Updated: Sep 13
I have been practicing Bokashi Composting for almost a year, and I love it. I made my own bokashi bucket for a total of $17, and purchased a gallon of bokashi bran from Seed and Trellis for $20 (plus $10 shipping) which has lasted me just about 12 months.(That's $2.50/month for our family of four to have zero food waste go to the landfill) Getting started with Bokashi composting is not expensive (especially if you make your own bucket) and allows you to be a zero food waste household.
What is Bokashi?
What is Bokashi Composting? Bokashi is actually a fermentation method that allows you to "compost" all your food waste. This means you can add things to your bokashi that you might normally hesitate to put in a conventional compost pile such as meat, dairy, bones, cooked food, oily food, etc.
Things to keep in mind, my dogs love the smell of the fermented bokashi so they try to dig into a pile with a freshly added bokashi bucket. After 2-3 days, the dogs start to leave the pile alone. Because of the dogs' interest, I make sure to bury the bokashi extremely well.
I made a bokashi bin from a 5 gallon bucket from a home improvement store and gamma lid from Amazon. Gamma lids ensure a tight seal to eliminate any issue of smell. You can purchase a bokashi bucket/bin, but the DIY version is much more cost effective and works perfectly.
When I start a bucket, I sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the bokashi bran in the bottom. I then add 2-3 inch layers of kitchen scraps alternated with a teaspoon of bokashi bran. I bought a dollar store potato masher to press down each layer of food. This is important because unlike a regular compost pile that is aerobic meaning needs oxygen to thrive, bokashi is an anaerobic process which does not want oxygen. Another option for helping to compact the food and reduce oxygen is an Airscape lid, but this is not necessary. I have also used some cardboard to push the food down and keep air out.
To Drain or Not to Drain...
Some people have bokashi buckets with a form of drainage. I have one bucket with drainage and one without and I have not seen much difference. The bucket with drainage holes that drains into another 5 gallon bucket has quite a bit of liquid in the bottom bucket when I'm ready to add it to the compost pile, but the bucket without drainage works just fine; despite the contents being a bit soupy when I add them to the compost pile. I have found that an extra handful of bokashi bran at the bottom of the bucket with no holes, can help absorb extra liquid. Also, if I''m adding lots of wet material, like leftover salsa, fruit scraps, watermelon rind, I will check and see if I have any stale bread or crackers in the back of the cupboard to add to balance it out a bit.
When it's done
How do I know when my bucket is done? This is a bit subjective. I wait at least 2 weeks to check the bucket. I am looking for two things: some white fuzzy mold on top, and a smell that is like a very strong vinegary pickle. Usually, it takes 3 weeks for my buckets to be ready to add to the compost pile. The smell goes from rotten food to vinegar pickle.
One of the easiest ways I have found to incorporate the bokashi bucket into my compost pile is by using a wheelbarrow to mix the bokashi bucket with a bunch of the compost pile and then add the mixture in layers as I turn my compost pile.
No Compost PIle? No Problem
But what if you don't have a compost pile to which you can add your bokashi? A bokashi soil factory could be the answer for your situation. A soil factory is a large tub with holes drilled in the bottom. You add tired, depleted container soil such as from planters or grow bags to the bin, mix in some bokashi ferment, more soil to top off and place a lid on the tub. Wait 3-4 weeks and check to see if the ferment has broken down completely. You may see Black soldier fly larvae in the bin when you check it. They look like maggots, but they are good guys. Fantastic decomposers breaking down all the food scraps. If you do have BSL, just leave the tub with the lid off outside for a week or so and they will move on.
I hope this helps to encourage you to give bokashi composting a try. Together we can make a difference by reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfills. Food waste in landfills contributes to the production of methane, a greenhouse gas. Every little bit helps.
Necessary equipment: (note: I like to have a minimum of 2 bokashi buckets. One to always have to fill while another one is fermenting)
bucket-$5 from your local home improvement store.
gamma lid- $13. I purchased mine off Amazon