Composting is a familiar term to gardeners and eco-conscious individuals alike, often conjuring images of piled leaves and kitchen scraps breaking down over time in a backyard bin. However, a less common but equally effective method of composting is making a significant contribution to sustainable living. This method is known as bokashi composting.
Brief Overview of Bokashi Composting
Bokashi composting, or simply “bokashi,” offers a unique and efficient way to manage food waste. It differs significantly from traditional composting methods, offering benefits that include the ability to process a wider range of kitchen waste, including items typically discouraged in a regular compost pile like meat, dairy products, and cooked foods.
This composting method leverages the power of effective microorganisms, which are typically mixed into a substrate like wheat bran, creating what we call “bokashi bran.” This bran is then used to ferment food waste in a sealed bin—an anaerobic process that results in nutrient-rich compost. This fermented organic matter can be directly incorporated into garden soil or compost piles to improve soil health and plant vitality.
Origin of the Term “Bokashi”
The word “bokashi” is derived from the Japanese language, reflecting the method’s roots in Eastern farming practices. In English, it roughly translates to “fermented organic matter,” encapsulating the very essence of the process. This fermentation process is the key distinguishing feature of bokashi composting, setting it apart from other composting techniques.
The Bokashi Composting Method
Explanation of Bokashi Composting
Bokashi composting is a two-stage process that quickly and efficiently converts your kitchen waste into a rich soil conditioner. The first stage involves the anaerobic fermentation of the waste in a sealed bokashi bin, followed by a second stage where the fermented material is combined with garden soil or a traditional compost heap.
In the bokashi composting process, food scraps, including meat, dairy products, and cooked food waste, is layered with a special type of bran infused with beneficial microbes in a bokashi bin. Unlike traditional composting methods, the bokashi process is incredibly forgiving when it comes to what can be composted. Everything from onion peels to coffee grounds and even small bones can be added to a bokashi bin, making it an ideal choice for households looking to reduce their waste footprint.
Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Process
Bokashi composting is an anaerobic process, which means it occurs in the absence of oxygen. This distinguishes it from traditional composting, an aerobic process that requires oxygen for decomposition to occur. While aerobic composting involves microorganisms breaking down organic materials with the aid of oxygen, bokashi composting works by fermenting the waste in a sealed, air-tight environment, preserving the nutrients and reducing the risk of foul odour.
The materials required for bokashi composting are relatively simple and include a bokashi bin, bokashi bran, and kitchen waste.
- Bokashi Bin: This is a special type of bin with an airtight lid and a tap at the bottom for draining off the bokashi tea. Two bins are often used in rotation so that when one is full, it can be set aside to ferment while you start filling the second bin.
- Bokashi Bran: Bokashi bran is the inoculant used to kickstart the fermentation process. It consists of a carrier, usually wheat bran, inoculated with a mixture of effective microorganisms.
- Kitchen Waste: Any organic kitchen waste can be used in the bokashi process, including fruit and vegetable scraps, grains, dairy, meat, and even small bones.
The Role of Effective Microorganisms
Effective microorganisms play a crucial role in bokashi composting. These are a group of beneficial microbes, usually a mix of yeast, lactic acid bacteria, and phototrophic bacteria, that work together to accelerate the fermentation of organic material.
When added to kitchen waste in a bokashi bin, these microorganisms rapidly break down the waste, reducing its volume, eliminating pathogens and pests, and producing a rich compost that is packed full of nutrients. This fermented organic matter, or pre-compost, is then ready to be incorporated into your garden soil or compost pile, providing a powerful and sustainable nutrient boost for your plants.
Your electricity, gas, landline, broadband, mobile and home insurance on one monthly bill
You can earn up to 10% of what you spend in shops or online as cashback, which will be deducted from your monthly utility bill.
Arrange a call with me, Jon, and we can see exactly how much money you could save
No contact details are required to get a quote
Find out exactly how much you could save by running through a no-obligation quote.
No hard sell. No follow-up calls. Just the savings.
The Bokashi Process Step by Step
Understanding the bokashi process is fundamental for those considering this composting method. The process is straightforward and can easily be implemented in homes with just a few simple steps.
Adding Kitchen Waste to the Bokashi Bin
The process begins with the collection of kitchen waste. This waste can include everything from vegetable peels to leftovers, including items like dairy products, meat, and bones that are typically difficult to compost. When you have a sufficient amount of waste, add it to your bokashi bin. It’s important to cut larger pieces into smaller sizes to speed up the composting process. When adding to the bokashi bin, ensure that everything is pressed down to eliminate any air pockets. Do not mix the new with the old; just spread it out and press down.
