Bin Gardening

Bin Gardening

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Indoor Composting using the Bokashi Method

Bokashi kit from Sunwood

Did you know there is a way to turn your kitchen scraps (including meat and dairy) and houseplant waste into an organic compost soil conditioner? It is done by a process called Bokashi (the anaerobic fermentation of organic waste) in an airtight bucket designed to prevent flies and unpleasant odors. You layer your food scraps in the bucket and add a Bokashi inoculant, usually a combination of wheat bran combined with molasses, along with “friendly” or Essential Microorganisms (EM).  The layers ferment for about 10 days, breaking down the scraps enough to add to the outdoor compost bin without attracting rodents and other vermin. This is a quick way to break down food waste and it is ultimately beneficial to the garden (and prevents all the food scraps from unnecessarily ending up in a landfill.).

Japanese farmers have used the Bokashi method for generations. Dr. Teuro Higa was an agricultural researcher from Japan who believed there was a better and more natural way to manage plant growth without relying on chemicals. He discovered Essential Microorganisms (EM) and combined EM with Bokashi, achieving excellent crop yields. In 1993, Dr. Higa wrote An Earth Saving Revolution: Solutions to Problems in Agriculture, the Environment, and Medicine, Vol. I  which describes the history and discovery of Essential Microorganisms.

I purchased the Bokashi compost kit from Sunwood which had everything needed to begin the process. Another similar product is the All Seasons Indoor Composter - a 5-gallon container made from recycled plastic soda bottles.  It has a strainer inside to allow moisture from decomposing matter to be drained into a reservoir, and there is a spigot on the front of the bucket to drain the nutrient-rich Bokashi liquid. The liquid or “tea’’ can be diluted and used as a slow-release fertilizer in the garden or as an inoculant to introduce beneficial microorganisms to the compost bin. It is recommended to have two buckets – one that stays closed and ferments for 10 days while the other is used to collect scraps.

Compost tea draining from the spigot

Plenty of compost tea to dilute for fertilizer

Dried Bokashi can be made or purchased. All Seasons has a blend by SCD Probiotics  which is advertised as a soil enhancer, compost accelerator, and odor controller. It is used as a natural means to promote germination, flowering, and fruiting in plants, as well as improving the soil environment. To make your own supply, visit the City Farmer website for some excellent instructions on homemade Bokashi.

If you want to bypass the step of finishing the decomposition process in your compost bin and add your fermented Bokashi scraps directly to your garden spot, you can bury the fermented scraps and wait a few weeks for them to fully decompose before planting. Bryan McGrath from ProKashi has made several instructional videos on improving the soil through the Bokashi method, including an introduction and follow-up on his homemade Soil Generator  – a bin or container with an open top and bottom, placed on top of bare soil for the purpose of collecting Bokashi (or regular food) scraps to complete the decomposition process without any required digging. I tried this with an 18-gallon storage bin with fair results, but really needed a higher volume of organic material to fill the bin. In my next attempt, I will take Bryan’s suggestion of using a 5-gallon bucket for a soil generator.

I use the Bokashi method off and on, when I remember to buy or make the inoculant. I love the natural cycle of using food scraps and Bokashi tea to enhance the soil to grow nutritious food without chemicals and fertilizers. I like not adding more waste to the landfill, and I am definitely for adding beneficial microbes to the garden soil. For me, it has been worth experimenting to improve the rate of composting and the harvest results.

Until next time, blessings on you and your gardens!


1 comment:

  1. Hi! I've been trying out your bin method and was wondering how you fertilize them? I have a water soluble fertilizer and was unsure if I should water from up top or add to the reservoir, which doesn't seem like it would work well.