Are you looking for a way to reuse food waste and enrich your soil? Well, bokashi composting could be the solution you’ve been looking for!
This composting method is ideal for those with limited space, including those looking at gardening in an apartment. In this article, I’ll be outlining 6 key steps on how to master bokashi composting so you can get started!
What is Bokashi Composting?
The method of Bokashi composting originated in Japan and means “fermented organic matter’. It essentially ‘pickles’ food waste to create a pre-compost which can be dug into the garden where it breaks down into nutrient-rich soil.
The key difference between bokashi composting and making traditional compost at home, is that bokashi is a pre-compost, meaning you won't be left with your traditional black compost at the end of four weeks. This happens a couple of weeks after the bokashi is dug into the soil.
Bokashi is also an anaerobic type of composting (meaning “without air”) vs traditional composting methods which are usually aerobic.
After burying the bokashi in your garden, it’s important not to plant anything in this area for a couple of weeks, as the acidic nature of the bokashi could burn the roots of plants.
The process of bokashi composting uses beneficial effective microbes in the form of ‘bokashi bran’ which is sprinkled over food waste to ferment the food.
The best thing about bokashi composting is that almost ANYTHING can be added to a bokashi bin! Chicken bones, kids leftover dinner, meat, dairy…it is a fantastic way to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfill.
By following the six key steps outlined below, you, too, can master the art of bokashi composting and create a regular supply of rich fertilizer for your garden.
Step 1: Gather the Necessary Materials
The first step to start your bokashi composting journey is to gather all the necessary materials.
You’ll need to buy a bokashi bin which is specifically designed for this type of composting. These bins are available online or at your local garden center and come in various sizes to suit your needs.
There are two main bokashi bin options - spigot or bucket. Both have their pros and cons which you can learn more about in my bokashi bin review.
I would recommend buying two bokashi bins so that while one is full and finishing the fermentation process, you can continue using the other.
Next, you require bokashi bran, a mix of bran and beneficial microorganisms that work to ferment the food waste in your bokashi bin. While you can make bokashi bran at home, it is easier to purchase it.
Most bokashi bin sets include a bag of bokashi bran to get your started. Check the ingredients when buying bokashi bran, as some may contain additional chemicals or additives.
Once you have all these necessary items, you can begin your bokashi composting journey and start turning your food waste into nutrient-rich soil!
Step 2: Choose a Spot for Your Bokashi Bin
Choosing the right spot for your bokashi bin is important for successful bokashi composting.
Bokashi is a popular indoor composting option. If you are composting indoors, choosing a well-ventilated spot that is easily accessible is ideal, as you’re likely to be adding to the bin daily.
Under a kitchen sink, in the laundry or scullery are a few good options. An internal garage is also a great spot.
If you experience extreme temperatures I would not recommend keeping your bokashi bin outside. However, if you live in a temperate climate, choosing a spot away from direct sunlight and sheltered from the rain would be best.
An area under a tree or covered porch are both good options. Such locations will help regulate the bin’s temperature - vital for composting.
It is also important to consider the size of your bokashi bin when considering a spot. Ensure the container fits comfortably in the selected location and is not too close to other objects or structures that may obstruct access or cause damage.
Step 3: Add the Bokashi Bran and Food Waste
Now it’s time to start using your bokashi bin!
I mentioned earlier that one of the most significant advantages of bokashi composting is that it's possible to compost almost ALL food waste! This includes meat, chicken bones, bread, compostable plastic, yogurt, and fruit and vegetable peels.
To maintain a dry environment, the only things to avoid are rotting food and liquids such as oil and fat. It's a good idea to accumulate scraps in a bowl or ice cream container during the day, so you only need to open the bin once.
The most important rule with bokashi composting is to limit the amount of oxygen that gets into the bin. This is because bokashi is an anaerobic composting technique meaning microbes work optimally "without air.”
Pressing the food scraps down with a potato masher or leaving a plate on top inside the bin is a great way to press out pockets of air trapped within the scraps.
1. Start with Bokashi Bran
Before you add any scraps to your bokashi bin, start by adding approximately half a cup of bran to cover the base of the bin.
2. Add Food Scraps & Bokashi Bran
Add food waste to the bin, pressing the food down with a potato masher or plate (that can be kept inside the bokashi bin) to press out any air pockets.
Once a day or after a significant addition, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of bokashi bran on top of the food. Bokashi bran adds beneficial microbes to the food waste, speeding up the composting process.
It’s not essential, but when adding food waste to your bokashi bin, it can help to chop larger items into smaller pieces.
3. Ensure Lid is Sealed Tightly
As you continue layering the bin with food waste and bokashi bran, it’s essential to ensure the container is tightly sealed. Doing this will prevent air from entering the bokashi bin, slowing down the fermentation process.
