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Sunday
Oct102010

Converts to Bokashi Composting

We’ve recently become enthusiastic fans of bokashi composting. If you’re wondering what on earth bokashi is, it’s a Japanese word that translates to something like “fermented, organic matter."  Bokashi composting is a style of composting where you put your food scraps in an air-tight bucket and sprinkle ‘bokashi mix’ over the top, repeating this layering process until the Bokashi bucket is full. The bokashi mix is a combination of natural ingredients enriched with helpful micro-organisms that ferment the food scraps - and stops them from going smelly in the bucket. For convenience the bucket is best kept in the kitchen – but our bucket below came outside for a photo opportunity!

You can often buy the bokashi mix (and the bins) from a local hardware store, or eco store. A 5 litre bag of mix lasts us about 3 or 4 months. We find it convenient to have a small bucket on the kitchen sink that we throw food scraps into during the day, and then just empty that bucket into the bokashi bucket at the end of each day and sprinkle a handful of bokashi mix on top.

After a few days or a week, you often start to get some ‘juice’ coming out of the bokashi bin if you open the ‘tap’ at the bottom. This can be used the same as ‘juice’ from worm casting, and diluted with water (about a capful to a 10 litres of water) and applied to plants as a healthy liquid fertiliser.

Once our bokashi bucket is full, we empty it into the compost bin, where it breaks down really quickly – within say a week or two. We find our food scraps which have been in the bokashi bin break down much quicker than just adding them straight to the compost bin, and it’s this fast break-down process that has us sold on bokashi. It means we get compost quicker than we would through our normal composting, and a fast break down of organic materials is good for the environment as slow composting can cause greenhouse gases such as methane. Of course a well managed compost bin can produce compost quite quickly, but with us both working full time and managing planting and harvesting from our garden, we do admit composting is one of our neglected tasks! For us Bokashi is a time saving solution, as it helps with the whole composting process.

You can make bokashi mix from scratch (a quick Google search reveals some good how-to guide) but again that takes a bit of time. Many people also bury their ‘bokashied’ food scraps in the ground, rather than in a compost bin. We find that bokashi composting has an advantage over worm farming as you can add materials that worms are normally a bit sensitive too such as onions and citrus peels (omnivores can even add meat scraps).

If anyone is interested in more about bokashi, G magazine has a good article at http://www.gmagazine.com.au/features/1991/compact-compost, and one of the commercial sellers of the bins has helpful info at http://www.bokashi.com.au

Reader Comments (21)

Thanks for this post. We were given a bokashi bin and I've been using it along with the compost bins we have. I didn't realise that emptying it into the compost will help along the composting process. I will try this - sometimes I feel too lazy to dig a hole and bury it!

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterveggiegobbler

You can also make your own bokashi grains - a quick Google will turn up lots of recipes.

I wonder if sprinkling the bokashi grains on top of the contents of a normal compost bin occasionally would help speed up the breakdown process?

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarren (Green Change)

Darren - It absolutely does make a difference, especially for those of us who haven't quite perfected the aerobic composting process as yet. My neighbour and I have tried it - but the same principles as the small kitchen bin apply, the good 'bokashi' oriented bacteria involved will work in the anaerobic areas.

I've had some success feeding bokashi remnants to the worms, they seem to process it much faster - so much so that I'm considering expanding the wormery.

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeryl

You dont have to buy the very expensive bucket either (at around $90). I use two twenty litre buckets one with a lid (sort of like the old chlorine buckets with the plastic lids that seal pretty tight) drill or punch holes in the bottom of the inner bucket. Sit the bucket inside the other bucket of the same size. The holes allow the juice to drain away into the outer bucket which catches your juice. Scraps into the top bucket, with bokashi grains packed tight with a potato masher and lid on. Really cheap if you can score the buckets for nothing. I was suprised when I first started using this system about 18 months ago how much food waste we produced. We went from overfilling our wheelie bin to never having filled it since. It's a great way to turn you scraps to compost.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDean

Darren, Bokashi bacteria work better in an anaerobic environment, so it's best work is actually done after you bury the compost. I guess the reason it breaks down better in the compost bin is because half the job is done by the bacteria before you put it in bin. I often bury the scraps about a foot under the ground, dig it up in a few weeks nothing left but black dirt and worms.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDean

Thanks for your feedback and tips everyone. The 2 bucket system is a great idea and would work well - you certainly dont need to buy a fancy, expensive bokashi bucket. We should add that we now treat our compost bin anerobically by compacting the bin everytime we add a bucket of bokashi. This is the only green waste we put in compost bins now - everyting else we generate (e.g. garden waste) goes to chickens,banana/paw paw pits or just chopped and left on the ground (prunings.

The real advantage (beside the speed of the breakdown) is we only have to go out to the compost bin once every one or two weeks when our bokashi bin is full, as opposed to emptying food srcaps to the compost bin daily like we used to - a big timesaver!

