I just came across a short, but interesting article over on the Path to Freedom blog (known as “Little Homestead in the City”) called ‘LOOK MA, NO FERTILIZERS‘. Apparently they have gone a full year without applying NPK fertilizers, yet are on a mission to double the amount of food grown!
One thing I’m a wee bit confused about is their mention of adding the EM Bokashi mix directly to the soil. There is no mention of setting up a typical bucket with food scraps + bokashi and then adding all that to the soil. Hmmm…
Anyway, I highly recommend you check out the Little Homestead in the City blog, and the Path to Freedom website in general (I’ve added them to our list of ‘Eco-Friends’ in the sidebar). It is a phenomenal resource for anyone interested in urban agriculture and sustainable living.
In unrelated bokashi news…
As you may recall, I recently added a substantial amount of aged bokashi + food scraps to one of my indoor worm bins to see how the wigglers would react. The first worms to explore the new ‘food’ seemed to be juveniles, while the adults down below seemed somewhat slower to respond. I’ve read that worms born into a certain environment are far better adapted for that environment than the parents originally introduced from elsewhere, so this may explain why the young ones were more eager to move into the new material (since they’ve only ever known kitchen waste). I suspect the older worms were waiting until the materials became somewhat more aerobic. I had a look today and they (the adults) seem to be moving up into the material more. There also seems to be a lot more pot worms (aka ‘white worms’) in there now as well – likely due to the somewhat acidic conditions.
Once I open up my big outdoor worm bin (hopefully this week) I’m going to try adding a large quantity of bokashi food scraps to see what happens. I still have a lot of material that needs to find a home so I can start the bins over again. It may be awhile before I can add it directly to the garden.
Today I added some of my finished bokashi mix to my large indoor worm bin. What was interesting was that it was from the bucket that had the poorly fitting lid, and I must say the material didn’t smell nearly so pleasant as when I checked on it last week (after it had been brewing for several weeks). While it brewed I had the other full bucket (which does have a tightly fitting lid) sitting on top of it, helping to keep it sealed. Now that it’s been exposed to air it is starting to smell like a regular anaerobic mess of food waste!
Regardless, I know it will end up as a tasty buffet for my worms, although they may not be interested in moving into it right away – we shall see. I added a layer of shredded cardboard to the bin before adding the food waste to provide a bit of a buffer zone for the worms, in case they are not happy with the new material.
I opened up the other bokashi bucket for a whiff and it still smelled quite good, so I suspect the odours are in fact due to a changing of the ecosystem as a result of oxygen getting in.
Anyway, I’ll report back once I see what happens in the bin!
Hi Everyone! I am back from a extended (two and a half weeks) trip visiting with family, and am ready to kick things into over-drive here at Compost Guy!
There certainly isn’t a shortage of things to write about! I figured a long overdue ‘bokashi update’ might be as good a place to start as any. It has literally been a month since my last update and both my full buckets have now been sitting for at least 3 weeks (one of them for over a month).
I decided to open them up and have a look-see inside. I must admit to feeling a tad apprehensive – not quite sure what sort of anaerobic horror show I might find inside. As per usual however, I ended up pleasantly surprised. The material in both buckets still smells pleasant, although perhaps a little bit more ‘pickled’. I even dug down to the very bottom of one bucket, desperately trying to find at least something semi offensive – but alas, no luck there either! The odour from the bottom of the bin was certainly stronger, but nothing like some of the foul stenches I’ve produced by letting organic wastes go anaerobic (via improper aeration) in the past. One other thing that surprised me was the lack of liquid pooling in the bottom (may be more in the other bucket though). I think the false bottom I made with shredded cardboard must have helped to soak up excess moisture.
Of course, the real test will be when I actually empty out the contents of the buckets – something I’m hoping to do tomorrow!
As you can see in the photo above, there is also a decent amount of white fungal mycelium – something that seems to be ‘par for the course’, based on info I’ve been reading – including some comments here on the blog.
Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll definitely post another update in the very near future!
Just thought I would post a quick update today. My bucket is pretty well jammed to the top so I’ve added a healthy amount of bokashi over the top, sealed it back up and will now let it brew for a couple of weeks before testing it out as worm food. I’m going to be starting up a second bucket very soon as well.
So far I’ve been really impressed with this ‘composting’ method. Making the bokashi mix itself did take some time and effort, but the actual process of filling up my bucket has been unbelievably easy and convenient. Best of all I’ve been able to jam a LOT of material into my bucket without any resulting bad odours. If I was aging wastes in a bucket in preparation to feed my worms (something I often will do), I would definitely need to make sure I mixed in lots of absorbent cardboard in order to prevent bad smells from being generated. My worm composting itself never creates foul odours, but I can at times be limited in terms of the amount of waste I can add at one time (although not really an issue these days since I have multiple bins to feed) – this is never an issue with a bokashi bucket. As long as you have other buckets to use, and more dry bokashi mix you can add waste till the cows come home (and then you can add some manure while you’re at it – haha).
