Bokashi Composting 101: How to Ferment Your Waste into Natural Fertilizer

The topic of bokashi composting has seen quite traction among environmentally conscious people. But what is it exactly and how is it better than any other kind of composting, such as worm composting? Bokashi is an interesting waste management method that attracted the attention of few people at first, but more and more want to know what the fuss is all about.

What Is Bokashi Composting?

There are many things we borrow from our distant Asian neighbors and bokashi is just one of them. Bokashi is a Japanese term which can be roughly translated as “fermented organic matter.” Even though many refer to it as a type of composting, bokashi is actually an anaerobic fermentation process. The end product is a lot different than the one produced via traditional composting.

A lot of people are quite happy with bokashi because it is very easy, and also free of any bad odors that can accompany other types of composting. All that you need to get started is a bucket (with a tight lid), some special bran mix, and – of course – some kitchen or organic waste.

That’s the best thing about Bokashi composting; it allows you to compost plenty of kitchen scraps, including meat and dairy products. You mix them with inoculated bran, press them into the Bokashi bucket, and cover them with another handful of bran and a tight lid.

Why Bokashi Composting?

There are several good reasons to get rid of the habit of tossing your organic waste into the trash. If we’re being honest, most of us don’t think much of the fate of the waste that exits our household. In fact, organic waste accounts for a considerable proportion of the total waste that lays in landfills – between 20-40 percent! Not only are kitchen scraps taking up unnecessary space, but they are also very easily diverted if you turn them into a rich organic fertilizer.

bokashi composting bin

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Getting Started

If you want to start using bokashi for composting, you needn’t worry about money. It’s among the least expensive composting systems around and it requires just a few tools. A commercial bokashi bucket includes a five-pound plastic bin, a tight-fitting lid and a spigot at the bottom.

You could create your own bokashi bucket if the 60 dollars surpass your budget, but keep in mind that the spigot is critical. It’s the one factor that makes the difference between a composting process that’s easy and one that’s simply unmanageable. You don’t want to be lifting a five-pound bucket full of soggy kitchen waste to let the leachate run off. Using a kitchen baster might make this otherwise messy process more manageable.

What else do you need? Just inoculated bokashi bran (a bag usually includes the initial purchase and 2 pound replacements of $15 each).

Composting with Bokashi

The process itself is nothing if not simple. If you follow these steps, the chances you will encounter any problems will drop drastically.

  1. Once a day, mix your kitchen waste with a handful of bokashi (use enough to coat the scraps lightly).
  2. Press them it into the bin, add another handful of bran to cover them, and close the lid. Make sure the lid is tight so no air can penetrate the bucket.
  3. According to the directions, you can accelerate the composting process by cutting up small pieces of the food items and achieve maximum efficiency. Otherwise, the scraps will not turn into fertilizer on the course of just 10 days.
  4. If you skip the chopping step, the larger pieces of scrap will need a few extra days’ fermentation time before they become useable mush.
  5. When the bin is full with layers of kitchen scraps and bokashi bran, cover it tightly and set it aside (out of direct sunlight) for about ten days.
  6. Draw off the liquid every other day; you can use it as fertilizing tea (in a very diluted form).
  7. After 10-14 days, it’s time to thoroughly pickle the waste in the bin. Then, you can dig it into a fallow patch of the garden.

Maintenance

As we said before, bokashi is an anaerobic process. In other words, for it to work, you must keep the bin as free from oxygen as possible. For that to work perfectly, you should make a habit of compressing each day’s waste flat into the container. That way, any air pockets will be eliminated. At the same time, drawing off liquid regularly will maintain the proper environment for the bacteria to break down the organic materials.

Useful Tip: The Bokashi mixture is not quite ready to be dug into the garden after fermenting for 10 days. The product resulted after the first two weeks is referred to as “pre-compost” and experts warn that plant roots do not thrive on it. Only after a month should you begin fully incorporating the mixture into the soil. When it first emerges from its bin, bokashi pre-compost can be quite acidic.

Benefits of Bokashi Composting

Any form of composting is better than simply throwing away your kitchen scraps, but here are a few reasons why you should go with bokashi composting:

  • It allows you to compost even dairy products and meat without the problem of strong odors.
  • No nutrients are lost in the process; it all ends up in the soil.
  • It does not attract insects or rodents during the fermentation process.
  • You don’t have to turn the compost.
  • Greens and browns are no longer a concern.
  • One of the byproducts is a nutrient rich tea for plants.
  • The process occurs even in smaller bins, which is perfect for apartments.

Dos and Don’ts for Bokashi Composting

Use enough bokashi bran. Do not worry about using too much bran in your system; the main worry is using too little. You will know the difference by the odor it gives off. Healthy bokashi smells like sour sauerkraut; too little bran makes your bucket stink.

Don’t mix in deep fryer fat. It’s true that bokashi composting can handle certain amounts of fats (cheese, fried food, and leftover salad dressing), but you must find a different home for your deep fryer fat.

Avoid food that has green or black mold. These types of molds could prove too much for the good microbes in bokashi. You can add food with white mold, however.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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