Step 4: Collect the Bokashi Tea
The next step involves collecting the nutrient-rich liquid known as ‘bokashi tea’. This liquid is a valuable byproduct of the bokashi composting process that can be used as a fertilizer to nourish plants or boost your compost pile.
Bokashi tea is packed with beneficial microorganisms, nutrients, and enzymes to help your plants grow strong and healthy. You can dilute bokashi tea and use it as a fertilizer on houseplants, vegetables, flowers, and even for organic lawn care.
In addition to being an excellent fertilizer, bokashi tea can be added to the compost pile to help speed up the decomposition process and enrich the compost.
Draining Bokashi Tea
To collect the bokashi tea, drain the bottom bokashi bucket or open the spigot at the bottom of the container. It’s important to drain the bokashi tea every 1-3 days, or it will start to smell.
Diluting Bokashi Tea
It is important to note that bokashi tea is incredibly strong and should be diluted with water before using it to fertilize plants. Dilute bokashi tea at a ratio of 1:100 (one part bokashi tea to 100 parts water).
Another way to use bokashi tea is to pour it undiluted down sinks, toilets or shower drains. The microbiology works wonders to clean pipes and is especially beneficial for septic tanks.
Utilizing bokashi tea by collecting and incorporating it into your gardening routine is a straightforward and productive approach to optimizing the advantages of bokashi composting.
Step 5: Bury the Bokashi Compost
Once the bin is full, it must be left sealed for two weeks to allow the microbes to finish the fermentation. Remember to keep draining the bokashi tea during this time, or it will start to smell.
It’s at this point that it’s helpful to have two bokashi bins - one to leave fermenting while you fill the new one. Once your bokashi compost has completed its two-week fermentation process, it is time to bury it in your garden or raised bed!
How to Add Bokashi Compost to the Garden
Before you start digging, make sure you have chosen the right spot for your compost. The site should not be too close to plants or trees, as the acidic nature of the compost can damage the roots.
When you’re ready to bury the compost, dig a hole about 10-12 inches deep and about the same size as your bin. You can bury the compost in the exact location each time or rotate your composting spots throughout your garden to provide nutrients to different areas.
Once a hole is dug, tip the entire contents of the bokashi bin into the hole, spreading it out evenly, and cover with soil. Ensure you bury the compost entirely, so it does not attract pests or animals to your garden.
It’s important to note that the soil where you bury the compost will benefit from the added nutrients. Still, it may take some time for the compost to break down and be absorbed by the soil entirely.
The buried compost will continue to break down, giving your plants valuable nutrients for months. In addition to burying the bokashi compost, it can be added to a traditional compost bin if you don’t have time or space to bury it.
If you live in an apartment, advertise on social media or find a local community garden who could regularly use some bokashi compost.
Step 6: Repeat the Process
Once the bin is empty, simply rinse it out and repeat the process! You'll quickly get the hang of it. After just 2-3 weeks, you will notice that the bokashi compost you buried becomes a dark, crumbly soil-like substance, perfect for growing healthy, vibrant plants.
Bokashi Composting Frequently Asked Questions
Is bokashi better than composting?
Both bokashi composting and traditional composting have their pros and cons, but largely it depends on your living situation and the amount of organic waste you produce.
Bokashi composting is great for composting food waste and is ideal for small space living such as composting in an apartment.
A traditional outdoor composter is larger and therefore a lot more practical for adding yard waste such as leaves and prunings. Some people use both so that one is conveniently located indoors and one outdoors!
How does bokashi composting work?
Bokashi composting is a fermentation process that essentially ‘pickles’ food waste with the help of effective microbes (bokashi bran). This creates a pre-compost that can be dug into the garden to create nutrient-rich soil.
Does bokashi compost smell?
Yes, bokashi compost does have a sour, fermented smell - a little like vinegar. Not unpleasant in comparison to a compost bin!
How long does bokashi composting take?
Depending on how quickly you fill up your bokashi bin, bokashi composting can create usable compost in as little as four weeks!
Author Bio: Elle Reed, The Potager Project
Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food.
Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, start a vegetable garden, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle.
“Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food”
Final Words on Bokashi Composting
Bokashi composting presents an excellent opportunity to diminish food waste while producing high-nutrient compost for your garden. Following the six steps outlined above, you’ll be making your own bokashi compost in no time!
Remember to gather the necessary materials, choose a spot, add the bokashi bran and food waste, collect the bokashi tea, bury the bokashi compost, and repeat the process to keep your garden thriving.
This technique is an excellent way of reducing waste, enhancing soil quality, and fostering thriving plant growth. So why not give bokashi composting a try? Your garden (and the planet) will thank you for it!