Getting Started with Bokashi Composting

Great for small spaces, bokashi composting is simple, compact and effective.

Begun in ancient Korea, bokashi composting is a unique method of composting that utilizes fermentation, rather than decomposition, to produce a nutrient-rich compost in a fraction of the time of other methods. By combining an anaerobic environment with beneficial microorganisms, bokashi composting can produce a finished compost in as little as 6 weeks. Even better, because of the unique processes involved with bokashi composting, this method of composting allows you to compost food items, like meat, bones, and dairy, that cannot be composted with other methods.

Interested in getting started? Read on for an easy, step by step tutorial and start bokashi composting at home this season.

Why bokashi?

Bokashi composting has several major benefits that make it stand out from other composting methods, which include:

· Finished compost in as little as 6 weeks. While other composting methods, like cold composting, can take months or even years to create a finished product, compost produced by bokashi is ready to use in your garden in as little as 6 weeks.

· Bokashi can compost items other methods can’t handle. Certain types of kitchen waste, like cooking oil, meat, bones, and dairy, cannot be composted with other methods of composting. Bokashi, alone, is the recommended composting method for these types of organic waste.

· Garden pests hate bokashi compost! Compost heaps often attract garden pests, like rodents and racoons, that scavenge the decomposing organic matter and can be quite the nuisance. The high acidity level of bokashi makes it repulsive to garden pests and discourages unwanted garden visitors from paying a visit to your compost heap or garden.

· Bokashi is an all-season composting method. While outdoor composting methods, like hot and cold composting, slow or even fully stop during the cold winter months, bokashi can be done all year long, maximizing your compost production and ensuring no kitchen scraps go to waste.

· Great for indoors, bokashi is small-space friendly too! A properly managed bokashi system is tidy and odorless and can be contained in a small 5 gallon bucket or two. This means bokashi is the ideal composting method for small spaces, including apartments.

Get started with bokashi.

Before you begin composting with bokashi, you will need two important things: an anaerobic environment and inoculated bran. Bokashi composting systems can be ordered online, or you can make your own at home with a 5 gallon plastic bucket. To your bokashi system you will then want to add inoculated bran, which is generally made of wheat or rice bran that has been inoculated with effective microorganisms (EM) that consist of lactobacillus and other beneficial bacterial and yeasts. EM can be purchased online or created at home using a simple recipe.

Step 1: Fill your bokashi system with kitchen scraps.

First, lightly cover the bottom of your bokashi bucket with a layer of EM and then add 1–2” of food scraps, topping off the layer with another sprinkling of EM. As you accumulate kitchen scraps, continue layering your food waste with a sprinkling of EM until the bucket is full.

All kitchen scraps can be added to your bucket; however, it can be helpful to cut pieces of food into small 1” chunks prior to adding to help them breakdown faster. Avoid adding any moldy food items to your bucket as this can throw off the fermentation process.

Step 2: Seal the bucket and wait.

As an anaerobic process, it is essential to reduce the amount of air your bokashi system is exposed to during the fermentation process. Be sure to tightly seal the lid on your bokashi system and then allow it to sit undisturbed for two weeks.

Step 3: Handling your precompost.

After two weeks, the contents of your bokashi system will look approximately the same; however, they have been changed. At this point in the process, thanks to the work of the EM, your kitchen scraps have been predigested, pickled, and fermented but there’s still work to do: your precompost is still far too acidic to use on your plants.

You have several options on how to proceed with your precompost next.

· You can add it to a dedicated bokashi compost pile and allow it to ferment for another two weeks. After two additional weeks, the fermentation process will finish, the pH will stabilize and you’ll have a finished compost that can be added directly to your garden.

· If you have a worm bin, your precompost can be directly added to it.

· Or you can trench compost with your bokashi, by digging your precompost into your garden beds at a depth of 10 to 12”. If you choose this option, you will still want to wait two weeks after burying your compost before you plant any plants to allow the fermentation process to finish.

Step 4: Applying your finished bokashi compost.

If you opted to allow your precompost to ferment for an additional two weeks, you are now ready to rumble. After a total of four weeks of fermentation, your bokashi compost should be finished, have a stable pH and be packed full of nutrients that are easily accessible for plant absorption.

Your finished compost can be scattered about your garden, added to houseplant pots and more. Soon you’ll see the rapid benefits of bokashi as your plants grow lush and healthy and produce an abundant harvest that will have even your neighbors saying, “Wow.”

Bokashi tips.

While bokashi is a pretty simple and straightforward method of composting, there are few tips to optimize your system.

· Bokashi functions best when as little air as possible is permitted into the system. For this reason, it can be helpful to limit the number of times you open your bokashi bucket. Try adding a countertop compost bin to your setup and gather your kitchen scraps there. Once a day (or less), add your accumulated scraps to your bokashi bucket before firmly resecuring the lid. The fewer times you open your bokashi bucket, the better.

· If you see white mold in your bokashi bucket, no worries. This is a totally normal part of the bokashi process. A properly managed bokashi bucket should produce no odors when closed and smell slightly of pickles when open.

· Draw off “bokashi tea” from time to time. During the fermentation process, your bokashi system will produce liquid, or “bokashi tea,” which should be drawn off to keep your bucket happy and healthy. If you purchased a premade bokashi system, your system likely came with a spigot which allows for easy removal of your “bokashi tea.”

· Put your “bokashi tea” to good use. “Bokashi tea” is full of nutrients that plants love and can also assist with natural pest control. However, it is highly concentrated and acidic and can burn your plants if applied directly to them. Dilute your tea with water at a rate of 1:100 before applying to your houseplants or garden. Your bokashi tea can also be poured directly into your outdoor compost pile as an accelerator.

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Lauren Landers

An eco-friendly blog focused on organic gardening, homesteading and sustainability! See more at zerowastehomestead.com.