October 13, 2010 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth

Hi,I live in Figtree and was wondering where I could buy a bokashi bin locally as not too confident regarding making my own? Also I love your web site and have been visiting it at least once a week for the last six or so months. We are just starting out developing our garden and feel so inspired by what you have been and are achieving.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachael

Hi Rachael, great to hear you are starting a garden of your own! As for bokashi buckets, you can get them at our local Eco Store in Stanwell Park (http://www.greenhabit.com.au/) or in Bunnings for around $70/80 I think. Best of luck :)

October 14, 2010 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth

I generate alot of compost materials each day. With 2 adults and 4 kids, we go through alot of food, and whilr I put all the food scape in my compost, the mice are having a feast on it each night, no matter what lenghts I go to to keep them out.
(I did find a male antechinus though, so thats a plus!)
I think I might have to give the bokashi a go. Ive read about them, but reading this, you've kinda sold me on one!
I might need 2 though, with the amount of scrapes we go through.

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJustine

With 2 adults and 4 kids your right Justine - they will fill up quickly so you'll need to rotate bins. The other option is to buy one bokashi bin and empty it into a big 20L container with a lid and let it ferment away until you need to emtpy the bokashi bin again. Does that make sense? :)

October 16, 2010 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth

Yeah, that makes sense and sounds like a good solution!
I assume you can buy the bokashi powder by itself?

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJustine

I've admired these for awhile now, but as we haven't any where to put the compost had dismissed for another time. However I like the idea of rotating it down to the worm farm. That could work for me.

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercityhippyfarmgirl

Hi Justin, yup you can just buy the bokashi mix by itself, in packets of varying sizes.

Cityhippygirl,would be a great idea to add the breaking down bokashi mix to the worm farm to speed up the break down process - Meryl who posted earlier has had success with that technique :-)

October 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth

i've been thinking about getting a small drink cooler type thing- an eski with a tap in the bottom (i'm sure i've seen them at supermarkets and discount shops for about $20). i went to a composting talk with vasili (from vasili's garden), who said to put a layer of rocks/pebbles in the bottom of the container, then a piece of flywire or mesh on top, followed by scraps and the bokashi powder.

he also said that the powder is basically blood and bone + sawdust (b&b is a good microbial activator when sprinkled on compost piles)- any additions to this ingredient list?

October 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterloulou

Hi Loulou, your setup sounds fine. Id definitely would use the bokashi as an activator though - the microbes work anerobically which is important as you need to compress the bin each day. Blood and bone and saw dust - i reckon that would smell if you used it inside the home - plus it works aerobically which is the wrong envirnoment

October 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth

Yeah Bokashi is good solution which helps reducing our trashes as well as providing us a natural fertilizer for our garden. It's pretty easy to use, odourless, and doesn't need a high maintenance. This is perfect for anyone caring about a healthier planet :)

Cecile

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBokashi Cecile

we are growing as much of our own vegetables as we can ... can you please tell me how do you store potatoes once they are harvested ...

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLance

Hey Lance ... we store out potatoes in a hessian bag. You just need to exclude the sunlight and store in a cool, dry place.

February 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth
We moved to a top floor apartment and to go to the garbage it is long trek so we started Bokashi. While in bunnings I wasn't impressed with the Bokashi cost for basically a bin with a tap, so I bought a 50litre airtight cooler $90. I purchased the bokashi mix around $16 and yeah it is amazing how much food waste we have. Now we only have to go to the garbage weekly with about 1 bag of non-recyclables.

Yeah I recommend buying an esky/cooler and using a large pale with lid as your backup instead of the cost/expense of the actual bokashi bucket. At the end of the day a plastic container with a lid & tap will do the job.
August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHurstville
I have been bokashi-ing since Christmas - it was my Christmas present - and I love it! (Using the system from bunnings, it was only $65 and came with a spray version of the bokashi powdered mix stuff). Have just one bucket but there is only 2 of us (adult + child) so I think that will work fine. I live in a rental and have all my plants in pots and an old bath converted by drilling holes and adding many bags of potting mix :) but this means I don't really have anywhere to bury my bokashi scraps. For the first full bin I layered a foam box (which I was keeping to use as a planter box) with newspaper, added half a bag of potting mix, emptied the bin into it, then covered with the rest of the potting mix. It has been a week and a half and it already seems to be broken down but I will leave it until the bin is full again and then spread that stuff on my bath garden and other potted plants and repeat the process. Does this sund like I have the right idea? Also I was thinking of getting an outside compost bin to put the bokashied stuff in plus lawn clippings, but what sort? I was worried about the aerobic breakdown of compost bins when the bokashi bin uses anaerobic breakdown - will this matter? Any advice is appreciated! Thanks!
January 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLee

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