I had a funny experience with it yesterday. I walked into my work room (down in the basement) and could smell a strong smell of decaying waste. It wasn’t terrible, but it was quite obvious. I thought for sure that my bokashi bucket was starting to stink!
As it turned out, it was a bag of semi-aged food waste that I had put down there in preparation for adding it to the bucket! When I opened up the bucket to make sure, I was greeted by the usual sweet bokashi odour and nothing more.
I’m pretty sure bokashi is going to remain an important part of my overall household waste management plan. But we’ll see what the worms have to say about that before I jump to any conclusions!
Earlier this week I posted a video showing how I set up my new bokashi bucket. I just thought I would post a quick update today.
So far so good – I’ve been really happy with the system! It is very easy to use and there are still no bad odours when I open up the lid. I’ve seen some white fungal growth on the materials, but thats about it as far as visual indication of decomposition starting to occur.
This experiment has made me realize that we produce a LOT of food waste! I’ve already filled the bucket up past the half way mark, even though I’ve been pressing down the materials! (the photo to the right was taken prior to my latest addition of waste)
I’ve also decided to really put it to the test by adding materials I would never add to a worm bin or regular composter. Last night I made a special ‘surf n’ turf’ dinner for Valentines and thus ended up with some shrimp and steak scraps (along with some oily food wastes that also wouldn’t have been put in my worm bins). I thought it might be fun to try them out in the bokashi bucket since I’ve read that its ok to add meats etc. I just opened up the bucket a few minutes ago and the odour is still pleasant so thats really cool! There certainly wouldn’t be pleasant odours coming from my trash can today had I thrown them in there!
Anyway, thats all for now. I will certainly keep you updated on my progress with the bucket.
Apologies for the lack of post lately! I decided to make it up to you (or make it worse – haha) by making a video showing the setting up of my bokashi bucket. You may need to fiddle with it a bit (refresh etc) – I had a little trouble getting it to run smoothly for me when I first tried it out.
I discovered this weekend that our digital camera actually has decent video capabilities (not really illustrated by my grainy YouTube video however). That in itself is pretty exciting! I think there will be a lot more Compost Guy and Red Worm Composting videos coming your way (my previous Power Point videos took forever to make).
The bokashi I made last month dried out nicely for me so today seemed like as good a day as any to finally get started! Luckily I just happened to have a decent amount of food waste ready to be put somewhere (plenty of space in the worm bins, but the worms can wait – they’ll get their bokashi treat later! haha).
I’m planning to head back to the Bulk Barn this week to get more supplies for more bokashi making. Hopefully my dried material will last until the second batch is ready to go!
Anyway, thats all for now! I’m hoping to get more posts up this week than last (not a major challenge! haha).
Finally decided to get my rear in gear today with the bokashi experiment. It has been almost 1 month since I made my bokashi mix, so it’s definitely time to take the next step – drying out the bokashi!
I was quite worried about this stage to be totally honest. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as smell goes, nor was I sure where I might spread out this mixture so as not to offend my wife or attract the attention of my curious cats. I ended up finding a solution I’m very happy with. I just happened to have some decent sized pieces of press-board that were left behind by the previous owner of the house. I’ve been meaning to throw a bunch of this stuff out, but I’m really glad I’ve found a great use for it!
I put a garbage bag down on top of it then dumped out the contents of my ziploc bags. Next I spread the material out as evenly (and as far out) as possible to help with the drying process. I then moved some tubs from the top shelf of a free-standing shelving unit I have in my basement, and placed the tray on top. Aside from being out of the way, this location has the added advantage of being quite close to a ceiling air vent so that should really help speed up the drying time. I felt the material a few minutes ago (only a couple hours after spreading it out) and was amazed by how dry it is already, although I will certainly need to continue moving it around so that the lower materials are able to dry as well.
Now on to the smell…
Yeah, it is certainly strong! I won’t say it is an overly unpleasant odour – it is actually quite a sweet scent, but almost sickly sweet. I’ll certainly be able to tolerate it, and my fingers are crossed that my wife won’t mind either (she works out in the basement, so we shall see!).
I’m actually REALLY happy I made the quantity I did – it has worked out to be the perfect amount in every way and should still provide me with enough to last a decent amount of time (hopefully long enough for me to create another batch).
Anyway, thats all for now. Shouldn’t be too long now before I’m able to start creating a bokashi bucket!
A couple weeks ago I wrote about my first attempt at making bokashi (which went very smoothly). As mentioned, Neal Foley (aka the ‘PodChef’) says two weeks is enough time for it to sit, so I decided to check it out this afternoon.
