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Bokashi Composting  RSS feed

 
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We are finally rid of chickens and I am far too lazy to make compost piles or worm bins work well enough in our climate to efficiently absorb all of our houses kitchen waste. So I am embarking on another experiment to see if I can turn this steady waste stream into an asset. I have two 10 gallon, food grade, plastic buckets with rubber gaskets and clamping lids that get really airtight. The plan is to layer the bottom of each with several inches of bokashi (a fermented bran if I remember correctly, several garden stores near me make it and I bought 5 gallons for 40+$) and then empty our ~1 gallon sink side compost pail into the bucket every few days when it is full. I then cover the fresh waste (which includes anything that the dogs don't get, coffee grounds, veggie bits raw and coooked, congealed fats, yogurt bits, etc) with a handfull-ish more of bokashi. When one bucket is full I will tuck it away in the corner of the kitchen and fill the other. If they fill too fast for the process to happen I will probably just dump the first one into the compost pile or possibly start filling a 55 gallon barrell. My hope is that the bokashi organisms will devour the food waste fast enough and I will be able to pull finished bokashi out of the first when the second is full. Here's a picture of the first bucket after having the last pail of kitchen scraps and last handfull of bokashi added.

Has anyone else experimented with this technique? Can you use the finished bokashi to eat another tub of scraps?
full-bokashi-bucket.jpg
[Thumbnail for full-bokashi-bucket.jpg]
you can even see some of the white mold moving in along the edges
 
stephen lowe
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So I finally filled both of the 10 gallon buckets with kitchen scraps, apparently it takes about a month to fill one. So I opened up the first one so that I could empty it and see where it had gotten to. Basically it was far from completely composted, but it had broken down a lot. The smell was a bit on the sickly side of sweet, but by no means putrid or disgusting. I ended up opting to dump the contents into a 45 gallon barrel where I will collect buckets for a few months and see if the bokashi continues to 'eat' the scraps or if I am just delaying actually composting this stuff. My main observation was that I think I need to make some sort of drainage because it seems like too much liquid is building up so that the bottom of the barrels is not doing well and probably contributing any bad smells.
bokashi-bucket-after-one-month.jpg
[Thumbnail for bokashi-bucket-after-one-month.jpg]
Just opened and you can see the heavy colonization (white stuff) on top
settled-bokashi.jpg
[Thumbnail for settled-bokashi.jpg]
With the angle view you can see how much the stuff settled, it was to the brim when it was closed up
 
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My understanding of this type of composting (which I have used to spectacular result) is that you don't need to see it looking broken down; after two weeks of composting, you can bury the compost into your beds to amend the soil. it won't look like ready soil, but it is fermented to a degree that it operates very differently from regular compost. I have seen my soil go from hard-packed clay to fluffy soil growing giant potatoes with one application of this method. I dig the bokashi into the soil two weeks before planting. I have used this for perennial and annual beds, and also for sandy and clay beds. In both cases, the soil receives an incredible health benefit. the reason you want to wait two weeks before planting (after digging in the compost) is that there is come acidifying effect, but it resolves itself.

It may be that none of this sounds correct to the scientists and technicians on this board, but this is what I was told by my bokashi-dealer and it has worked amazingly well for me.

For the moisture problem: yes, I use a two-layer bucket system with holes punched into the top bucket, and a drainage spigot- and I feed my beds with the compost liquid drained off.
 
Hilde Alden
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You're looking for a sour-pungent smell, maybe slightly alcoholic but never sceptic. To me, it always smells somewhat like kimchi. My understanding is that for optimal use, you use the compost after only two weeks fermenting in the bucket. I usually store my foodscraps, then assemble garden waste, etc, enough to fill a bucket, layer it with the bokashi and set the bucket to ferment all in one go, then take it out and bury it in my garden in exactly two weeks.
 
