As hard as we try, we still don’t manage to avoid food scraps. On top of that, I have two picky men in the house who are not a big fan of me cooking all the plant parts of the vegetables into the food. That’s why we make bokashi from kitchen scraps. For this we bought Bokashi buckets*.
We started a year ago with a very conventional composter. We filled it, following all the important rules. The result was that the rotting process took a long time. As a precaution, we got a second composter, because the first one was already quite full. However, we have not built it up until today. Thanks to a dear neighbor I got to know Bokashi for the garden. We started our garden with the fermented compost.
Since then, no kitchen waste goes into the composter. Instead, it is fermented and immediately incorporated into the garden. Our garden soil is teeming with earthworms, flowers and vegetable plants.
Content Bokashi from kitchen waste
The word Bokashi comes from Japanese and means fermented compost. In fact, plant and food waste ferment in a simple way with the help of Bokashi buckets: Leftover fruit vegetables, bread or cooked food is thrown into the Bokashi bucket. With the supplied ladle you press the leftovers down and spray the whole thing with EMa*. Then close the lid tightly and put the bucket in the place of your choice.
You can cut the leftovers into very small pieces. Or you can be lazy like me and just throw them into the Bokashi bucket. The fermentation process makes the Bokashi compost very soft and it will rot within a few weeks. After only 2 weeks you will have Bokashi made from kitchen scraps.
It is important that the buckets close airtight, because only then anaerobic fermentation can take place. Spraying with EMa is also essential, because the effective microorganisms cause fermentation. Without this, unfortunately, nothing happens with the compost.
Bokashi DIY: Where to put the buckets?
For us, a 16 liter bucket fills up within 1 to 2 weeks. I put the buckets on the south side of our house because that’s where our front door is and it’s the easiest place to put the compost. Even at 35° the bucket doesn’t stink, which is a good sign that the lid is closing well. Now in the fall, I’m considering putting the buckets in our mechanical room, since the Effective Microorganisms go to sleep when it gets below 10°. In the meantime I did that and you can read my experiences with the Bokashi buckets here.
Even in the kitchen, the buckets have good space with us. The organic waste garbage can is gone and I fill directly into the Bokashi bucket. Here again the note: Our Bokashi buckets do not stink! And I am very sensitive to smells!
Is your Bokashi ready?
Usually, bokashi made from kitchen scraps is ready 2 weeks after the last scraps have been added. It is still in the same condition as when it was filled. Probably a layer of mold has formed, but this is not bad at all. It smells sour and slightly rotten. If it smells really bad, in all likelihood the wrong bacteria have multiplied. This happens when the bucket is not cleaned after use.
In this article you can read about what all may be in the Bokashi bucket for fermentation.
Use of the Bokashi in the garden
Bokashi made from kitchen waste should not be simply spread on plants – not like raw compost – because it is much too acidic and would only damage young roots. Instead, bury it 30 inches away from the plants and cover it back up with the shoveled out soil. After about a day, you won’t smell the bokashi from kitchen scraps in the soil.
Trees can also be fertilized with bokashi: The roots of a tree extend to the crown area. Along the border of the crown you can bury the bokashi (blue circle). It is recommended to dig a hole in three places with a spade, fill a handful of bokashi into it and put the turf back on it and press it down.
You can also prepare beds with the help of bokashi from kitchen waste: At least 2 weeks before planting, spread the bokashi in the bed and cover it with a thin layer of soil. After 2 weeks, the bokashi will turn into nutrient-rich compost. You can now plant the young plants without hesitation.
I fill planters, flower pots in the lower area to 1/3 with garden soil, followed by 1/3 Bokashi and the top layer is again 1/3 garden soil. After only 2 weeks, the tub is also ready for planting and filled with wonderful, nutrient-rich soil. This is what I did with my three tubs for the tomatoes. The first tub already has the little stalks of carrots growing. If you want to know what else I planted in that pot, you can read my article on seeding plans.
Small update: I didn’t even fertilize the tomatoes. They are still growing and producing fruit now at the end of September. Not only have I avoided waste, my food scraps have given me a bountiful tomato harvest.