I’ve opened up the bucket containing the (ziploc) bags of bokashi once already, just out of curiosity. Interestingly enough, when I did so the first time the bags were ballooned out – likely due to all the carbon dioxide being released by the aerobic microbes while feasting on the molasses and consuming all the remaining oxygen. Today the bags are back to normal, so perhaps the CO2 is being consumed via a particular anaerobic pathway? Hmmm…need to research this a little more.
I was pleasantly surprised by the odour that came out of the bucket when I opened it up (ok, something just occurred to me – if there is odour, gas must be escaping from the bags – HAHA!). It was quite pungent, but not offensive at all – certainly NOTHING like some of the other mixtures I’ve allowed to go anaerobic! I’m sure this is all thanks to the particular mix of ‘friendly microbes’ that have populated the material.
The colour of the bokashi mix is quite a bit darker than when I first added it, again presumably resulting from the activities of my new microbe friends.
I’m sure my mix would be totally fine for use now (especially given the small quantity), but I think I’m going to let it sit for one more week before drying it, just to make sure I have some high-grade bokashi for my experimentation.
I received an interesting e-mail query from a reader yesterday and it has inspired me to write a post comparing worm composting with bokashi. You may recall that I’ve previously written about ‘Hot Composting vs Vermicomposting‘, so it only makes sense that I throw bokashi into the mix, now that I’m becoming such a bokashi pro (ha ha)!
Ok, here are some bits and pieces taken from the emails I received from our reader, ‘JBB’ (second blurb is from another email they sent after I replied)
i read some of you articles, and i can’t find a comparison between
bokashi and vermicomposting.
I mean, i want to do home composting (without a garden), but i don’t
know which one to choose between bokashi and vermicomposting.
What makes me ask questions is the article about bokashi composting on
cityfarmer, where it say :
“that stuff does break down very fast in the soil, and that when I dig
in the area a month or two later it is absolutely WRITHING with earthworms.”
So maybe the two process are complementary, and bokashi is just the
start of a complete composting solution, where the worms are needed to
end the process …
This is an excellent question and I’m very glad JBB decided to e-mail me. I’m sure there are a lot of people trying to decide what waste management strategy (or variation thereof) will work best for them.
Let me start by saying that I am a firm believer in the notion that there is no one ‘be all, end all’ strategy out there – especially when we are talking about subjects relating to ‘sustainability’. The more I learn about all these various fascinating ways that ‘wastes’ are converted to resources (composting, vermicomposting, bokashi, aquaponics, recycling etc), the more I believe that they should all play a role, as part of a larger integrated whole.
Dr. John Todd’s various ‘Eco Machines‘ provide an excellent demonstration of this idea. I still remember vividly my first encounter with Dr. Todd’s work – almost certainly one of the turning points in my life in terms of the direction I wanted to head. It was a video I found online (sadly it is nowhere to be found now) that featured a system Dr. Todd set up in Burlington Vermont. It all started with brewery waste which was used to grow gourment Oyster mushrooms. The spent mushroom substrate was then fed to Red Worms, which were in turn used to feed Yellow Perch. Small (edible) shrimp helped to clean up fish waste, which was further assimilated by a wide assortment of plant (edible and ornamental). Multiple marketable ‘products’ were produced – all from a material that is considered a waste product!
It’s funny how the only ‘waste’ happening is the misuse of all these amazing resources (ie. dumping these materials in the landfill is a real ‘waste’, when they can be used for something else!).
Wow…ok, that ended up being WAY more of a tangent than I had intended!
Back to our regularly scheduled programming…
The point of my blathering is that I’ve learned that there doesn’t always need to be a ‘best’ strategy. In fact the best approach often involves combining multiple different approaches. I think this definitely applies in the case of composting/bokashi/vermicomposting, and I get the feeling JBB was onto the same idea by the time they sent me the second e-mail.
OK, with that brain dump out of the way, let’s now talk about each of these techniques in more detail, and see if we can’t at least come up with some sort of comparison for JBB’s benefit.
You can learn more about bokashi in my ‘Bokashi Basics‘ post, but let’s quickly review the process. Bokashi is a primarily anaerobic waste management technique that involves the use of a microbially-inoculated bran mixture (called bokashi), combined with a wide assortment of organic waste materials in some sort of sealed container (typically a bucket).
Here are some of the advantages, once again:
Very easy, once you have your mixture and bucket
Can be done on any scale (small to large)
Bokashi container takes up little room
Odour free (still waiting to prove that for myself – hehe)
Ability to process wastes not recommended for compost bins (meat, dairy etc)
Great slow-release fertilizer for your garden
Vermicomposting (a.k.a. ‘worm composting’) is the breakdown of organic wastes via the joint action of earthworms (those specialized for the task) and microorganisms. It involves the setting up of some sort of ‘worm bin’ containing bedding and of course worms. Food wastes are added and the worms process them as they decompose (feeding primarily upon the microbes that have colonized the materials).
