Bokashi composting is a type of composting that uses a specialized mix of microorganisms to break down organic waste. The process involves placing food scraps and other organic matter in an airtight container with the microbe mix, which ferments the waste and accelerates the composting process.
Composting is one of the most valuable systems in permaculture gardening by essentially making extra food for the soil. Much like a wad of cash, compost can fix things in a hurry if you’re having trouble with the soil. Compost tea is the liquid runoff from a batch of composting materials and has highly concentrated nutrients that can be applied directly to the soil.
Typical composting systems take months to produce a useable product. With the Bokashi Composting system the composted product can be mixed directly into the soil in 2-3 weeks. The secret is the Bokashi Bran, which, with the help of composting worms, accelerates the process, providing food for the lactobacillus bacteria population to explode and get to work for you plugging your waste food stream back into your homestead in the form of Compost Energy.
The Bokashi Composting system requires some basic, inexpensive equipment: buckets, filters, bokashi bran, composting worms, a lid and food scraps. There is no one way to do it. The Epic Gardening channel has an excellent video on the bucket system building procedure. Once built you will be able to compost even meats and fats, which conventional composting can not.
What allows this is that the Bokashi composting system is anaerobic (very low Oxygen). Once you’re done filling the bucket with the layers of organic materials you seal it all up with the lid, cutting off the air. The following 5 sections will go through the process of setting up the system.
How the Bokashi Bran Accelerates Composting
Bokashi bran is a mixture of bran, molasses, and effective microorganisms (EMs) that is used to accelerate the process of composting. The EMs in bokashi bran are a mixture of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter more quickly and efficiently than natural decomposition alone.
When bokashi bran is added to compost, the EMs begin to colonize and multiply, quickly increasing their numbers and activity within the compost pile. This creates an environment that is more conducive to the breakdown of organic matter and the release of nutrients.
The EMs in bokashi bran are able to ferment the organic matter in the compost pile, breaking down complex compounds into simpler, more readily available forms. This process releases nutrients that plants can use, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Bokashi bran also helps to reduce odors and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and pathogens in the compost pile. This makes it a safe and effective way to compost a wide variety of organic materials, including food scraps and other types of waste.
Overall, the addition of bokashi bran to compost can help to accelerate the composting process, increase nutrient availability, and produce a high-quality compost that is rich in beneficial microorganisms.
Building the Bokashi System
Two five gallon plastic buckets make an excellent container for the composting materials. One bucket would have holes drilled in the bottom for drainage and the second whole bucket would catch the liquid runoff. A brick or two could be placed at the bottom of the outer bucket as a spacer to allow room for liquid to build up before emptying.
At the bottom of the inner bucket some sort of porous lining like filter cloth or an old rag can be cut to fit so that bits of compost don’t pass through the holes. It would be good to have a non-porous lining for the top of the biomass, once the bucket is filled. This acts as a second barrier to air for when the bucket lid is removed for inspection at week one and week two. A good lid with a seal is needed for the 5 gallon bucket – this assures an anaerobic microclimate for this type of composting to occur.
Bokashi bran will have to be sourced, but it is readily available and inexpensive, even for a year’s worth of bran. A consistent source of food scraps (from the kitchen, etc.) would also be necessary. And finally, composting worms, like the red wiggler (Eisenia andrei) would complete the list of ingredients.
There are many good sources for the bran, like https://bokashiliving.com, and there are ready-made bucket systems, if that would be better for you. Composting worms aren’t absolutely necessary, but they do accelerate the composting process. There are a few good sources for worms out there like, https://permacultureeducation.org.
Filling the Buckets
Here are the steps to follow to fill a bokashi worm composting system:
To fill the bokashi bin, first gather all the organic waste that you want to compost, such as vegetable scraps, fruit peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells. Cut or chop the waste into small pieces. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will decompose.
Sprinkle a layer of bokashi mix over the bottom of your composting bin as this mix contains beneficial microbes that will help break down the organic waste. Add a layer of organic waste on top of the bokashi mix, making sure to distribute it evenly throughout the bin. Sprinkle a little more bokashi mix on top of the waste.
Repeat this layering process until the bin is full, making sure to add a layer of bokashi mix on top of each layer of organic waste. Once the bin is full, cover it with the tight-fitting lid to create the anaerobic environment. The microbes in the bokashi mix will begin to break down the organic waste, while the worms will help to further break down the waste and aerate the compost.
After about two weeks, the compost will be ready to use. You can remove the compost from the bin and use it to fertilize your plants or garden. Remember to keep adding new organic waste to the bin and bokashi mix as needed to keep the composting process going.
Observing the Composting Progress
It is recommended to check on your bokashi worm composting system regularly, at least once a week. During each check-in, you should observe the composting process to ensure that it is proceeding smoothly and that the worms are healthy and active.
Here are some things you should look out for during your weekly check-ins:
Moisture: Make sure that the composting material is moist but not too wet. If it is too dry, add some water. If it is too wet, add more dry material, such as shredded newspaper.
Odor: The bokashi composting process should produce a slightly sour or pickled smell. If you notice any foul odor, it may indicate that the system is not working properly and needs adjustments.
Worm activity: Check to make sure that the worms are healthy and active. Look for signs of movement and feeding. If you notice that the worms are not moving or are dying, there may be a problem with the system that needs to be addressed.
Overall, regular check-ins are important to ensure the success of your bokashi worm composting system.
Applying the Compost to the Soil
Congratulations! It’s time to reap the benefits of this nutrient-rich fertilizer and upgrade your soil.
Here’s how you can apply it to your garden:
Prepare the soil: Before applying the bokashi worm compost, make sure the soil is well-prepared. This means removing any weeds, rocks, or debris from the area where you plan to apply the compost.
Spread the compost: Once the soil is ready, spread the bokashi worm compost over the top of the soil. Use a rake or hoe to spread the compost evenly.
Work the compost into the soil: After spreading the compost, work it into the soil using a garden fork or by hand. This will help distribute the nutrients evenly and ensure that they are available to the plants.
Water the area: After working the compost into the soil, water the area thoroughly. This will help the nutrients in the compost to reach the roots of the plants.
Apply regularly: For best results, apply the bokashi worm compost regularly throughout the growing season. This will help ensure that your plants have access to the nutrients they need to thrive.
Overall, the bokashi worm composting system is the top-shelf choice for taking control of your gardens. Even if you only garden in the summer, a two week turnover can keep you in compost all season long, making several batches as you go. If you garden all year this would be an excellent addition to if not an alternative for your conventional compost systems.