Use of the valuable Bokashi juice
When fermenting the plant and food residues, the so-called Bokashi juice is produced, which can be let out of the tap in the Bokashi buckets. In the supplied cup you can collect the juice. With the help of the small measuring cup you can dose the juice. The juice should be emptied from the buckets after a week at the latest, otherwise the plant residues will become too wet. Also, the juice should be consumed immediately, because flies and wasps are magically attracted to it. I have already had this experience. In the refrigerator it will keep for about a week.
Watering with the Bokashi juice
To 10 liters of water I mix 50 ml of Bokashi juice and regularly water all my herbs, vegetable plants, fruit bushes, trees and also our lawn with it. This juice is the most natural fertilizer that the market (not) has to offer and provides all plants with very many natural vitamins. I asked and there is no restriction on how often you can use the Bokashi juice. Over-fertilization is completely out of the question.
Of course, when it rains a lot outside, I do not water my plants, but pour the juice into the toilet. It cleans the pipes very well and the microorganisms prevent bad odors.
Expel pests: My Bokashi experiment
For all those who have to fight with aphids from time to time: In the same mixture (50 ml juice to 10 liters of water), you can spray the diluted juice directly on the plants, leaves and flowers. The acid does not like the animals at all and the plant parts are strengthened and supplied with vitamins at the same time.
I tried this and it really works: after 2 weeks all aphids were gone from our apple tree. The recommendation of the dealer I trust is to spray every 2 days in case of aphid infestation. As a preventive measure, I spray my plants every 2 weeks.
Once a month I brush the branches and trunks with the pure sap. This strengthens the plant and is also not too acidic as long as it is done on woody parts of the plant. For young shoots, be sure to use the diluted dosage.
Bokashi in winter
In winter it is not so easy to use bokashi from kitchen waste directly, because the earthworms retreat into the soil when it freezes and decomposition does not take place. You can put the bokashi in planters and place them upside down on the ground. Alternatively, you can cover it with a large tarp so that animals cannot eat the plant debris. It is also possible to throw the bokashi into the composter, where it will decompose very quickly with the shrub trimmings once it stops freezing outside.
After two weeks in the cool autumn, the vegetables are far from transformed, but they already smell pleasantly of earth and are teeming with small insects. This is a very good sign, because under the pot and the thin layer of soil is only gravel, which I want to upgrade. The goal next year is to plant various shrubs in these spots.
Instructions Bokashi from kitchen waste on the balcony
You can also use Bokashi from kitchen waste on the balcony, e.g. in plant tubs: Plant tubs are filled 1/3 with garden soil in the lower area, 1/3 Bokashi on top and the top layer again with 1/3 garden soil. After just 2 weeks, the tub is ready for planting and filled with wonderful, nutrient-rich soil.
In a large container, compost can also be made here, but it is important to put compost worms in it, or already finished compost soil. Here, however, I would like to issue a warning: Exclusively Bokashi is too acidic for earthworms and they would die from it just like young plants. Therefore, it is important to put the worms in garden soil and only then spread the Bokashi.
Alternatively, you can give or sell your Bokashi to friends; it is very valuable for gardeners. When dry, 5 kg of Bokashi costs just under 40 euros.
Note on Effective Microorganisms
The manufacturer of Effective Microorganisms recommends sprinkling RoPro litter or dry Bokashi on top of the layer of plant debris, in addition to the EMa, to create a soil whose nutrients cannot be washed out by rain. I haven’t tried this yet, as I prefer to buy fewer additives. Should you not want to become dependent on Effective Microorganisms, just use Bokashi juice to sprinkle on the food scraps in the Bokashi bucket.
Bokashi juice doesn’t have a long shelf life, but you can easily freeze it in portions and thaw it as needed. Cold does not harm microorganisms. They only fall asleep and come back to life at 10°C and above. Effective microorganisms – like almost all living organisms – should not reach temperatures above 42°C. After that, they can no longer be used. After that, they can no longer be used.