Sustainable Gardening: How To Use Bokashi Composting

Sustainable Gardening: How To Use Bokashi Composting

The Bokashi composting method is a Japanese composting method developed by Professor Dr. Teuro Higa at the University of Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan way back in the early 1980s.

Unlike traditional composting, the Bokashi composting method is an anaerobic way of producing compost. This involves eliminating oxygen from the compost and using a fermenting process instead. 

It’s necessary to add a component known as Bokashi bran to aid in the fermenting process. This special additive is a bran-type product that has been inoculated with beneficial bacteria or microbes. These help to break down the composting material. 

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What Are The Benefits Of Using The Bokashi Composting Method?

There are many benefits to using this composting method over making compost the traditional way. Here are just a few:

  • It’s inexpensive because you just need a Bokashi bucket and the Bokashi bran
  • This method is ideal for gardeners with small spaces and is also perfect for apartment dwellers.
  • You can compost most kitchen waste including meat and dairy products which should normally not be added to traditional compost.
  • The tightly-sealed bucket and Bokashi bran produce very little odor.
  • This composting method not only produces compost for the garden or use in potting mix but also produces a nutrient-rich liquid that can be used on houseplants.
  • It’s a very easy way to compost kitchen waste and can be done by anyone.
  • This method is also faster than composting in the traditional way.

What You’ll Need To Get Started With Bokashi Composting

bran

To get started with Bokashi composting, there are only two things that you need. The first is a Bokashi bucket. This is usually a 5-pound plastic bucket that has a tight-fitting lid and a spout or tap near the bottom.

This spout is essential as it lets you drain off the excess liquid on a regular basis. This nutrient-rich Bokashi tea is ideal for use as a liquid feed for your houseplants or even for the vegetables and herbs you have growing in your garden.

The only other thing you’ll need is a bag of the Bokashi bran or compost activator. You can easily purchase a Bokashi starter kit that will include the bucket and a bag of the Bokashi bran.

After using up your first bag of the compost activator, you can easily purchase additional bags of the Bokashi bran when you need it. This is generally available in either 2-pound or 5-pound bags.

How To Use The Bokashi Composting Method Step-by-Step

The Bokashi composting method is fairly easy to use and can be done by everyone. Here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do.

Step 1 – Gather Your Materials

You can either purchase a complete Bokashi starter kit or just buy a Bokashi bucket and some Bokashi bran to get started. Find a spot in your kitchen or storeroom where you can store the bucket and easily add scraps to it.

Adding kitchen scraps to a compost bucket

Step 2 – Add Your Kitchen Scraps To The Bucket

You can add a variety of different kitchen scraps to the bucket including fruit and vegetable scraps, leftovers, meat, fish, dairy products, egg shells, bread and coffee grounds.

Step 3 – Add Some Bokashi Bran

Every time that you add some food scraps to your bucket, you want to cover this with a layer of the Bokashi bran and then press this down firmly. The pressure will release any oxygen from the waste to aid in the composting process. About two tablespoons of the bran should be enough to cover the kitchen waste.

Place the tight-fitting lid back on the bucket to keep out air and keep the bucket in a dry spot out of direct sunlight.

Step 4 – Continue Adding Scraps And Bran Until The Bucket Is Full

Continue to add all of your food scraps on a daily basis. Remember to always cover these scraps with a layer of bran and press down firmly. 

Step 5 – Drain Off The Excess Liquid

watering houseplants with Bokashi tea

The fermenting process that will be happening inside the bucket will produce quite a bit of liquid. This needs to be drained off in order to assist in the proper composting of the waste. That’s why the Bokashi bucket has a spout.

Try to remember to drain off this liquid using the spout near the base every couple of days. But, don’t throw this out. Instead, you want to dilute it with water and feed it to your houseplants or other plants you have growing in your garden.

Dilute the Bokashi tea in a ratio of 1 tablespoon to half a gallon of water. However, if you want to use it as a spray or foliar fertiliser mix in a ratio of 1 teaspoon into one and a half gallons of water.

