM solution.

You might think of EM as being like yeast it gets a chemical process going and can be used in a lot of different ways.

One thing to remember is that it works anaerobically (not sure that's spelled right) - without air. The more air gets to it, the more likely it is to rot, rather than frement, at least in my experience. I make bokashi with sawdust. I mix it in a heavy trash bag in a garbage pail. This allows me to remove most of the air by pressing it down and twisting the top of the bag. Nothing high tech, any smells are sealed in by the bag and the cover of the garbage can. To me, it has a kind of sourdough odor when I open it.

Hope this helps you to with the basics. There are so many uses for EM and so many products being developed that iti's easy to get confused. It begins to sound like snake oil.

You can read over some of the many uses for EM on the website and try a few of them out. If you start to feel overwhelmed just do the bokashi for awhile.

My trees have responded so quickly to the bokashi that I was an instant convert.

katiebear





Burwash Weald, United Kingdom(Zone 9b)

Capecod - I'm going by the info that I have gleaned on the other threads and have tried and found sucessful - I'm fairly certain that someone pointed out that the juice lasts about a fortnight, depending on the temps/conditions - mine stays with a very stable light vinegar smell and continues to make the white flakes with a very steady 3 to 4 litmus - so I am assuming that it is still the same juice - I've never held it longer than that because we get through quite a bit. The results have been noticeable - so I think it is working.

Disputanta, VA(Zone 7a)

Laurie, I'll be following your advice for now, keep using the b mix. I'll test the liquid & spray on some plants this weekend.
Katie bear I'm definitely a cost efficient person (some say cheap, whatever) & I love the way you're mixing your bokashi? up. I didn't know sawdust would be an option. Doesn't have to be bran? Pros & cons? I hate the ambivilent wording used with this method.
emeric, you must have some sort of cheat sheet, that can be posted. It's when I start reading everything from everyone that I get confused. When i feel more comfortable, I'd want more input. I understand there'd be a conflict with you, but others are selling this or promoting this method. Is there an "uber" who would have to post a sticky?

mulege, Mexico

Most anything is an option (I learned after several readings and searchings). I think Eric said that some have made it with sand.

My somewhat-educated guess is that bran addds more nutrients. However, I can't get it here and sawdust works fine.

As I understand, the main thing is to have as many EM's spread around as possible so they can multiply and ferment. Eric has said that he just uses spray now, doesn't bother to make up bokashi.

katiebear

mulege, Mexico

P.S. I recommend making bokashi because it's a fairly easy way to get started with EM. If it does develop a nasty odor, bury it in your compost pile. Or dig a few holes in the garden and bury it,

When your first batch is done you will be so happy. Like baking a cake or making bread and you'll know you did well.

You don't have to spread it out to dry as long as you keep as much air as possible out of the bag and keep the bag top twisted tight between uses. As my bag empties, I also put a weight (like a brick) on top of it to discourage it from opening.

katiebear

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Quoting:
I'm fairly certain that someone pointed out that the juice lasts about a fortnight, depending on the temps/conditions - mine stays with a very stable light vinegar smell and continues to make the white flakes with a very steady 3 to 4 litmus - so I am assuming that it is still the same juice


Laurie, this must be correct because come to think of it, sometimes I don't drain the juice out of my bokashi buckets every day either--sometimes it goes for 4-5 days--and when I finally do, it still smells vinegary and looks "right."

I'm glad to know this now. Thanks for taking the time to answer.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

You can also use the spent coffee grounds from Starbucks/local coffee house to make the Bokashi bran. This works well too. The key is to keep the air out while everything is fermenting.
I've had occaisional batches of kitchen scraps go "bad", but only when I've been lazy and didn't keep things air tight. If a batch does go really stinky on me, I spray it well with the EM or AEM, seal it up well for two weeks, and then bury it in the ground or compost heap. The local earthworms still seem to love it, and the plants haven't complained yet.

Disputanta, VA(Zone 7a)

I got some liquid from the B bucket & OMG does it smell like poop. UGH! I tested it and it was close to the 5 on the litmus paper test. I find it hard to believe you can clean your house with this stuff. I'm guessing it doesn't smell right & I've done something not quite right. Or is this the smell & I learn to be ok with it? Pls someone answer quick.

My dog is running around whining now...& I had to put the liquid outside.

