What is Bokashi Composting?
Bokashi composting, a little different from other methods of composting, is actually a fermentation system. Bokashi is a Japanese word that means ‘fermented organic matter’. This method was developed in the early 1980s by Dr. Teuro Higa, a professor at the University of Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan.
In this method, the end product, which is quite different from other methods of composting, is a nutrient-rich liquid called “bokashi tea.” It is an anaerobic fermenting process that uses inoculated Bokashi bran to ferment food waste into a nutritious tea for your crops and a secure soil builder.
In addition to the veggie and fruit scraps, you can also put more types of materials in your composting bin that are banned from traditional composting methods including eggshells, coffee grounds, fat, meat, tea, dairy, and even bones to your bokashi system. It is a faster method than any other type of composting, and the whole process takes about 4-6 weeks.
The bokashi composting is technically a kind of fermentation instead of composting since it ferments food and creates a substance that remains too acidic to be applied to plants. Composting breaks down waste and produces material that is ready to be placed in a garden. Because of this, adding the bokashi matter to a compost pile or a fallow area of the garden is the last step in the bokashi composting process.
Briefly said, bokashi is a process for swiftly fermenting food leftovers so they may be composted more quickly.
Among many reasons to love this process, one of the biggest reasons is the differences between bokashi composting and other types of composting, it works anaerobically (i.e. without oxygen). In other methods of composting (hot, cold, and vermicomposting) oxygen is extremely important to ensure the proper breakdown of the organic material. This difference means that bokashi composting produces less carbon dioxide (CO2) than other types of composting.
With only a few easy steps, you can also do the bokashi composting at home, which involves sealing food scraps and other natural waste with a Bokashi inoculant in a special bucket, called Bokashi bucket. Generally, the inoculant consists of wheat bran, wheat germ, or sawdust combined with effective microorganisms (EM) and molasses. The bran/molasses serves as the food for these microorganisms.
You can make your own bokashi system or buy complete Bokashi composting kits online or from garden stores, including the bran/molasses and effective microorganisms
How to do Bokashi Composting?
Bokashi composting is one of the easiest forms of home composting, and to do this at home follow these steps:
1) Obtain Necessary Materials
You’ll require some bokashi bran and an air-tight bucket with a drainage spout to begin your bokashi composting.
The bokashi bran (also known as inoculant) is a dry product that comes in bags and contains the useful micro-organisms that will blossom in the bokashi environment and aid in the breakdown of the organic waste, whereas the bucket (also called “bokashi bucket” or “bokashi bin”) will help to provide proper anaerobic atmosphere and allow for easy drainage of Bokashi tea.
2) Add Organic Waste to the Bucket
Add kitchen waste such as veggies, fruit, coffee grounds, cheese, meat, or eggshells to the Bokashi bucket. Other organic matter such as dead leaves, grass clippings, sawdust, etc. can also be added. Chop the materials into 2-inch or smaller pieces, as this will help the fermentation process move more quickly.
3) Add Bokashi Bran
Each time you add organic waste to the bucket, sprinkle a layer of bokashi bran over it and firmly press it down. Pressing will assist in removing air from the matter and helps in establishing the ideal anaerobic environment. You can add 1 or 2 tablespoons of bokashi bran for every inch of organic matter you add to the bucket.
Replace the cover after adding the bran and squeezing it down. Make sure to store the bucket away from direct sunlight.
4) Add Food Waste Until the Bucket is Full
Continue to add food waste to the bucket, until it is full. Continue to layer more bokashi bran each time you add food waste to the bucket, and squish down the pile.
Once the bucket is full, keep it closed and untouched for at least 2 weeks. This is an oxygen-free process, so be sure not to let any oxygen into the bucket.
You can start with another bucket while waiting for this bucket to ferment.
5) Drain the Bokashi Tea
The excess liquid produced during the fermentation process should be drained off since it may obstruct the helpful bacteria. Every 2-3 days during the 14-day fermentation period, drain this excess liquid out of the bucket by using the faucet.