stephen lowe
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ah thanks for the tips both of you. I didn't mention this in the first post but my entire knowledge base for this experiment came from reading the back of a book in the grocery store so I am sure I have a lot to learn. The smell was not quite sour-pungent, maybe more sweet-pungent, possibly with that alcoholic tint. Certainly far from septic. Do you guys do anything to drain off excess liquid? That is the main issue I observed after opening my first bucket, it was surprisingly wet. Also, do you think it would benefit anything to add this to my very slow continual compost pile? It is basically green waste from our yard and some neighbors yards that just keeps getting layered with moldy straw/hay that I try to get in bulk from local farmers. I usually just let it build up and it composts down and then once a year or so I spread it around the garden. Or do you think just putting it straight into the soil is the way to go?
Also, do you think I am just wasting time/making a mess by putting into a larger container to sit for longer? thanks for the insights.
 
gardener
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Hilde Alden wrote:My understanding of this type of composting (which I have used to spectacular result) is that you don't need to see it looking broken down; after two weeks of composting, you can bury the compost into your beds to amend the soil. it won't look like ready soil, but it is fermented to a degree that it operates very differently from regular compost. I have seen my soil go from hard-packed clay to fluffy soil growing giant potatoes with one application of this method. I dig the bokashi into the soil two weeks before planting. I have used this for perennial and annual beds, and also for sandy and clay beds. In both cases, the soil receives an incredible health benefit. the reason you want to wait two weeks before planting (after digging in the compost) is that there is come acidifying effect, but it resolves itself.

It may be that none of this sounds correct to the scientists and technicians on this board, but this is what I was told by my bokashi-dealer and it has worked amazingly well for me.

For the moisture problem: yes, I use a two-layer bucket system with holes punched into the top bucket, and a drainage spigot- and I feed my beds with the compost liquid drained off.



That sounds exactly right Hilde, I like the two layer bucket system myself (same as a worm bin setup). Yes indeed, the liquid is just as potent as the compost material.
If you also have a "standard" compost heap, you can use some of the liquid as a booster infusion of microbes to the compost heap or add some to a brewing compost tea and that too will be boosted in organism counts.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You can do a twice fermented system Stephen, no worries there.
When doing a double ferment you might want to make some addition in the second fermenter setup.
For excess liquid (it comes from the vegetable and other plant materials giving up their water) just set up like Hilde said, double bucket system.

Redhawk
 
stephen lowe
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Thank you guys for the input. I will probably go with the double ferment for now, just for my own amusement and experience.
 
pollinator
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Very interesting method. Thank you for sharing; perfect timing for me too as I have been looking to add another small-scale system for my scraps.
After reading this thread & doing a bit of searching, I found a couple of things that you all may find interesting & I'd love to hear what you think about them:
The Compostess, Rebecca Louie, teaches that one can easily make large quantities of their own Bokashi "starter" mix on the cheap with EM-1, wheat bran, & molasses. Check out her recipe at: https://thecompostess.com/2015/04/22/how-to-make-bokashi/
Also, Robert Pavlis has an interesting spin he calls The Instant Soil Factory:
"Take your Bokashi ferment and homogenize it in a blender to make a smoothy out of it. Then pour it into the soil. Mix it up and you are done. Instant fortified soil with no waiting period.
The ferment homogenizes very easily in the blender since the food scraps are already mushy and contain a lot of water.
You can also replace the soil with coir and produce a product free of insects and plant diseases. The coir is quite dry and easily absorbs all of the liquid in the ferment. The result is a fairly dry, soil-less mix that has no odor. The ferment will continue to decompose over time and help feed plants. I call this new method the Instant Soil Factory." - https://www.gardenmyths.com/soil-factory-using-bokashi-ferment/
Robert also advocates referring to the Bokashi method as Bokashi fermenting, which -according to him- is a more accurate description of the process than "composting".
BOKASHI-DIY_starter-EM-1-_wheat_bran-_molasses-_TheCompostess.com.jpg
[Thumbnail for BOKASHI-DIY_starter-EM-1-_wheat_bran-_molasses-_TheCompostess.com.jpg]
Bokashi DIY starter: EM-1, wheat bran, molasses - TheCompostess.com
 
Hilde Alden
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Yes, I completely agree, it is fermenting, not composting!

Also, I dont' usually use bokashi, I use straight expanded EM in the sprayer, and I stretch my EM by expanding it on itself for several months. I spray a heavy dose of EM every couple of inches of packed food. This works very well, in terms of how the food scraps are fermented, though is less elegant than bokashi.
 