Here again are some of the advantages of worm composting:
Relatively easy once you get the hang of it
Can be done on any scale
Produces an incredible compost material that has been repeatly shown (in scientific studies) to posses unique, growth promoting properties
Takes up very little room (as compared to a backyard compost bin)
Odour free (if done properly – this can be a big “IF”, especially important to remember if you are just starting out)
Worms can be used for other things if you so please (food for other animals, fishing bait, sold for composting etc)
Like bokashi, vermicomposting is quite affordable, especially if you can get your worms for free
Ok, so as you can see both these methods have similar advantages, and both represent fun indoor strategies for dealing with kitchen (and other) wastes. In my case, I am looking forward to combining these methods (although I’ll certainly test out the garden-burial-method this summer as well) since I’m quite sure the ‘finished’ bokashi bucket with contain materials that the worms will be more than happy to process further.
The one and only downside that I see for bokashi, not encountered with worm composting, is that you basically do need some place to put the stuff. So, if you don’t have your own garden or sizable worm bin it may not be as practical for you. A worm bin on the other hand can literally go anywhere. Sure, your worms will eventually outgrow their home and you’ll need to separate out the castings (compost) at some point, but this is all still feasible for an apartment dweller.
Anyway, that is my (somewhat biased) bottom-line, in terms of a comparison of these two processes. I’m sure our friendly bokashi experts will chime in with their thoughts (hope so, anyway!).
Thanks again for the question, JBB! I thought this was just going to be a short little post, but you never can tell where a topic will lead you!
Well, I finally got my rear in gear again with my bokashi experiment. I was hoping to get back to it sooner, but it was a little challenging to find time over the holidays. Anyway, I’m really glad I got it taken care of this weekend since I still have to wait an additional 2-4 weeks before I can start using my bokashi mix.
Truth be told, I wasn’t really looking forward to making my own mix. I thought it was going to end up being a huge hassle, and I wondered why on earth I hadn’t simply ordered ready-made bokashi. Now that it is all taken care of however, I’m very I glad I did! It was a lot of fun, and much easier than I expected.
I still need to track down a good source for large quantities of wheat bran. I got mine from the ‘Bulk Barn’ (I love that place!), which was certainly a better choice than the supermarket (which only sold small bags of it), but still a bit of a pain when looking for really large quantities (a.k.a a big ol’ sack of wheat bran). That being said, the amount I bought (approx. 2.5 lbs) ended up being the perfect amount to hone my bokashi-making skills with, and should provide me with enough mix to keeping going for a little while (once it is ready to use). I’m sure I’ll be able to track down someone who sells the stuff in much larger quantities, and if not I’ll simply head back to the Bulk Barn and buy a bunch of bags.
Being very unsure of how to make bokashi (the novice that I am), I made sure to refer to a couple of reliable sources, numerous times, before getting started.
The EM Bokashi page on the City Farmer website has an excellent set of instructions, and I also referred to Neal ‘The PodChef’ Foley’s instructional video. In the end I decided to follow Neal’s recommendations, since it involved adding proportionally more water/microbes/molasses. I figured adding more water would make it easier to mix everything up and ensure that the all the bran is thoroughly moistened.
The ratio Foley uses is 1:1:100 – microbes:molasses:water. In my case (using Foley’s water:bran ratio), I determined that I needed to add approx 750 ml of water, so I also added 7.5 ml each of microbes and molasses.
I started by boiling the water to ensure that it was sterile and because I wanted it warm anyway. Once it had cooled down to about 100 F or so I added the molasses and microbes and mixed it up very well.
The mixing part was a lot more fun that I had expected! I had envisioned some sort of sloppy gunk that would get all over me and be very hard to get off (kinda like making hamburgers using ground beef/bread crumbs/egg), but the material was very easy to work with, and even smelled nice – it felt like I was getting ready to bake some bran muffins!
Once the mix was evenly moistened I filled a couple large ziplock freezer bags with it, squeezed out as much air as I could, then sealed them up. I made sure to write the date on them and then sealed them inside a bucket (more as a safe storage spot than anything).
Now I simply wait. Neal Foley suggests 2 weeks as the time needed (although he does mention something along the lines of “the longer the better”), while the City Farmer page says 1 month. Given the small quantity I’m making, I think 2 to 3 weeks should be sufficient. If any of you bokashi ninjas out there have some thoughts to share, please do so. I’m still learning!
In the meantime, I’m going to track down a larger supply of wheat bran and make another batch!
Stay tuned – much more bokashi news on the way!