2 to 3 ounces of this liquid (Bokashi tea) can be diluted with one gallon of water and used as fertilizer. You can use it on indoor plants and outdoor spaces.
6) Bury or Compost Your Leftovers
After two weeks, the matter must feel soft and have a faintly sour smell, which indicates that it has properly fermented. This is also called pre-compost because it’s already partially broken down and requires a little more time to go through the true composting process.
You can add this to your regular composting system and it will break down very fast as compared to non-fermented matter. You can rinse the pre-compost and introduce it slowly to the vermiculture composting system to feed the worms.
Also, you can bury this pre-compost in a bare spot in your garden to allow it to decompose. Being acidic in nature due to the fermentation process, it will not attract bugs or scavengers, and microorganisms in the soil will break it down in a couple of weeks.
7) Add it to the Garden Soil
Within two weeks of adding pre-compost to your regular composting system, you can use fermented bokashi compost to feed the plants. So, mix it into your garden bed if you put it in your compost pile.
And if you buried it in a bare area of your garden, then plant it over the top of it.
Now, rinse the bokashi bucket thoroughly before re-using it for your next batch.
What shall you do with your Full Bokashi Bucket?
If you live in an apartment, your main concern is probably what to do with a bokashi bucket after it’s full. Here below I am giving you some options for this:
1) Grow vegetables in pots inside or outside on a balcony
Consider the container planter method. You can start with a large pot or container. Now add the potting soil up to 1/3 of the container, drop the contents of the fermented bokashi bin into the container; and then gently mix it with the soil. After that, add extra potting soil to the remaining one-third of the container. Before planting in the soil, wait for two weeks.
2) Put the Bokashi waste in a trench or hole
You can dig a trench or hole about 20 to 25 cm deep. Now add the Bokashi waste and mix it with some soil. Then cover this waste completely with soil. Your soil will begin to be enriched on a microbial level.
You can dig a hole or trench between rows of trees or around plants for established gardens.
3) Add your bokashi waste directly into a compost bin
If you don’t have the option of digging it directly into the ground, you can add bokashi waste directly into a compost bin.
Once this waste has completely broken down, you can use it as a rich topsoil to feed the plants.
4) You Can post an Ad for Free Bokashi Collection
You can also check if someone is interested in picking up your bokashi pre-compost for free. For this, you can post an ad on your local community’s social media page.
5) Pickup Program for Compost
Check online to discover if there is a local organization in your region that provides compost pickup.
What Are the Benefits of Bokashi Composting?
The bokashi composting system has great benefits than traditional composting methods. The main 6 of these are:
1) Takes Significantly Less Time
Bokashi composting can break down food waste into usable matter in just four weeks; two weeks in the anaerobic container and another two weeks in a barren area of your garden or in a compost pile. While traditional composting can take various months for converting waste into compost.
2) Has Less Odor (Smell)
Bokashi emits substantially less odor than traditional composting; this is because the anaerobic fermentation doesn’t produce unpleasant odors as traditional composting microbes do and also it is kept enclosed in a sealed container rather than being exposed to the open air.
3) It Can Compost Meat and Dairy products
Whereas traditional composting doesn’t recommend adding meat and dairy products (either because it may attract undesirable pests or because the compost doesn’t reach enough high temperatures) bokashi’s fermenting process can manage both of these products.
4) It Produces a Liquid Byproduct Rich in Plant Nutrients
You must periodically drain the liquid from the Bokashi bucket to retain bokashi bacteria thriving. This Bokashi tea can be considered compost tea and is a fantastic supply of nutrients for indoor plants or herbal gardens.
5) Lesser Space is Required
Because bokashi composting can be done in a small container on your kitchen countertop, it is a fantastic option for composting if you live in an apartment or an area without a large backyard space.
6) Less Maintenance is Required
While, traditional compost heaps need some maintenance, such as turning, watering, or watching what goes in, Bokashi composting is a very simpler process. In this process, you simply put food waste in the bucket and periodically drain off the liquid.
What are The Differences Between Bokashi Composting and Traditional Composting?
