Introduction to Bokashi composting

Food waste being dumped in landfill is such a terrible waste. In addition to cutting food waste generally, instead of throwing the scraps out, we should be composting it or adding it to a worm farm.

But having a compost heap or worm farm in the back yard isn’t for everybody. For example, if you live in particularly cold conditions, in an apartment or simply don’t have a back yard, what can you do?

Consider Bokashi composting

The Japanese word “Bokashi” I’ve seen translated a couple of ways – either “fermented, organic matter” or “shading off, gradation”.

Bokashi composting occurs in an airtight container, meaning that it can be carried out inside the home.

It’s a pretty simple process – a layer of kitchen scraps are placed into a speical bucket and then a carrier medium such as bran that’s been fortified with suitable micro-organisms is sprinkled on top. The micro-organisms are usually lactic acid bacteria, yeast and phototrophic bacteria.

The bucket is then sealed with an air-tight lid; so the composting process in this case is carried out in an anaerobic environment (meaning without oxygen).

The layering process is repeated until the bucket is full, after which, the contents are then allowed to ferment for a further 10 – 14 days. Given the fermentation time, 2 buckets are often used so there’s always a batch on the go.

The buckets used in Bokashi composting also have a tap to drain off the Bokashi juice. Like the leachate from a worm farm, this juice makes for a great liquid fertilizer.

Once fermentation is complete, the food retains some of its original appearance, but will have a pickled look and unlike the earthy smell of traditional compost, will have a cider vinegar type of odor.

The Bokashi compost can then be dug into garden beds or planter boxes. It will be acidic for around a week and will totally break down within a couple of weeks; after which planting can begin. The compost will provide the plants with nourishment while also enriching the soil with beneficial micro-organisms.

A wide range of scraps can be used in a Bokashi composting system, including fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy products (excluding milk), eggs, bread, coffee grinds and tea bags.

Bokashi composting has been rapidly gaining popularity in recent years, so it’s quite likely you’ll find Bokashi buckets and the EM (effective micro-organism) starter material at larger hardware stores and garden outlets. I noticed during my last visit to our local hardware store that they were now stocking full Bokashi composting kits. There’s certainly a lot of products also available online.