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Bokashi composting

14 Mar

I compost all my food scraps – fruit, veggies, onions, citrus, dairy, meat – even bones! Sound revolting? Well, for the past few months I have been experimenting with a new type of compost. It’s a Japanese method, and it’s called Bokashi.

I always loved the idea of composting our food scraps, but in the apartment it just seemed impossible. I tried a worm farm for a while, but there were so many no-nos like onions and citrus, and then somehow I managed to kill them. Every time I dumped food scraps and old leftovers in the garbage I felt terrible, but it all seemed too hard. I discovered bokashi once we moved to the house, and I was an instant convert. I started raving about it to some friends at a party, and funnily enough, all but one of them was already using it, so I must have been living under a rock.

Bokashi is an indoor composting system that uses microorganisms to ferment the scraps. Because it is a process of fermentation, the smell is minimal and is similar to a yeasty/beery odour. The container is airtight, so even that minimal smell is completely contained.

Cheap bokashi buckets

To get these microorganisms, you buy a special treated grain powder (I get it from Bunnings) and add it to your food scraps in a bucket that you can keep inside. You can get the kits with the powder and bin at Bunnings or online, but I have gone the cheapskate solution, with simple multipurpose buckets from the hardware store. The drawback with my method is that my buckets don’t have a tap. To make the process most efficient, you are supposed to drain off the liquid that accumulates in the bottom of the bucket and use it as liquid fertiliser, but I find that I fill the buckets so quickly that it doesn’t matter.

My process is:

Little bucket for collecting the scraps during the day

1. Collect the food scraps in a little bucket throughout the day. With bokashi you can compost all on the normal no-nos, like meat, citrus, onions, dairy – even bones! I literally put everything leftover from the kitchen in it.

2. Empty the scraps into the big bucket at the end of the day, or when the little bucket is full. With toddlers and babies in the house, we generate sooo many food scraps. The kids just chuck food on the floor during their meals, and I hate to see it go to waste.

Scraps go in

3. Compact the scraps down to remove air pockets, then sprinkle the bokashi powder over the top of the new layer. A thin, even layer is best, but I can’t sprinkle evenly while taking a photo 🙂

Sprinkle the bran powder in a thin, even layer.

4. Close the big bokashi bucket, insuring that it is air tight, because the bokashi process is anaerobic.

Full bucket after sitting for a couple of weeks

5. When the bucket is full, leave it for a couple of weeks to continue fermenting. This is optional – sometimes I bury it straight away. After a few weeks you may get some white mould growing on the top – this is normal. Don’t expect that the food scraps will be at all broken down – that won’t happen until it is buried.

Bokashi bucket contents in the hole

6. Dig a hole somewhere in the garden and empty the bokashi bucket

Cover the hole with soil

7. Cover over the hole

8. Leave for 4-6 weeks, before digging up and using as fantastic compost. After this time you may still find some vaguely-recognisable bits, like egg shells and tissues. They take a bit longer to break down, but it shouldn’t smell anymore after 6 weeks.

I generally fill the 20 litre bucket once every 3 weeks or so and the bokashi powder costs $16 for about 5 months’ supply. Really cheap compost, and an almost empty garbage bin. One week I put the first bag into the garbage bin on the morning it was collected.

I have used the compost from my bokashi bucket as the planting medium for my dwarf banana tree. It has absolutely thrived!