A Step by Step Guide For a Simple Kitchen Compost
I am new to bokashi composting and am loving how nice and compact it is making my compost efforts, at least those that involve the kitchen compost.
This kitchen compost method is an anaerobic process. Handling food waste this way is more popular in Asia, especially Japan and Korea where people are open to anaerobic processes. After all, their staple food, rice, is grown in the low oxygen conditions of flooded paddies.
Bokashi composting efficiently handles all food wastes, even meats and dairy, in as little as four weeks. It is a two stage process. In stage one scraps are fermented or pickled. In stage two they are buried in a shallow hole. This link will take you to an in depth look at the pros and cons of bokashi composting.
Getting Started with Bokashi Composting - What You Need
- Bokashi - this is the fermented bran that you will layer between your food scrap deposits. North Americans can order bokashi from either BokashiCycle or Teraganix for a reasonable price. Other sellers are available in many other countries. We also have a page devoted to making your own bokashi in 10 or 50 pound lots. It's easy, a good group project and saves money.
- Buckets - ideally you want two buckets (5 gallon or 20 liter) with lids that seal well and a small drain that allows you to remove excess liquid as the food scraps ferment. You'll be removing the lids every day or so to add your scraps so you want to be able to get the lids off easily - a screw off lid is ideal. You can get away with a strong plastic bag at first if you can't get buckets.
- Plate- a dinner plate will likely be a good fit for your bucket. This is used to protect fermenting materials from the air as you fill your bucket.
A Few Do's and Don'ts for Bokashi Composting
- Do use enough bokashi bran. It's impossible to use too much bran in your system, but you can use too little. If you use too little your nose will let you know. Instead of the sour saurkraut smell of healthy bokashi the bucket will really stink.
- Don't add a vat of deep fryer fat. Bokashi composting can handle certain amounts of fats like fried food, cheese, and the salad dressing on your leftover salad but your deep fryer fat needs a different home.
- Don't add food that has green or black mold. These molds may overwhelm the good microbes in bokashi. If the food has white mold it can be added.
Stage One - Pickling Your Kitchen Scraps
- Place a small amount (a couple of spoonfuls) of bokashi into the bottom of the bucket. If you have no drainage, start with an inch or so of shredded newspaper, then add the bokashi.
- Add your first layer of food scraps. Cutting them into smaller bits, say an inch or so long, will help speed things along and keep air pockets from forming. You can add almost all food waste including cheese, meat, fish, salad with bits of dressing, eggs, eggshells, bones etc. Food with white mold can be added but leave food with green or black mold out.
- Sprinkle a small amount, a tablespoon or so onto the top of the layer. Press it down with a potato masher or something to eliminate air pockets.
- Put a plate or some other barrier on top of the scraps to keep air out and put the lid back on the bucket.
- Every other day or so drain off any excess liquid that has accumulated. You can pour this down the sink or toilet - it will improve your drains. You can also dilute it 100 to 1 and use the diluted liquid to water your plants.
- Repeat. Remove your plate, add scraps, sprinkle with bokashi, press, apply plate and seal until your bucket is full. Let the full bucket sit sealed and undisturbed for 1-2 weeks or more. Keep removing excess liquid as it sits if you have a drainage system in your pail.
Just as pickled onions are still the same size and shape as onions, your pickled food scraps preserve their looks. In the compost you are used to the material shrinks to half its size. Not so with bokashi composting. This means more carbon is sequestered, no greenhouse gases are produced and nutrients for your soil and plants are preserved.
Stage Two - Digging a Pit and Burying the Fermented Material
- Dig a hole or trench about 8-12 inches 20-30 cm deep. This hole should not touch plant roots. Bokashi is quite acidic. It needs a couple of weeks in soil to neutralize before plant roots are safe.
- Pour the fermented bokashi bucket into the hole and mix with the soil. Cover with 6-8 inches 15-20 cm of soil.
- Plant into the bokashi enriched soil 2-4 weeks after it has been buried.
This second stage can be a problem. What if you live in an apartment and don't have a garden you can dig a hole in to bury your bucket of pickled garbage. And what if the ground is frozen and you can't dig a pit. Or maybe you are a no dig gardener and just flat out don't believe in pits.
- Apartment dwellers can use a large planter to handle their waste. One person tested this using a 25 gallon planter so four parts soil to one part bokashi. He buried 8 buckets in the planter over the course of a year. I'm not sure whether he harvested the soil for other planter boxes after the 2 week burial period or not.
- Winter makes stage two tough. You can plan ahead and have a hole or trench ready but it is also perfectly fine to store ferment outside. It's okay if it freezes. Bury it in the spring.
- If you are a committed no dig gardener you can finish bokashi in a regular compost. It will actually improve your compost. Just use your compost as you normally do.
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