Do you have limited garden space, bear problems, or other reasons that make outdoor composting problematic? If you want to avoid throwing away food scraps, indoor “composting” is not limited to worm bins (vermicomposting) or expensive electric composting appliances.
Bokashi is based on Asian gardening practices and differs from traditional composting in many ways, in that it:
- Is an anaerobic (“in the absence of air”) process that you can complete indoors.
- Requires a closed container.
- Requires the addition of microbes.
- Requires minimal attention (draining of accumulated liquid).
- Takes only about two weeks to complete once the container is filled.
- Results in a fermented product that you bury in the garden rather than a finished compost.
Although the process has a long history, Japanese horticulture professor Teruo Higa developed several microbial products marketed as “Effective Microorganisms” (EM) that have made Bokashi more widely known and more readily available in North America.
How it works
If you purchase a container and microbe-treated bran, you need only start adding your kitchen waste—including meat and dairy products—to the container in batches, sprinkling with bran, and compressing the material each time you make an addition, then seal the container. Purchased containers include a spigot for draining off leachate every few days. You may see a white mold forming in the container when you add scraps, but this is normal. You just continue adding more scraps, sprinkling on your microbe-containing bran, and compressing the material.
You may want more than one container if you want to continuously dispose of scraps, although you can freeze accumulating kitchen waste while your full container completes fermenting.
You can construct your own container and prepare your own bran products to save money, but this will require more effort and time. Although the process is beyond the scope of this blog, Bokashi Composting: Scraps to Soil in Weeks by Adam Footer, published by New Society Publishers in 2013, provides information on producing your own bran.
Once the sealed container is full, you need to leave it for no more than 2 weeks to finish fermenting. You will then have a product that looks much like what you put into the container—but with a sour pickled smell. This product will break down very quickly in the garden, but needs to be buried under several inches of soil to avoid attracting animals.
If you want a relatively compact, low-maintenance way to dispose of kitchen scraps, Bokashi is the way to go!
- Disposing of dairy and meat scraps for use in the garden is a real advantage.
- The bucket is odor-free except when you are making additions, and the smell of fermentation when you open the container or drain off leached liquids is not overpowering or unpleasant.
- You can leave the container unattended for short vacations.
- You can store completed materials until burial outdoors.
. . . and Cons
- The up-front expense of containers and treated bran may be prohibitive, although certainly competitive with indoor composting set-ups (vermicomposting or electric appliances).
- You need new or “fallow” space in your garden for burying the fermented waste.
- You must dig a hole to use the finished product.
- You will need to wash out the container for re-use.
Research is ongoing about the value of Bokashi products in the garden. The leachate is sometimes touted as fertilizer. It is likely to contain phosphorus and potassium, but not nitrogen! You can simply discard this if you don’t want to try it on your plants. Research on the use of EM to produce compost suggests that in addition to speeding up the process, it can increase nutrients.
If conventional composting is not an option and you have space to bury your completed Bokashi fermentation, consider this method as an alternative to throwing away your kitchen scraps or waiting on buried scraps to decompose.
Article written by Debbie Green, Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer.