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Nov 8, 2012 11:23 PM

Sluggish compost bin? I found a solution. Bokashi is like speed composting!

I'm surprised there isn't a thread about bokashi composting here already. Is it not widely known about? Anyway, I can't remember how I came across the concept, but I discovered bokashi composting recently.

Basically it's an anaerobic process that pickles your food waste, which breaks down your compost faster than conventional methods.

What attracted me was that you could compost things that are normally not advisable in compost bins or vermicomposting (worms). This includes cooked foods, meat scraps, bread... pretty much anything except for liquids and large bones, even cooking oil, which I haven't felt brave enough to try just yet.

Some sources say bones and tea bags are no-nos, but other people say that smaller bones or smashed up bones, and tea bags that have been dried, are ok.

However, what is even more exciting is that I poured the contents of my bokashi bucket into my compost bin which has been pretty much useless for the past few years, and covered it with potting mix, and a few weeks later, EVERYTHING has been broken down - even the stuff that had been sitting there for months and months.

So I'm absolutely smitten with my bokashi bins. I hate wasting food, and this way at least the nutrients get recycled into great soil and fertilizer for my garden, and it's also great for the environment in many different ways - doesn't produce greenhouse gases like conventional composting, increases beneficial microbes in the soil, and helps earthworms flourish.

Apparently the pickling process kills seeds as well, so I'm hoping to try converting weeds into beautiful compost soon.

This is a pretty good introduction if you're interested in the process:

I know, I sound like an infomercial - I'm just really really happy that I found out about this method!

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  1. I hadn't heard of this, but it sounds interesting. Here is another link with more how-to-do-it info.

    3 Replies
    1. re: DonShirer

      Thanks for the link Don, I hadn't seen that one before. I'm hoping to make some of my own bokashi bran one of these days.

      Just emptied a full bucket into my compost bin this morning. I was a bit nervous about this lot because it had shrimp heads and shells in it but the smell was no worse than normal. I was quite surprised.

      1. re: ursy_ten

        That's good to know- I haven't had the nerve.

        1. re: EWSflash

          Haha - yeah, it was a bit suspenseful opening the bucket the day after the shells went in. I couldn't believe it. That bokashi is some powerful stuff!

    2. The only local rare fruit growers' assn meting i went to here had a presentation by a VP for TerraGanix, and he gave us some great info. I had never heard of it, either, and ordered some premade bokashi from Amazon that seems to have lost its mojo, so now i"m ready to buy some of Terraganix's starter and some bran and molasses and get going with the real stuff.

      5 Replies
      1. re: EWSflash

        I hope it works well for you. Are you going to use the airtight bokashi bucket approach, or use it as an accelerant for your regular compost bin?

        1. re: ursy_ten

          Both. My airtight bucket hasn't fermented as fst as I'd like, but i'm going to move the bin to a shady spot under a tree and just drain it into the dirt- collecting it and adding it to buckets of water got to be a chore, and my trees could use the nutrients

          1. re: EWSflash

            The juice is also supposed to be very good to pour straight into your drains, particularly if they are smelly. I've been doing that if I can't be bothered diluting it and watering something with the resulting solution.

            I've been leaving the airtight bucket longer than two weeks (I have a rotation of two), partly because I think the longer I leave it, the better, and partly because I can't be bothered keeping track, so I just let one ferment until the other is full, which always takes more than two weeks - then I empty the first and switch over.

            1. re: ursy_ten

              LOL ursy, I have to tell you that I don't empty the juice as often as I should, and the resulting odor, according to my beloved son, "smells like ass". So I won't be putting it down the drain any time soon.

              1. re: EWSflash

                Heh, my family would totally agree with your son :)

                Actually some days, so would I! The smell definitely is a variable factor.

      2. Hi ursy_ten,
        Now that you have been doing this for a while do you have any tips? I recently downsized to an apartment and don't have the space for a regular compost bin, so last weekend I bought one of these at the farmer's market. I just put my first bunch of veggie scraps in yesterday.
        I got mine from these guys:

        They also have a lot of info on their website, as well as selling the bins, starter, etc.

        7 Replies
        1. re: TroyTempest

          Excellent, Troy - I hope you will be happy with your new purchase.

          - drain the bokashi frequently! I find the first week or so, you won' t get too much to drain off, but once it gets going I drain it every day, otherwise it will smell.
          - don't put anything in there that's too wet. For example, I only put solid things in, no liquids. I know it says you can put cooking oil in, but I find that it drains out the bottom and I'm not too sure if it's good for your plants.

          What are you going to do with your bokashi once it's ready to bury? Do you have access to a garden space?

          1. re: ursy_ten

            Not really. I have some friends that i can give some to, and a few potted plants on the patio, but that's about it.
            Already, I'm finding that i probably need another bin. After one day it is about 1/3 full.

            1. re: TroyTempest

              Wow, you might need more than another bin! I let mine sit at least two weeks when it's full, before putting it in the compost heap. But having said that, things can compact a little as you fill it, particularly if you are putting in things like lettuce that will wilt and flatten out over a few days.

              1. re: ursy_ten

                So, mine is almost full now, but it doesn't look ready for the compost bin. In fact i still get a couple of ounces of tea out every day. I was planning on putting in another airtight container, but the fact that i get tea out daily makes me think that i should leave it in here until it is through making the tea.
                Also, what about stirring more bran in there to sppeed up things. Is this a good idea? I thought I should expose it to air as little as possible. Any help is appreciated. Right now you are pretty much my only resource on this. Thanks.

                1. re: TroyTempest

                  I agree, I wouldn't transfer to a non-draining container until the tea is no longer coming out.

                  I wouldn't worry about stirring more bran in there, if the bacteria is happy, it multiplies pretty rapidly - and you're right, you should expose it to air as little as possible. If you see a white mold, you're on the right track.

                  When others put it in an airtight container (after tea is no longer being produced), they put a layer of something absorbent that will break down, like newspaper at the bottom.

                  It should mature in the airtight container a couple of weeks. Some sources say 10 days, but most say two weeks. That's a minimum time - it's ok to leave it for longer.

                  How is it smelling? Is it a sweetish - sourish pickly smell?

                  1. re: ursy_ten

                    Yes the smell is as you describe, like sauerkraut.

                    1. re: TroyTempest

                      Terrific, then you're on the right track :)

        2. I am resurrecting this thread to ask a question about the "tea" that i get from my bokashi compost bin. When I bought my compost bin, the guy said that he got his tea out every morning, diluted it, and watered his garden. Now i don't have a garden. I just keep mine in a container and give it away when the container is full. Sometimes this is 2-3 months later. So, my question is, does the tea go bad or lose effectiveness over time? Do the microbes die after some time, etc.?

          2 Replies
          1. re: TroyTempest

            You can dump it down your drains to keep them clear if you don't have plants to dump it on. I don't think it keeps too long when it doesnt have anything to consume. You could keep it in a jar in the fridge, I do that with the whey I pour off my home made kefir to save it up for making a new batch of bokashi bran but I only keep it a week or so. I never drain my bucket, I line it with newspapers before I start and bury those newspapers in my outdoor compost when I bury the bokashi. It acts as a catalyst in the outdoor bins.

            1. re: weezieduzzit

              I have dumped some down the drain, but I feel like it is wasting it.