This message was edited Aug 18, 2008 9:45 AM

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Davis, I don't think it is supposed to smell THAT bad. Mildly or even strongly vinegary is OK. The sense of smell varies among people, however; I think that my drained-off juice just smells pleasantly vinegary, while DH makes rude gagging noises when I decant it in his presence.
I suspect the scraps and bokashi weren't kept anerobic enough in the bucket.
I will be interested in whether the experts on this thread counsel you just to discard the "bad juice," or whether you can still use it.

Disputanta, VA(Zone 7a)

thanks for the reassurance CCG. I hope it's not suppose to smell this funky. When you say not kept aneorobic enough, could that mean we opened the bucket too many times while waiting to fill it up? It didn't smell this bad when I sat it in the garage to ferment for the 2 weeks.

mulege, Mexico

I use the straight EM or extended EM for cleaning. I only use the bokashi and its juice in the garden.

I use just a few drops of the EM on my ceramic top stove and it works well to clean up the gunk that is very resistant to soap.

If it gets too much air (i.e., is not anerobic) it might not ferment properly and that may be the cause of the bad smell. If it smells awful, bury it. Again: IF IT SMELLS AWFUL, BURY IT!!! If you have animals that dig, put something heavy over the spot.

As GM suggested, you can spray awful smell you can spary it will EM and seal the bucket and leave it for a couple of weeks.

katiebear

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

davis, it sounds as though you might have Bokashi juice confused with the EM mother culture or extended EM (AEM).

The liquid that you drain off the Bokashi bucket goes on the plants and in the soil only. The original mother culture (or straight EM, as in, the liquid you purchased from the supplier) and it's extended version is the only thing I would use for cleaning or in the drains. It smells like molasses and vineagar. Sometime the contents of my Bokashi bucket smells more like strong cheese than vinaegar. If that happens, just bury it. The ground will still be enriched and the earth worms will still turn it into good soil.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Davis, regarding "stinky" bokashi juice and its uses, after reading the above posts here is my take on it:
1) Noxious-smelling bokashi JUICE means that the beneficial microbes have died, and the juice isn't "alive" anymore and won't have its properties as a soil-improver. It won't help your compost heap, or soil, but won't necessarily hurt it either. Noxious-smelling bokashi SCRAPS in your bucket also means that the microbes have died--too much air present during the fermenting process. But you can always bury the contents of your bucket of bokashi and kitchen scraps in your garden/compost heap, even if they smell terrible. The worms seem to love coming to the cafeteria and working their magic no matter how much they smell like "bad cheese" (good descriptor, garden_mermaid).
2) The best way to keep the process of fermentation going well is to be sure that the lid of the bucket is on very tightly and that you have added a GOOD HANDFUL of bokashi (or a healthy spray of EM) for every 2-3 inches of scraps and mixed it in. This seems to ensure good (e.g., non-stinky) fermentation of scraps and juice. I also press the scraps and bokashi down tightly and cover with a layer of plastic wrap each time.
3) As katiebear and g_m note just above, the drained-off bokashi juice is only meant to be a soil-improver and method of fertilizing your plants. This juice must be diluted with water before being added as a soil drench--Laurie uses a ratio of around 2-3 teaspoons per gallon. Some people use it as a foliar-feed spray but I do not because I have found that it can burn some tender plants' leaves.

Who would have thought that I would find all this so fascinating, before I entered the wonderful world of bokashi six months ago?? LOL

I'm happy to stand corrected in any of these conclusions by the real experts on this thread.

Disputanta, VA(Zone 7a)

hmm...dead microbes, not what I wanted to hear. Thanks for all the responses guys. I believe I probably need to add more dry bokashi or spray with the liquid em. Full strength? I need to limit opening my active bokashi bucket to once a day, maybe toss everything in at night. B liquid is used to fertilize.
Is it too late to try & save the completed B bucket (the one finishing fermenting)? Can't spray EM to bring it back to life? Ok.
I feel like I've crossed another hurdle & it's all good. I learn. Hopefully I can get things working right now. Definitely appreciate all your help.

Burwash Weald, United Kingdom(Zone 9b)

If the first one is finished, just bury it and refill. No need to bring it back to life (if it is dead).

Capecod - I wonder if a good way of telling if the liquid is finished is when it stops creating gas - mine keep needing to be burped.

Disputanta, VA(Zone 7a)

Hey Laurie, I'm not sure it's dead. One site I checked out (I probably read it wrong but..) said if you don't take the liquid out as you go along, it will get into the rest of the bucket & it'll start to stink, signaling a problem, so you knew to remove the liquid. I'm sure it didn't mean weeks later, but here I am. Is there a way to test, to see if it's still alive? If not, I'm still burying it, still real deep & w/cinderblocks on top.
One gal saved scraps in fridge for a while then added to the bucket, every few days. Heck, I was opening it just to put potato chip crumbs in. I've got gnatt butts flying around everywhere, DH thinks they've made their home in the kitchen sink drain. Anyway, I need to address that problem (potted plants are a factor too) next.
I'm not giving up on this. thanks again guys.

Burwash Weald, United Kingdom(Zone 9b)

I think that is incredibly dilligent putting potato crisp crumbs in! Good going! I don't think opening it often is a problem as long as you tamp down the material when you add (that takes the air out in the actual material), and then when you put the lid back on, burp it like tupperware. I open mine most kitchen use times - there's always a banana peel or the salad trimmings to go in - so I don't think you have to worry about it.

Davis, how long has the bin been going? When did you start it?

East Peoria, IL(Zone 5a)

I'm with Davis. I've read the three threads, I have my EM1 and PH paper. I've "extended" the em and it is ready to go.

Now, I am ready to start composting kitchen scraps and weeds. I have lots and lots of weeds that I want to get rid of without the risk of the seeds going into my compost pile. I don't have the dry bokasha. I am going to try the liquid (KimChee) method. I've got a 5 gallon pail of weeds and am working on another. But, I don't have lids. So, I am looking for a suitable (cheap) container. Then I'm not sure how much activated EM1 to put in with the weeds. Any suggestions?

For making my activated EM1, I used a igloo style cooler (It's summer sale season here in the Midwest.) It worked very well. To test the PH of the EM, I didn't have to open the lid. Just pour a little from the spout.

Disputanta, VA(Zone 7a)

welcome lulabelle! Glad to see you rocking & rolling with your EM1 already, so you did an activated liquid to begin with, huh? Good deal, lots of folks here to help you out who know things so pls keep posting.

Laurie, it took me a good 2 weeks to fill up the first bucket. It's been outside for a bit over a week, it was suppose to be ready on Sat. I'll probably still wait till Sat to bury it. Hope you're right & the worms will like anyway.

East Peoria, IL(Zone 5a)

Hi Davis,
Yes, I made the activated liquid. Put it in a week ago and it showed 3.5 ph yesterday. I'll let it rest a bit and then try adding some to a bucket or two of weeds. I have enough weeds to fill a 50 gallon drum.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

davis, you may want to get one of those smaller, decorative, counter top kitchen compost containers to put the scraps in during the day, and then empty that container into the Bokashi bucket in the evening.

That's what we do. The tea leaves, coffee grounds, fruit peelings, bread crumbs etc go into the counter top container. I empty that into the 5 gallon bucket when I put in the peelings and trimming from dinner. So we only open the fermentation bucket once per day or less.

Palatka, FL(Zone 9a)

Question

Would it be a good idea to use my pickling jar to make the activated EM? It is a gallon size glass jar with a spigot at the bottom. The plastic lid screws on tight and has a thing poking out the top (originally intended for wine making) that lets the gas out but does not let anything in. I've never used the jar. By the time I collected all the componets my garden had rotted from the 3 months of daily rains. Would it work alright to use it for activating the EM or even for making smaller batches of kitchen scrap bokahsi? Also, when making the kitchen scrap bokashi, can I use a spraying of Activated EM with each addition rather than the granular bokashi?

Thanks in advance,
doegirl

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Quoting:
davis, you may want to get one of those smaller, decorative, counter top kitchen compost containers to put the scraps in during the day, and then empty that container into the Bokashi bucket in the evening.


This is what I have, davis. I have used the square plastic compost pail (see link below) from Gardeners Supply for two years. I just set it underneath my sink, but it can also be mounted on a cabinet door if you wish. I add everything: vegetative scraps, meat, fish, and dairy left-overs. Because I empty my compost pail (and rinse it out) into my 5-gallon Bokashi bucket every 1-2 days, I haven't had any bad smell, and haven't needed to use the odor-reducing replacement charcoal pads that you can purchase.

http://www.gardeners.com/Odor-Free%20Compost%20Pail/20707,30-708,default,cp.html

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Hi--I feel like "Bokashi-Juice Girl," because I keep having lots of questions about it. . .probably because I always seem to have so much "juice" from my two working buckets, that I then use up as a soil-drench fertilizer! My latest question is regarding the composition of the juice. Does anyone have any idea of what the proportions might be in terms of N-P-K? Or does this vary widely depending on the composition of the fermented scraps? I ask because I am wondering whether I should be relying on my Bokshi juice as a complete fertilizer, or just as a small part of an organic fertilizing routine?
Thanks in advance,
BJG, aka CapeCodGardener

Burwash Weald, United Kingdom(Zone 9b)

BJG - you raise some really intersting questions - so please keep posting them. I'm very interested in the answer to this one.

