The Basics of Bokashi Composting

Getting Started with Bokashi

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Composting offers several benefits to both the planet and your garden. There are several types of composting to choose from, however, so learning more about each one can help you decide which method is right for you. Bokashi composting is one type of composting. Let's take a look at what goes into bokashi composting. 

How Bokashi Works

First, what is Bokashi? The word is Japanese for "fermented organic matter." When using the bokashi method, you layer kitchen scraps (veggie and fruit, along with meat and dairy) with a Bokashi innoculant into a special bin.Usually, the inoculant consists of either wheat germ or sawdust combined with molasses and Effective Microorganisms (EM). It was deve loped by Dr. Teuro Higa, a professor at University of Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan, in the early 1980s.

The bokashi bucket has an air-tight lid and a spigot at the bottom to drain off the liquid that will be produced. The liquid must be drained or the bin will begin to have a somewhat foul odor. Luckily, this "bokashi tea" can fertilize house plants, so you can reuse it.

When layered and left to sit for up to 10 days out of direct sunlight, the mixture will begin to ferment. It can then be used. After 10 days, the fermented mixture can be dug into the garden or added to a compost pile to finish decomposing. In essence, bokashi is more of a fermenting method as opposed to a more traditional composting method. 

Bokashi is an anaerobic process, so the products must be kept from oxygen as much as possible--don't open the bin frequently to check it, only to add scraps. Some people recommend pressing the food waste into the composter to remove air from it, and leaving a plate, for example, on top of the matter to protect the surface from oxygen exposure. 

Is Bokashi Best?

This method is an effective way to deal with kitchen scraps, and a sure way to make typically intriguing items (such as meat and dairy), less interesting to marauding animals who might raid your compost pile otherwise. Once my bucket of Bokashi is finished fermenting, it is the perfect addition to my compost trenches in the vegetable garden.

Some people say the method is great because it can be done in small spaces, but urge people to understand that what comes out of the bokashi bucket still needs to decompose in a compost bin. It does accept meat and dairy products, which are not allowed in the traditional composting method. Plus, it is relatively inexpensive to get started as a bokashi composter.

If you are a worm composter, too, you can feed the bokashi material to your vermicomposting worms. Some say the matter is too acidic but others say worms take to it just fine.