Applying Bokashi Bran
After adding the kitchen waste, sprinkle a handful of bokashi bran over it. The bran contains the effective microorganisms that are the workhorses of the bokashi process. They will ferment the waste, breaking it down into nutrient-rich compost. There’s no exact measurement for how much bran to use; a general guideline is to ensure the layer of waste is lightly covered.
Draining Bokashi Tea
One unique aspect of bokashi composting is the production of bokashi tea, a nutrient-rich liquid that drains from the waste during the fermenting process. Bokashi bins are typically equipped with a spigot to allow for regular draining of this tea, which should be done every few days. This bokashi tea can be used as a liquid fertilizer for plants, diluted at a ratio of about 1 part tea to 100 parts water.
Once you’ve added the waste and bran and drained off any liquid, seal the bin with an airtight lid. This begins the fermentation process, which generally takes two weeks. During this time, the effective microorganisms in the bran work to ferment the waste, resulting in a reduced volume of fermented material and the production of bokashi tea. It’s important to keep the bin sealed during this period to maintain the anaerobic environment necessary for fermentation.
What to Do When the Bokashi Bin is Full
When the bokashi bin is full, it should be sealed and set aside for two weeks to allow the fermentation process to complete. It’s recommended to have two bins, so while one bin is fermenting, you can start the process again with the second bin. After the two weeks, the contents of the bin can be added directly to your garden soil or compost heap.
The fermented bokashi waste will appear pickled and retain much of its original form but will break down rapidly once introduced to the soil or a traditional compost pile. After another couple of weeks in the soil, it will have completely decomposed, enriching the soil with a wealth of nutrients.
Remember, bokashi composting is not a standalone method but works best when combined with traditional composting or direct soil incorporation, offering an efficient and eco-friendly solution to managing kitchen waste.
Bokashi Living: Incorporating Bokashi into Everyday Life
Incorporating bokashi into your everyday life not only contributes to waste reduction but also enhances the health and vitality of your garden, whether it’s a small urban space or a sprawling outdoor plot. Here, we’ll explore ways to utilize bokashi compost and tea in your garden and daily routine.
Using Bokashi Compost in Garden Soil
Bokashi compost, also referred to as pre-compost, is a rich source of nutrients for your garden soil. When your bokashi bin has completed its fermentation process, you have fermented organic matter that is teeming with beneficial microbes. This material can be added directly to your garden soil.
To use the bokashi compost, simply dig compost trenches in your garden, add the compost, and cover it with soil. In just a few weeks, you will find that the fermented material has broken down further into the soil, enriching it with essential nutrients. The bokashi compost will help improve the soil structure, enhance its water-holding capacity, and provide a nutrient boost to plants.
Feeding Plants with Bokashi Tea
Bokashi tea, the liquid drained from your bokashi bin, is another valuable resource for your garden. This liquid is rich in nutrients and beneficial bacteria, which are excellent for plant roots.
To use bokashi tea, dilute it with water in a 1:100 ratio (one part bokashi tea to one hundred parts water). It’s essential to use it quickly as it loses its efficacy over time. You can use this diluted solution to water your plants, giving them a nutritious boost. Regularly feeding your plants with bokashi tea can result in more robust and healthy growth.
Making Use of the Compost in Small Gardens or Larger Outdoor Spaces
Whether you have a small garden or a larger outdoor space, you can make use of bokashi compost and tea effectively. In small spaces like balconies or patio gardens, you can add resulting mixture to pots and containers. In larger gardens, you can distribute it in your compost pile or directly into the garden beds.
For those with no garden, bokashi compost can be shared with friends or community gardens. You could also consider creating a compost trench, or even a compost heap, to further decompose the bokashi compost. This allows you to still participate in the eco-friendly practice of composting your kitchen waste, even without a traditional garden setup.
The beauty of the bokashi system lies in its simplicity and adaptability. With minimal space and effort, anyone can partake in this sustainable practice and contribute to a more eco-conscious environment while nurturing a vibrant garden.
Comparing Bokashi Composting and Traditional Composting
There are various methods to compost organic waste, with bokashi composting and traditional composting being among the most popular. There are also hot composting and wormery composting methods. Each method has its unique advantages and drawbacks, and understanding these can help you decide which one is right for you.