Disputanta, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks for the link BJG, I'll look into getting one. I agree with Laurie, great question. I'd still love to know if there's any way to test if your bokashi is still alive or beneficial? I won't waste my time/effort to put the liquid on my plants, if not.

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

It's my understand that the Bokashi is not the fertilizer. The microbes in the "juice" help unlock the plant's ability to utilize the nutrients that already in the soil. So doing a soil test periodically is a good idea. I'm going to be interested to see what happens with mine. I had one done last year and want to do one again this fall using soil mainly from the areas I've added the bokashi or AEM1.
I am very excited and flattered to have been asked to teach a 3 hour class on Organic Gardening to the latest group of Master Gardeners. I've already introduced 2 of the horticulturalists to the EM1 websites and explained the Bokashi concept. There's enough scientific testing data there to drown ya..LOL

It's going to be so cool! I plan to use the Bokashi method with regard to both composting and soil maintenance. Still totally amazed at the results from using the Bokashi. And I got the pictures to back it up.....LOL

Burwash Weald, United Kingdom(Zone 9b)

Doc, congratulations - that wonderful!!

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Quoting:
the Bokashi is not the fertilizer. The microbes in the "juice" help unlock the plant's ability to utilize the nutrients that already in the soil.

Doccat, that sounds right. So it would seem that one could also add regular applications of organic fertilizer in addition to the weekly soil-drench with diluted Bokashi-juice, without risking over-fertilizing/burning the plants--is that correct?
Wish I could come to your classes with the Master Gardeners!

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

It seems to me that the Bokashi juice would contain some nutrients as well, just as cold compost would. The heat of the hot composting method burns off a lot of nutrients into the air. Cold composting retains more. Bokashi seems like a way to have the best of both worlds - cold composting for nutrients plus the deactivation of weed seeds or potential pathogens like hot composting (via EM fermentation ).

The APNAN manual indicated that farmers were able to greatly reduce, and in some cases eliminate, their use of fertilizer using the Bokashi method. I'm assuming that some type of green manure/cover crop is used for the nitrogen fertilzer.

My plants repond to Bokashi juice as though I've fed them well.

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Same here, it acts like my regular compost.... so CapeCodGardner, I think less is better in this case. Let the Bokashi do the work.....:)

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Quoting:
Let the Bokashi do the work...:)

This sounds good to me! I guess I just wanted some sort of quantification of nutrients (I get all uptight about those numbers on the front of the package) but heck, I'll just relax. That's what bokashi composting is supposed to be about, right? Letting those little microbial critters do their work.

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

HI...Newbi here...

I made my innoculant with peatmoss and had a devil of a time because it soaks up so much moisture...so I had to re-innoculate it 3 times!!!! Finally I have it going.

Big question: To process the weeds that you are talking about????? Is the 'Bokashi Juice' sprayed on them in layers or as a bunch...or is it the EM1? What is the process?

That EMAmerica site could stand some better 'most often asked questions'... I DO find them helpful on the phone and GM has been very dear to answer some of mine, too.

Carol

mulege, Mexico

Hi Carol,

Welcome to the world of EM.

As I understand it, you can either bokashi the weeds the same as you do kitchen waste or you can soak them in water with EM and molasses added. I've done both, both work. This is a very forgiving activator.

One important thing is to keep as much air as possible out and keep the containter on tight to keep air out. I make my bokashi inside trash bags in a garbage pail so I can tighten the bag top to keep air out as I use it up.

The worst that can happen - as far as I know - is you get a stinky, slimey goop that you bury in a far corner of the yard. It will still improve the soil and help your plants grow (ask me how I know this).

katiebear

Burwash Weald, United Kingdom(Zone 9b)

ahhh, katiebear, I love knowledge through direct experience - sometimes. Well, most of the time. Less when it stinks. But it can be a great memory aid!

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

OK Katie...'How do you know it works'.... :>)

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