Bokashi Composting: An easy way to compost for apartment renters
Bokashi composting is super popular right now, as it should be. It’s more practical than most other forms of composting. If you’re new to composting, bokashi is a super easy way to start.
Bokashi composting is a traditional farming technique practiced in Korea and Japan. It’s an anaerobic (oxygen-free) process which makes it unique compared to an outdoor compost pile or a worm pile, which both require oxygen.
Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning “blur” or “gradient” and it’s used to describe the fermenting process of breaking down organic matter with essential micronutrients. Japanese scientist Dr. Teruo Hiya discovered essential micronutrients in the 1980s. His research confirmed the microscopic benefits of this traditional composting method.
The benefits of bokashi composting
Here are the main reasons bokashi is becoming so popular:
- You can compost any type of organic matter: bones, egg shells, meat, cheese, tea bags, etc.
- It breaks down food faster than compost piles. You’ll have nutrient-rich compost (soil) in as little as a month at the earliest.
- It doesn’t smell bad (if you do it right).
- You can compost in a small space like an apartment. One caveat: you’ll need to have a patch of dirt or large container of soil for the last step.
- It creates super nutrient-rich soil for growing healthy plants.
Supplies for a bokashi composting system
You can find bokashi buckets for sale online. They consist of an air-tight vacuum sealed lid, and a drainage tray at the bottom, and a valve with a nozzle to drain the excess liquid that forms as your food waste is composting.
It usually helps to buy two buckets so you can ferment one as you fill up another.
Bokashi bran is a dry mix of the fermenting active nutrients which break down your food waste. You’ll want to have lots of bran on hand to make sure you can sprinkle lots of bran layers into your bucket as you fill it up.
Since bokashi composting is an oxygen-free process, it’s best to compress your food waste as much as possible in your container. This helps the fermentation process go faster.
You can use a plate and a heavy brick, a meat pounder, or anything else you can think of.
In bokashi composting, the fermentation stage is just the first step. To fully break down your food scraps, you’ll need some dirt. This could be a large container of dirt, or a patch of garden, but without a spot to dig and bury your compost in the ground, your bokashi composting experiment won’t work. On the other hand, if you don’t have dirt and you just throw away your fermented food scraps, you’re still helping them break down in the landfill, too!
The steps to bokashi composting
Here’s how to compost the bokashi way:
- Collect your food scraps. This can be anything: meat, fish bones, etc. Smash your larger bones into smaller pieces for effective bone composting.
- Prepare your bucket. Line the bottom layer with a handful of the bokashi compost mixture. Add about 3-4 inches of food scraps, add another handful of bokashi bran, and continue alternating layers of food scraps and bran until your bucket is full.
- Press out the air and compress our food scraps. Using the tool of your choice, press out the air from your bin.
- Close the lid and wait 2 weeks. If your bucket has a vacuum sealed lid, you can wind it to remove even more oxygen from the bucket. In two weeks, your compost will be ready to bury in the dirt.
- Drain the liquid every 3 days. As your compost is fermenting, you can drain the liquid from the nozzle at the bottom of the bucket.You can dilute this acidic, nutritious run-off in water (1/100 ratio) and spray it on your plants. It’s basically probiotics for plants, and it helps them stay healthy and ward off disease and pests.
- Bury your compost in dirt. Dig a hole about 1.5 feet deep in your garden to place your fermented food scraps. This is where the rest of the composting magic will happen. When you remove the contents of your bucket, your food scraps will still look like food and that’s ok. Bury them under about 8-10 inches of dirt.
- Wait 2-3 more weeks. While you’re waiting, fill up another bokashi bucket!
- Turn the soil and use it for planting. You’ve waited long enough now, and your bokashi should mostly look like soil. Turn it with a shovel to see its progres. If there are a few food scraps left, that’s ok. What you now have is healthy nutrient-rich soil that your plants will love. Use it in your garden or planter pots.
What should bokashi compost smell like?
The smell of bokashi is an important way to tell if you’re doing it right. When you have the right balance of bokashi bran to food scraps, the smell should be a sweet, pickled smell that doesn’t offend your senses.
You shouldn’t have to plug your nose with bokashi composting, which is another reason it’s great for apartments. If the fermented food scraps start to smell foul or putrid, try adding more bran to the mix.
If that doesn’t work, you should check to make sure your bucket doesn’t have any leaks, you’re using the right ratio of bran to food scraps, and you’ve fully sealed your bucket.
Reduce your food waste with composting
We hope you’re as excited about bokashi composting as we are. Composting is a great way to reduce food waste as part of an eco-friendly lifestyle. In countries like the U.S. we throw out 35 percent of our edible food. That’s way too much, so we should be turning it into something useful like nutrient-rich soil.