Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bokashi to you too!

I have been playing around with Bokashi, and it is GREAT fun - especially if you are like me and are not very good at taking the overflowing container of rotting veggie scraps out to the compost pile each day. Everything you have heard about Bokashi not smelling is all true! It is easy and fun and nice. Yup, Bokashi is wonderful, expensive stuff. And a trendy custom made Bokashi bucket can cost you $100!!!!!

Well, Happy News my duck herding friends. You can make Bokashi your self, and you can make your own Bokashi buckets! Here at the Princess Castle we have been using 3 x 10 liter plastic containers from the supermarket. The main thing is that they should have a tight fitting lid. Originally I played around with putting a little tap into the bottom of one of the buckets to drain excess liquid, but have found that if you only put dryish scraps into the bin, then excess liquid doesn’t become a problem.

Having 3 rotating buckets means that while one bucket is in the kitchen, two other buckets can be outside fermenting a bit more until you bury the fermenting scraps into the compost or garden, where everything will break down really quickly and you will have a pile of beautiful compost in a matter of weeks. I have been playing around with my buckets of fermenting kitchen scraps - they are in the glass house where it is warm during the day. Even after WEEKS there is no rotting odor when you take the lids off- just a sort of pickle smell.

And even more exciting, here is a recipe to make your own Bokashi. You will need to buy some magical microbe soup - I have been using VRM's Effective Micro-Organisms (EM-1) Solution. This is magical, wonderful stuff that can be used for activating compost, applying to plants and soil, and as a vital ingredient in making super compost teas. One bottle of EM-1 goes a very long way - you rarely use more than 15 mls at a time, and 15mls tends to make at least 2 liters of tea, or in this case, 15 liters of Bokashi. That’s what is so cool about micro-organisms!

This recipe for Bokashi is from VRM's Application Manual.

You need: A large sheet of plastic, tarp or a heavy duty garbage bag, a 2 liter ice cream container or similar to measure out ingredients, a 2 liter plastic bottle and:

  • 6 liters Rice Pollard
  • 9 liters Bran
  • 15ml Molasses
  • 15mls EM-1 Stock Solution
  • Approx 2 to 2 1/2 liters warm water (if you need to use town water, leave it out over night so that all the chlorine can evaporate off - chlorine MURDERS good bugs!)


  • Dissolve molasses in a little hot water, then add warm water and EM-1 to a 2 liter bottle.
  • Measure out all dry ingredients onto plastic or tarp and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour on EM-1/water, mixing with hands until you get an apple crumble like consistency. The mix should remain clumped when squeezed, and on touching should crumble away easily. If you are unsure, it is better to be too dry and too wet. VRM suggests leaving the mixture overnight and checking the following day as sometimes the dry ingredients take a little while to absorb the moisture.
  • Pack bokashi into a drum or thick plastic bag and seal. Try to exclude as much air as possible. Making the whole thing in a heavy duty garbage bag makes this process easy. A few pieces of newspaper or absorbent paper towel helps to soak up any extra moisture and will prolong the life of your bokashi.
  • Leave to ferment in a warm place for a minimum of 2 -3 weeks depending on climate. The idea temperature should be around 35-45 degrees C. If the temperature rises beyond 50 degrees C mix the bokashi to aerate it. In cooler climates or in the winter it may take 4 - 6 weeks to be fully fermented, and the mixture may not seem to heat up as much.

The bokashi will have a strong sweet-sour smell and may give off a strong vapor. This indicates the bokashi has fermented and is ready to use or dry for storage. If the bokashi gives off a sour odor it has failed. If you are intending to keep the bokashi for any length of time VRM recommends drying it out by spreading it out in a warm dry place until it feels dry to the touch. This can take a couple of days. Store in sealed containers, in a cool dry place.

It might be helpful to purchase some premade bokashi so you can get used to it and know how it should look, smell and work. Then you can make your own and reuse the original bokashi containers to store your homemade bokashi. You can buy premade Bokashi from VRM as well as EM-1.

Duck Herder Hints for having your own Kitchen Bokashi setup:

Sprinkle a good layer of bokashi into the bottom of your bokashi bucket. Add a good handful of bokashi for every addition of kitchen scraps. Try and sprinkle the bokashi lightly over the entire surface of the scraps. Press down the scraps regularly. Remember that Bokashi uses an ANEROBIC process. Remember to put the lid back on tightly after every addition. If you are using a very large bucket, perhaps use a smaller plastic lid that can fit inside the bucket as well. When you are adding fish or meat scraps, add a little extra bokashi. You can also spray with EM-1 to speed up the process. When the bucket is full, store in a cupboard or shed for 3-4 weeks in summer and up to 6 weeks in winter. During fermentation drain off any liquid in containers, dilute and use immediately as a liquid fertilizer or compost activator. After fermentation, your kitchen scraps will look not unlike pickled kitchen scraps. The whole lot looks like it should PONG to the stars, so it is quite weird when you take the lid off and it all smells fine! Especially when you know that there has been some serious meat scraps fermenting away in there for the whole time!.

The final step is to bury the whole lot in the compost pile or garden. Beware that the whole lot is still a little acidic at this stage, and will take a few weeks for the final decomposition to occur.

Wash out the bucket and start again!

and Happy Bokashi to you too!


Anonymous said...

After seeing Bokashi pitched on a program out of NZ called "Wasted" I decided to try it. IT'S GREAT! The bucket sits under the sink and we've buried 4 or 5 loads now. No smell, easy to use, will yield compost for burgeoning veg garden...all good! Now, I'd like to start making my own bokashi mix. Thanks for the tips.

Alison Kerr said...

Thanks for the information. I have been agonizing over which composting method to use and after much research - too much - I love the sound of bokashi best. I don't like the price tag of the ready-made bokashi composters I've seen in my area (around $80), or of the bokashi mix, so I was out searching for advice on making your own, which brought me here.

Is this still working well for you?

Scott said...

We have made six bokashi bucket sets for free. We went to the neighborhood grocery store and asked the bakery people for any extra frosting buckets. They always have them and they usually throw them away. Just grab two buckets that are the same size. They should nest together snugly.
Drill several holes in the bottom of one bucket to drain excess liquid out of the bokashi. Nest the bucket with holes into the other bucket. You can add a spigot for a few dollars, but it's not necessary. We just separate the buckets every week or so and drain off the bokashi tea.
It's also far cheaper to make your own bokashi than buy it premade. We made 50 lbs for about $20.

jr said...

Hi Duck Herder,

John from VRM here. Great to see that you and a few fellow compostures are enjoying the benefits of Bokashi.

I just wanted to let you know that we have just released a Liquid Bokashi for home composting with kitchen scraps.

You can check it all out on our web at otherwise you can contact me via e-mail for more information.

Cheers, John

Bokashi said...

Thanks for sharing this information, it is really useful. You're absolutely correct saying that making Bokashi bins yourself is cheaper and I think I'm going to consider doing that now!


Patricia V. said...

Hello. I've been trying to make my own bokashi bran for a few weeks now. I read somewhere that when ready the bran should have a layer of white mycelium on the top surface. I've had my mixture (recipe identical to yours) sitting tightly covered for about 3 weeks now and no mycelium yet. Is the mycelium absolutely essential to knowing "done-ness"?