Both of these composting methods are ways to break down organic waste into usable plant food, but these differ in the following ways:
Bokashi takes a lot less upkeep than traditional composting does.
Traditional composting frequently needs watering, tilling, and other tasks, but bokashi merely needs you to add organic waste to the bokashi bucket and then bury the fermented pre-compost.
In contrast to traditional composting, which frequently takes more space and should be maintained away from your home to prevent unpleasant odors, bokashi composting can be done in a small bokashi bucket on a kitchen countertop.
Bokashi is one of the quickest methods of composting; the material may be ready for the garden in as little as one month with this method as opposed to several months with traditional composting.
4) Oxygen Requirement
In contrast to traditional composting, which is an aerobic process and requires oxygen for its bacteria to thrive, bokashi is an anaerobic process means that its germs prefer a sealed environment to flourish.
How to use Bokashi?
Bokashi can be utilized in a variety of ways, like:
- Can be added directly to the soil
- As an inoculant in anaerobic composting
- Can be used to produce compost tea to water plants
- Can be added to an aerobic compost pile
How to Get Started with Bokashi Composting?
Bokashi is perhaps one of the most affordable composting systems available.
A commercial Bokashi bucket is a 5-pound plastic bucket with a tight-fitting lid on top and a faucet near the bottom.
At about $50, this might seem a bit pricey, but that faucet near the bottom might be the difference between an easy and an impossible process.
The leachate (bokashi tea) is required to be drained out periodically and lifting a five-pound container full of wet food wastes from one place to other might not be possible for many. So, you can make use of a kitchen baster for this otherwise messy process.
The Inoculated Bokashi Bran is the only other thing required for this method. A bag of it often comes free with the initial purchase of a commercial bokashi bucket, and an additional two-pound bag cost you around $15 each.
What are The Pros and Cons of Bokashi Composting?
Pros of Bokashi Composting
- Organic waste takes about 2 weeks’ time for fermentation in bokashi composting and is then ready to be buried in trenches or added to an aerobic compost pile. It can create compost in as little as 4 weeks.
- It allows the use of meat and dairy scrapings that are not recommended in other forms of composting.
- Bokashi composting is done in a sealed container. So, there are no unpleasant odors associated with it.
- This composting can be done in a relatively smaller area and can be done indoors.
- The leachate (liquid) acts as an excellent fertilizer tea (Bokashi tea) for directly feeding the plants.
- This composting is carried out in a sealed container, so unlike other backyard compost piles, it doesn’t often attract rodents or other pests.
- The pre-compost (fermented material) makes excellent food to add to a vermicomposting container.
- The resulting product (pre-compost) makes for nutrient-rich plant food that can be buried in compost trenches or holes in a garden.
- Bokashi composting emits much lower CO2.
Cons of Bokashi Composting
- Bokashi composting requires a special airtight bucket or container with a spigot to drain off the liquid that is produced. Thus, it has some initial setup costs.
- This process is limited by the size of the bucket so not suitable for garden waste.
- The final product produced is a fermented product. So, it should either be buried in trenches in the garden or added to a traditional compost pile for further breakdown.
- This composting has an ongoing cost of buying bokashi bran.
In conclusion, the bokashi composting method is a quicker and easier process than traditional composting when it comes to comparison of both methods. Though, traditional composting still has its place. In order to recycle your garden and kitchen waste, you may consider getting both a compost and bokashi container.
I would suggest a bokashi bucket for a novice or someone with limited space or who lives in an apartment. It not only minimizes waste effectively but also produces a valuable byproduct for feeding your plants. Your plants will undoubtedly reward you with a big yield if you use bokashi tea and bokashi pre-compost in your vegetable garden.
1) Bokashi | Compost Guide | ADEQ Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
2) Using the kitchen composter/Bokashi
1) Compost & Types Of Composting (13 Methods Explained)
2) Vermicomposting (Worm Composting): Types, & Benefits
3) Backyard Composting: A Complete Guide
4) Indoor Composting: Tips, Benefits, Methods, & DIY Bins