Advantages of Bokashi Over Traditional Composting
There are several reasons why bokashi composting can be seen as superior to traditional composting:
- Versatility: Bokashi composting can handle nearly all types of kitchen waste, including meat, dairy, and cooked foods, which are usually not recommended for traditional compost piles due to their propensity to attract pests. This makes bokashi a more comprehensive waste management solution for your kitchen scraps.
- Speed: The bokashi process is relatively quick, often producing ready-to-use compost in a few weeks, compared to traditional composting which may take several months.
- Odour Control: As an anaerobic process, bokashi composting takes place in a sealed bin, which significantly reduces unpleasant odours often associated with traditional composting.
- Space-Efficient: Bokashi bins are compact and can be used indoors, making it ideal for those living in apartments or homes with small gardens.
- Nutrient-Rich Compost: The bokashi process retains more nutrients from the waste material, resulting in a compost that is exceptionally rich and beneficial for plants.
The Case for Traditional Composting
Despite the many advantages of bokashi composting, traditional composting still holds a place in many gardens:
- Low Cost: Traditional composting doesn’t require special equipment or materials, making it a cheaper option. The waste simply needs to be piled and turned occasionally.
- Volume: Traditional composting can handle larger volumes of waste, particularly yard waste like leaves and grass clippings, which are not suitable for bokashi composting.
- Simplicity: Traditional composting is a natural process that requires less active management. It’s a more hands-off method, which can be appealing for those who prefer a less involved process.
- Finished Product: Traditional composting provides a finished compost product without the need for a second stage of composting in the soil, as is necessary with bokashi.
Both bokashi composting and traditional composting have their roles in reducing waste and creating rich soil amendments. Your choice will depend on factors such as the type of waste you generate, the amount of space you have, and how much time and effort you’re willing to put into the composting process.
Pros and Cons of Bokashi Composting
As with any composting method, bokashi composting has its strengths and challenges. It’s important to understand these before deciding if this method is right for your home and garden.
Advantages of Bokashi Composting
- Efficient Food Waste Management: Bokashi composting can handle almost all types of kitchen waste, even items usually not recommended for traditional compost piles, such as dairy, meat, and cooked food. This can lead to a significant reduction in household waste.
- Suitability for Small Spaces: Because the bokashi process occurs in a compact bin and doesn’t attract pests, it’s a great option for people living in apartments or homes with small gardens. The bin can be kept in a kitchen, garage, or balcony without causing problems.
- Quick Turnaround: The fermentation process used in bokashi composting is faster than the decomposition process in traditional composting. Bokashi compost can be ready in as little as two weeks, whereas a traditional compost heap may take months.
- Rich Soil Enhancer: Bokashi compost is nutrient-rich and provides an excellent soil booster. The fermented organic matter and bokashi tea can greatly improve soil health and plant growth.
Disadvantages and Challenges of Bokashi Composting
- Potential Foul Odour: While a properly maintained bokashi bin should not smell unpleasant, if the balance of microorganisms is off, or if the bin is not sealed properly, a foul odour can develop. Similarly, if you leave the bokashi too long without burying it in the soil or adding it to a compost pile, it can become overly fermented and smell like vomit.
- Need for Two Bins: To keep the process going continuously, it’s ideal to have two bokashi bins. When one bin is full and fermenting, you can start filling the second bin. This might mean a little more upfront cost and space.
- Requires Regular Maintenance: Bokashi composting needs regular attention. You have to add waste and bran regularly, seal the bokashi bucket tightly, and drain the bokashi tea every few days. This is more hands-on than some other composting methods.
- Second Composting Stage: Unlike traditional composting, which provides finished compost, bokashi composting produces a pre-compost that needs to be buried in the soil or added to a compost pile for a secondary composting stage.
- Risk of Pathogens and Pests: While the risk is low if done correctly, poorly managed bokashi systems might still attract pests or produce compost that contains harmful pathogens, especially if it includes a lot of meat or dairy products.
Bokashi composting, like any composting method, is not without its challenges. However, with proper management, it offers a convenient and effective way to reduce food waste and improve soil health. It’s definitely worth considering, especially for those living in spaces where traditional composting isn’t feasible.
Bokashi composting is an innovative method of managing kitchen waste, with its unique process making it a worthy consideration for anyone seeking a sustainable way of living. But, as with any practice, it’s essential to consider both the environmental impact and personal convenience it brings.