Step 6 – Let The Full Bucket Sit For Two Weeks

Once the bucket is completely full, let it sit for two weeks without opening the lid. Continue to drain off the excess liquid every second day.

Step 7 – Bury The Contents Of The Bucket In A Fallow Spot In The Garden

burying the fermented waste in the soil

Once the fermenting process is complete, the fermented waste needs to decompose further as it will still be highly acidic and won’t support plant growth. If you have an empty garden bed or another spot in your garden where nothing is growing, you can just bury the compost.

Alternatively, you can add the fermented waste to your regular compost bin, if you have one or even to your worm bin. While this might seem a little pointless, it actually isn’t.

This is because the fermentation process has helped to speed up the composting of the kitchen scraps that would otherwise take much longer to break down.

If you don’t have a spot in the garden or a regular compost bin, just fill a larger bucket or bin with potting mix and bury the fermented waste in this. Try to mix the fermented waste with the soil or potting mix and leave it for a couple of weeks before using it.

Or, you could just fill some large planter boxes or pots with some potting mix and add the fermented waste to this. Let these sit for at least a couple of weeks and then add some plants and watch them thrive.

If you’re growing a lot in pots or grow bags, this is a great way to have fantastically healthy and productive plants without the need for any additional fertilizer.

Important note: The kitchen waste will not break down during the fermenting process so when you open the bucket, you will still be able to identify the food scraps. The decomposition happens when this waste is buried in the ground or added to your compost bin. The fermentation process just helps to speed up the decomposition and removes most of the liquid in the waste.

Step 8 – Use The Compost On Your Plants

After another two to four weeks, the fermented compost should have decomposed enough so that you can now add it to your garden. Or, you can just place some plants in the spot where the fermented waste has been buried and they will thrive.

Expert Tips To Get The Most From Your Bokashi Composting

Here are some expert tips to get the most from your Bokashi composting.

  • Remember to press down the contents every time you add some more scraps and bran to eliminate any air. Some people use a flat plate for this and leave the plate in place before replacing the lid.
  • If you notice black or green mold, then the fermenting process is not operating as it should. Often, this can be remedied by adding more of the bran. White mold is fine and nothing to worry about.
  • Bokashi tea can be poured down your drain and even your toilet to control odors and prevent algal growth. 
  • Make sure to not add too much liquid into your bucket when adding waste. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main problem with Bokashi composting?

The main problem with this composting method is air. This can be a problem if the lid is fitted tightly every time the bucket is opened. Air can also cause a problem if the waste is not compressed after each addition to the bucket.

What happens if you leave Bokashi too long?

If it takes you longer than two weeks to fill your bucket, don’t worry. After the two-week period, the microbes in the bran will become dormant until the fermented waste is buried in the ground or in the soil.

What should you not put into your Bokashi bucket?

Avoid adding liquids such as milk, water or fruit juice. You should also not add paper or plastic wrap and meat bones should also be avoided.

Can you add too much Bokashi bran?

You cannot add too much of the Bokashi bran to the bucket. However, try to only add as much as necessary so that you don’t run out too quickly and have to purchase more. Too much bran in the bucket can also reduce the amount of Bokashi tea that you get.

Can you put moldy food into the Bokashi bucket?

A small amount of moldy food is fine but try not to add too much. This is because the blue, green or black mold can easily disrupt the fermenting process.

Can you bury the fermented waste in the same spot in your garden over and over again?

It’s perfectly fine to bury the fermented waste in the same spot in your garden as you’ll just be adding more and more nutrition to the soil. This is perfect for people in apartments who have rooftop gardens. Just fill a large box with soil and add the fermented waste to this. After a couple of weeks, you can swap the nutrient-enriched soil with other soil in your garden beds.

Final Thoughts

The Bokashi composting method is a great way to ferment your kitchen scraps quickly and allows you to make compost much faster than using the traditional method. 

It’s also perfect for gardeners who have limited space and want to make their own fertilzer to use in pots and grow bags. Plus, it’s the perfect way to make liquid feed for your houseplants.

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