Vermicomposting vs Bokashi
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!
[tags]bokashi, worm composting, vermicomposting, vermiculture, worm bin, em, friendly microorganisms, microbes, composting, compost, composter, compost bin, eco machines, john todd, mushroom compost[/tags]