The Environmental Impact of Bokashi Composting
With food waste being a significant contributor to landfill and consequently to the production of greenhouse gases, any effective method of reducing this waste has a positive impact on the environment. Bokashi composting is no exception.
The bokashi process is an anaerobic one, meaning it doesn’t produce methane – a harmful greenhouse gas. Instead, it preserves the carbon in the waste, returning it to the soil and promoting a healthier, more vibrant garden.
Moreover, bokashi composting helps decrease the load on municipal waste systems. It empowers households to manage their organic waste efficiently, contributing to a reduction in waste transport, processing, and disposal needs.
Final Thoughts on Whether a Bokashi Bin is Worth It
Determining whether a bokashi bin is worth the investment largely depends on your personal needs, lifestyle, and commitment to sustainability.
For those living in apartments or homes with limited outdoor space, bokashi composting offers an excellent solution for managing kitchen waste while creating a valuable resource for plants. Its compact size, lack of foul odors, and speed of composting make it an appealing option.
Additionally, bokashi composting’s ability to handle a wide range of kitchen waste, including items that traditional composting can’t process, such as meat and dairy products, provides a more comprehensive waste management solution.
However, as with any method, it requires commitment. The need to add bokashi bran and drain the tea regularly can seem laborious to some. There’s also the necessity for a second bin during the fermentation period, and the eventual need to dispose of the compost, which might pose challenges to those without gardens.
In conclusion, bokashi composting is an effective, environmentally friendly, and versatile method of managing kitchen waste. Despite some minor challenges, its benefits to the soil and the wider environment make it a practice worth considering. As more people seek ways to live sustainably, embracing practices like bokashi composting will become increasingly important in our quest for a healthier planet.
Frequently Asked Questions about Bokashi Composting
Bokashi composting can seem a bit daunting due to its unique process and components. Here, we’ll address some of the most common questions and concerns related to bokashi composting to clarify any confusion and help you get started.
Can you put meat scraps into bokashi compost?
Yes, unlike traditional composting, bokashi can handle raw meat, dairy, and moldy food. The effective microorganisms in the bokashi bran help to safely ferment these items.
What do I do when my bokashi bin is full?
When your bokashi bin is full, seal it and let it ferment for two weeks. During this time, you can start adding waste to a second bin. After two weeks, the contents of the first bin can be buried in the garden soil or added to a traditional compost pile for further decomposition.
Why do I need two bokashi bins?
Having two bins allows you to continue adding waste while the full bin is fermenting. This ensures that you never have to stop composting your kitchen waste.
Why does my bokashi smell like vomit?
A foul smell can be a sign of improper bokashi composting. This could be due to too much waste and not enough bran, a lack of draining of bokashi tea, or an unsealed bin. To correct this, you may need to balance your mix with more bran, drain the bin, and ensure it’s sealed properly.
What can I do with the liquid (bokashi tea) from my bokashi bin?
Bokashi tea is a fantastic liquid fertilizer for your plants. Dilute it with water (1 part tea to 100 parts water) before using it to avoid harming your plants. Make sure to use it within 24 hours of draining from the bokashi bucket.
Can I put egg shells, coffee grounds, or paper towel in my bokashi bin?
Yes, all these items can go into your bokashi bin. They will all ferment and contribute to the final compost.
Does bokashi composting attract rats or other pests?
If done correctly, bokashi composting should not attract pests. The system is sealed and the waste is fermented, which should not attract rats or other critters. However, if the bokashi bucket is not sealed properly or if the compost is not buried adequately in the soil, there may be a risk of pests.
What should I do with my bokashi during winter?
If the ground is frozen and you can’t dig a trench to bury your bokashi, consider storing it in a secondary bin or a garbage bag in a cool, dark location until the ground thaws. Alternatively, you can mix it into a traditional compost pile.
Hello there! I’m Jonathan Gaze, Content Editor for Harry Rufus.
With my technical problem-solving skills and meticulous attention to detail, I present sustainable living advice clearly and understandably. I’ve developed a knack for filtering out the fluff, presenting you with only the most practical and reliable sustainable living guidelines.
Here’s what you can anticipate from my content:
- Clear, reliable advice on sustainable living.
- Informative articles that simplify complex concepts.
- Trustworthy recommendations for eco-friendly practices.
I’m committed to making your transition to an eco-conscious lifestyle a breeze, turning challenges into opportunities.