If you are concerned about the environment but live in a city, have a small growing space or yard, or just don’t feel like messing with large, outdoor compost bins, then bokashi composting might be the right method for you!
Bokashi is a method of kitchen composting developed in Japan where the typical home is the size of a US bedroom and the typical kitchen could fit inside my shoe. Composting is facilitated by anaerobic microorganisms and takes place in a covered bucket under the sink.
I have been using this method off and on for several years. It cuts the amount of rubbish I need to cart to the street nearly in half, and eliminates nasty garbage odors.
I first learned about bokashi from a good friend who owns a landscaping business. It is a simple process which can be either moderately or ridiculously inexpensive depending on your equipment. I opted for the moderately inexpensive route because I am lazy and would rather spend time writing than messing around with garbage.
First, you need to gather your equipment. You can purchase a specialized bokashi bucket on the innertubes, or you can make one using newspaper and an airtight covered bucket. I chose to purchase mine because I wanted a spigot to drain off the extremely aromatic juice which can be mixed with water and used as plant food (the plants love it!), or poured down the drain to dissolve clogs, clean up a septic system, etc. I have Chinese Elm trees in my yard so, if I don’t want to move the plumbers in on a permanent basis, I need to pour lime down my toilet twice a month. I would rather dump environmentally friendly bokashi juice instead.
Multiple sites are available should you choose to purchase. The price for a bucket usually ranges from $55 to $75. I keep two buckets. The kitchen composting phase of the process takes ten days. I am able to continuously compost by maintaining two buckets. They can be purchased from emerald earth or Gaiam to name a few.
The second item you will need is bokashi mix. Unless you want to whip up and store a fifty pound batch, you should buy your mix. Purchased mix is generally made from rice bran, blackstrap molasses, em (effective microorganisms), and water. An order of mix may vary in size and will cost between $10 and $20. You want to be generous in your use of the mix as it will produce better compost. Written instructions are included below the linked video.
1) If you have puchased a bucket, put the seive into the bottom of the bucket to allow the juice to drain. Sprinkle about two inches of bokashi mix into the bottom, then place a few inches of food scraps over the mix. Bokashi works better if you chop the scraps into smaller pieces. You can include paper, bones, and meat scraps. As long as it is organic, it can be composted. Some companies even ship their mix in compostable plastic containers. (Tip: I dug a dog poop pit in my yard. I throw bokashi mix over the poop periodically. I noticed that there is an awful lot of unusually lush grass growing near that pit!)
2) Continue doing this until your bucket is full. It takes me about a week to ten days to fill a bucket. I feed four people (one of whom is an adolescent boy and one of whom runs hundred mile ultra-marathons), two large dogs and three cats, so we produce lots of waste! If you are a 70 year old woman living alone, it may take longer to fill your bucket. Your bucket should ferment at least ten days. Drain the juice every day or two and use it around the house. Plants love it but be CAREFUL to dilute it with water. I have accidentally spilled it on my kitchen floor with wonderful results. It cleans quite well although it smells a bit like vomit. Also, my dogs love to eat it. It is important to seal the bucket tightly as the bacteria must remain anaerobic. You can dump a bucketful into your outdoor compost heap to speed up the process of composting yard waste. Worms like it as much as dogs.
3) In ten days, dig a hole in your backyard and bury the mix for several days. Be careful to make sure it is covered by at least eight inches of dirt if you have dogs and don’t want them to dig it up and chow down. Bury it at least a foot from the roots of your plants or it will burn them. In two to four weeks, you can dig it up. you will find dark, rich compost.
Next week, I will discuss how to complete phase two if you live in a small apartment and can’t bury your compost.