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Bokashi: An Alternative to Composting

Composting is the best way of reducing food waste and creating a reusable product that increases the sustainability of the food system. Composting comes in many different forms, there are the more traditional pile/bay systems, there are tumbler barrels, and vermicomposting. An alternative system is Bokashi.

 

Bokashi, unlike composting and worm bins, ferments the food waste with added Lactobacilli/ lactic acid bacteria rather than decomposing it. Bokashi is also different from other composting methods as it can process meat and dairy products, this makes it a little easier to process a fuller range of food scraps. The process of Bokashi is done inside an airtight bin so that the fermentation process can happen anaerobically (without oxygen).

 

At the Jewel of Encanto Farm, we have a Bokashi bin that we use in addition to our other composting methods. To start, we add about three to four inches of finely chopped food waste to the bin. We then add the bran starter (this is the bacteria inoculant that ferments the food) – if you buy a Bokashi bin system it will come with the bran starter, there are also methods of making the starter yourself. We currently use the starter that came with our bin but may use a DIY method once our supply runs out.  You then add a thin layer of the bran to the food scraps. You repeat this layering method until the bin is full; a full bin usually uses about a pound of the bran overall. If you are adding meat or dairy items, you should add more of the starter to your bin. Secure the lid tightly and open the spout every few days to release any Bokashi tea. One tablespoon of Bokashi tea should be diluted to a gallon of water before being used on plants. The Bokashi tea can then be used to fertilize indoor or outdoor garden plants.

 

After about three weeks, your Bokashi should be ready to be added to the garden, while you can use the tea indoors, you should only use the Bokashi outdoors. You can add your Bokashi to your compost pile if you have one or you can dig a trench at least eight inches deep and bury the Bokashi. After two weeks you can then plant in that area. Before you plant, dig up a small section of the trench to make sure the food scraps have decomposed completely. The Bokashi needs to fully decompose to help avoid root rot and burn to your plants. You can also add the Bokashi to a container and cover it in soil, wait two weeks and then plant in the container. Once the food scraps have decomposed the nutrients will be available for your plants to use!

 

So far, the Bokashi system we use at the farm is very easy and works well at a smaller scale. In the future, we may look to create our own system on a larger scale! To us, the most valuable part of the Bokashi system is the Bokashi tea, we use it regularly as a fertilizer for our vegetable and landscape plants. The Bokashi method is great for those who may not have the space for a compost pile, those who do not want to have to worry maintaining and turning a compost pile, someone looking for a faster alternative to composting, or for anyone who wants a way to compost food items like meat and dairy that can’t go in a regular compost or vermiculture system.

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