Loxley Clovis
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Hilde Alden wrote:Also, I dont' usually use bokashi, I use straight expanded EM in the sprayer, and I stretch my EM by expanding it on itself for several months. I spray a heavy dose of EM every couple of inches of packed food. This works very well, in terms of how the food scraps are fermented, though is less elegant than bokashi.


Cool! Mind sharing your recipe?
 
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As I understand it, bokashi is basically lacto-fermentation. Since I'm on a 0 budget I decided to experiment with it using the lacto-fermentation process rather than buying expensive additives and whatnot. So I use old dry milk and layer it with the stuff in the bucket.

It worked well. We don't create enough food waste to do this every two weeks (it takes more like a month or two during the winter) so I use a pile of ice-cream buckets under the kitchen counter and just rotate them. When one fills it goes on the bottom of the pile and the top one goes out in the garden.

I've let it ferment for months with no problems. I see no reason why a larger bucket wouldn't work just as well since it's primarily an anaerobic process.
 
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Lauren Ritz wrote:As I understand it, bokashi is basically lacto-fermentation. Since I'm on a 0 budget I decided to experiment with it using the lacto-fermentation process rather than buying expensive additives and whatnot. So I use old dry milk and layer it with the stuff in the bucket.


That is great to hear!!! I have been interested but the starters/etc are not available here. Even with the rabbits eating my kitchen scraps I have a LOT of scraps, maybe this will be the year I get it sorted.
 
pollinator
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What I would love to know is how the anaerobic/aerobic thing is worked out.

The fermentation is all anaerobic, but when making compost extracts, we often oxygenate because the organisms we wish to encourage thrive on oxygen. How does this work out?

To be clear, I am looking for the mechanism, not doubting the efficacy of bokashi. Is it that the anaerobic organisms die off after being removed from the anaerobic environment of the bokashi bin, leaving food for the aerobic organisms in the soil to eat?

Lastly, is there a benefit, when making oxygenated compost extracts, to adding excess liquid from the fermenter to the barrel, or to adding fermented scraps?

-CK
 
Bryant RedHawk
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During any fermentation of vegetative matter that has not been cooked there will be a number of different microorganisms thriving, including ciliates, the one type of microorganism we don't want in our soil since they tend to be voracious good bacteria and fungi consumers.
Many who tout the Bokashi method will say that what they use in the soil is anaerobic but they have not realized that the act of pouring the Bokashi onto the soil is an act of aeration, the O2 contacts the Bokashi and is adsorbed by the organisms and decayed organic matter.

Lacto bacillus is so easy to acquire (it is in everything dairy) that the only reason to make a purchase is probably lack of knowledge or expediency.

Adding fermented Bokashi to soil will force oxygenation by it being adsorbed on contact, the problem I have with direct addition is that this leaves all the undesirable organisms alive for the moment, this can create a loss of good organisms prior to the undesirables dying off from the O2 environment.

Bokashi liquid is great stuff, you can use it several different ways, foliar spray, soil spray or simply use it in place of watering, it does quite well at adding organisms to a working compost heap too.

Most of the ciliates do die in the presence of oxygen, and the good bacteria, amoeba, nematodes and others along with fungi thrive only in the presence of oxygen.
This is good for you to know if you plan on using Bokaski or KNF type methods, oxygen is needed by plant roots and all the supporting microorganisms, there isn't any situation where plants grow in an absence of oxygen.
Even in stagnant, oxygen depleted swamp the plants that grow there have adjusted to taking more O2 from the air, that is the function of Cypress Knees, they suck up O2 and provide it to the roots. Cypress even harbors the microorganisms it needs in the network of knees, providing them with the necessary O2.

Redhawk
 
stephen lowe
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I recently took my big barrel of bokashi fermented kitchen scraps and mixed it into my compost pile. It heated up extremely quickly and when I turned it again about 10 days later there was an amazing amount of visible colonization by fungi throughout the middle layer of the pile. The center had literally burned some things to ash, then there was a sphere that was thick with hyphae, and then the outer layer (the most done compost from the center of the original pile) was full of worms and bugs. Even a bunch of redwood saw dust that I added is breaking down quickly.
 
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