I hate to waste food and kitchen scraps, but I have found that I am bad at traditional composting. Partly I think it is our dry hot summers that cause the compost pile to dry out, quickly cancelling out the composting processes. Thankfully, I discovered Bokashi composting which allows me to use our kitchen scraps and the food my kids don’t eat to better my yard.
I have read that Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning fermenting organic matter. Since I don’t know Japanese I can’t confirm that, but I do know that the waste scraps do ferment in the bokashi process. Bokashi isn’t true composting as the waste will look the same at the end of the process as when you used it in your kitchen. Bokashi is an anaerobic fermentation process that essentially creates worm food.
When doing bokashi, you will need a container for the scraps and some sort of bokashi bran. There are expensive bokashi buckets with spigots for sale, but I just use a plain 5 gallon bucket. The spigot buckets do allow for removing the excess liquid in the bucket. The liquid is good for plants and the process is supposed to work better without too much liquid. So far I haven’t seen any problems with using a plain bucket.
The bokashi bran is some sort of bran with special microbes in it. I buy my bran mix from Teraganix. I have also bought the microbial inoculant from Teraganix to make my own bran mix but haven’t used it yet since I bought 4 large bags of the premixed on sale.
To me, the best thing about bokashi is that I can use almost all of the kitchen scraps and waste. Meat, dairy, and citrus cannot be used in traditional composting. Meat and dairy fester and smell horrible when put into a compost pile, but in bokashi they ferment just like everything else. Most people say that too much citrus in a compost pile is bad for a variety of reasons such as changing the acidity of the compost pile or killing worms.
To start the bokashi composting bucket, I put in several crumpled sheets of newspaper to soak up moisture with about a quarter cup of bokashi bran. After that food scraps can be added as you get them. I add about an eighth of a cup of bokashi bran every inch or two of scraps. It is important to keep the scraps in the bucket well compacted, I typically use a plate to smush it down but will use some newspaper every so often. This allows the anaerobic process to work better, and of course allows more to be put in the bucket.
Once the bucket is full, the bokashi needs to sit for around two weeks. After the resting time, it should be a bucket of lovely fermented food scraps. It will smell fermented, so when you open up the bucket, do not be surprised if there is an odor. It shouldn’t smell rotten, I would say it smells somewhat yeasty. You will need to have a place in your yard to put the bokashi. It needs to be buried in the ground so worms and such can eat it and turn it into something good for your plants. If you bury it too shallow, animals may be attracted to it. I have had a raccoon get into my buried bokashi before.
Things you can put in the bokashi composting bucket other than the typical food:
- newspaper in moderation.
- napkins/paper towels if no chemicals are in them
- bones if they are small like some chicken bones
- citrus rinds
- egg shells
- I read dryer lint can go in there but I have found the lint in my yard later
There will be most likely be white mold on top of your bokashi after the two weeks, but that is ok. If you ever see green mold growing then that is bad. To fix that you need to dump a quarter cup of the bokashi bran onto the green mold. That should clear up the mold, but you may need to add more so keep an eye on it. Never put anything that has already started to mold into your bokashi bucket; the green mold isn’t good for the process.
Using bokashi for our kitchen scraps has greatly reduced the amount of food that we just throw away. Rather than going to a landfill where the food sits and is wasted, we are now using it to make our plants grow better. This is even better when the scraps we are recycling are vegetables from our yard. We are creating a sustainable garden that uses its own waste as fertilizer. Bokashi composting is also great for suburban yards because there is no smelly pile that will disturb the neighbors. No matter how small your yard or garden, bokashi might be a great way for you to reduce your waste and grow better plants.