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Bokashi Basics

Future Home of the Compost Guy Bokashi Project

Here at CompostGuy.com I aim to explore organic waste management from as many angles as possible.

While I certainly have a passion for composting, I’m not so naive as to think it is the ‘be all, end all’. I definitely like to keep an open mind!

One topic I’ve been meaning to learn more about is Bokashi. It is a waste management strategy that appears to have a decent following of supporters, and one that seems to offer some perks for people interested in dealing with organic wastes on the home front.

Although it is often referred to as a type of ‘composting’, Bokashi actually relies upon fermentation (and therefore anaerobic) processes.

So how does it work?

In a nutshell, Bokashi involves the use of a bucket (or other sealed container) and a special microbial concoction – using what are known as “Effective Microorganisms”, or EM for short. This term is actually a trademarked brand name, not simply a description.

The “Effective Microorganisms” concept was developed in the 80’s by a Japanese scientist, Dr. Teruo Higa, and as stated on the EM America Website these beneficial microbes are “non-pathogenic microorganisms that secrete compounds that are useful, or beneficial, to other life.” If the list of EM uses on this website is any indication, it is pretty clear that these “Effective Microorganism” mixes are used for far more than just waste management!

All that being said, I should probably point out that these terms (“EM” and “Effective Microorganisms”) are widely used, and don’t always necessarily refer to specific products of Dr. Higa’s company (much to their chagrine, I would imagine!)

OK – getting back to Bokashi…

The EM mixture used for this process is combined with some sort of “carrier” material – typically bran mixed with molasses and water. You have the choice of purchasing this mix ready-made, or you can make it yourself (of course, you’ll still need to buy EM, bran, and molasses). Aside from the overall process itself, it is this mixture that is called Bokashi.

The actual process of filling a Bokashi bucket is quite straight-forward. You simply add your organic waste materials (according to some sources you can even add meats and dairy), then cover with a layer of Bokashi. Repeat this process until your bucket is full. At this point you let it sit undisturbed for a period of time ranging from several days up to a couple of weeks. As such, it is probably not a bad idea to have at least a couple Bokashi buckets going at one time.

Once this ‘sitting’ period is over, it is then suggested that you dig the materials directly into your garden, or simply add them to your outdoor compost bin.

Lets now look at some of the potential pros and cons of Bokashi:

PROS
1) It is VERY easy
2) Can be accomplished on a small scale (so well-suited for home owners)
3) It is apparently odour-free (or at least does not create nasty rotting smells)
4) Produces a material that will act as a ‘slow-release’ fertilizer in your garden
5) Potentially works well as a partner strategy with composting/vermicomposting
6) Some say it can be used to deal with ANY kitchen wastes (meat, dairy etc)
7) Admit it – just saying the word “Bokashi” is fun!!
😆

CONS
1) You’ll need to have a constant supply of Bokashi mix on-hand
2) Need at least a couple buckets (assuming no other waste management strategies used) for continual Bokashi action
3) ‘Finished’ material is not really finished – still needs to be aged in soil or compost bin before beneficial for plants.
4) Even though it can be done on a small-scale, the end product needs to be put somewhere (ie. potential winter limitations).

So there you have it!
I am definitely interested to give Bokashi a try. As you can see (in the picture above), I have already set aside a bucket for the task. I just need to get a hold of some Bokashi mix and I will be ‘good to go’! I will be interested to see not only how well Bokashi works on its own, but I’m also curious to see if the end material can be used as a ‘food’ for my worm bins.

Rest assured, there will be plenty more Bokashi posts coming your way!

In the meantime, be sure to check out these great Bokashi resources:
Great Day Bokashi
City Farmer Bokashi Page

[tags]bokashi, em, effective microorganisms, fermentation, anaerobic digestion, composting[/tags]

[ratings]

Written by Compost Guy on October 14th, 2007 with 7 comments.
Read more articles on Anaerobic Digestion and Bokashi.

7 comments

Read the comments left by other users below, or:

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Al
#1. December 11th, 2007, at 5:38 PM.

Bentley,

Thanks again for a link. You have summed up the issues pretty well.

I can offer two responses to your Cons:

1) You’ll need to have a constant supply of Bokashi mix on-hand

You don’t need much. A 1kg bag can last 2 – 4 months. I encourage people to use as little as necessary to make the process work. If it smells rotten or putrefying – add more bokashi.

4) Even though it can be done on a small-scale, the end product needs to be put somewhere (ie. potential winter limitations).

As it is in a sealed container there is no smell, so you can store the bucket inside until the world is ready [warm enough] to receive it. It is probably possible process it inside in a large enough container with some soil and material from your worm bins [including worms].

Worms absolutely love bokashi compost material and breed like crazy in my compost bins.

You wrote the post in October [I don’t know why I didn’t see this before now:-)]. Do you have your bokashi yet?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Compost Guy
#2. December 11th, 2007, at 6:07 PM.

Hi Al!
Thanks for stopping by, and for sharing your expertise!
I love the idea of creating something that the worms will go crazy for. I think the contents of a bokashi bucket would be a great addition to my outdoor worm composting bin (once an indoor bucket is finished). It will be nice and warm (from being inside) and will be chock full of tasty microbes.

I have not yet ordered any bokashi, but have actually been meaning to send you an email!
🙂

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Karen Dowell
#3. December 20th, 2007, at 12:28 PM.

Great article about bokashi Compostman. Mark Ecclestone has been using bokashi since May of this year has written several posts about his experiences, which may be useful for your readers. He also takes fab photos!

http://thegreenfingeredphotographer.blogspot.com/2007/11/bokashihelping-you-to-recycle-more.html

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Compost Guy
#4. December 20th, 2007, at 9:17 PM.

Hi Karen,
Thanks for stopping by, and for the heads-up about Mark’s blog! Will go check that out!

Bentley, the “Compostman” 😆 Christie

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Eric
#5. January 5th, 2008, at 6:03 AM.

Hi Bentley,

You sure did a nice job summing up the bokashi stuff. It seems like people are starting to understand it. I would like to add that “bokashi” can be made with just about any high carbon material. This can include any dried plant material (leaves, grass, etc.). You can also use bokashi as a mulch and soil conditioner. When making it, you can add in mineral powders, fish meal, etc to add some nutrients to the mix.

You might want to look into many of the application of EM1 itself. Getting the product into Canada is tricky though because of importation restrictions!

Regards,
Eric
Exec. VP EM America

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Compost Guy
#6. January 6th, 2008, at 6:10 PM.

Wow Eric! That is certainly a nice compliment coming from you.
Thanks also for the additional info!

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Riana Nolte
#7. October 14th, 2012, at 4:09 PM.

Hi
I live in South Africa and would like to add Bokashi to my present system (I have a small worm farm). How do I go about getting hold of the microbes?

Regards
Riana

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