Worm Farm Reviews

Bokashi Bins Explained: What You Need to Know

bokashi bin composting

Composting can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only are you re-purposing your old organic waste into plant food, but you are helping the environment by reducing the amount of waste ending up in landfill. However, composting (and to a certain degree worm farming) can be a slightly messy and labor-intensive affair. Both can also require a fair bit of space depending on the system you are using. A great alternative that doesn’t require much effort, and takes up relatively little space, is the process of Bokashi. All you need is a Bokashi bin and some food scraps and away you go.

Read on to learn more about this convenient method of reducing your kitchen waste.

What is a Bokashi Bin?

You may not have heard the phrase “Bokashi bin” before, and to be fair, it is a little obscure outside of Asia. The word “Bokashi” has been borrowed from the Japanese language to refer to “fermented organic matter“. Bokashi bin composting is yet another great way to recycle all of your kitchen food scraps to prevent them from going to landfill.

If you don’t have the outdoor space for a compost pile or aren’t creating enough food scraps for a worm farm, then a Bokashi bin might be a better option to help you reduce your waste. There are plenty of options available that are suitably sized for use indoors.

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Bokashi composting uses anaerobic (meaning free of oxygen) processes rather than the traditional aerobic process of composting or vermicomposting. To do this, Bokashi relies on the use of inoculated bran which ferments kitchen waste. This waste can include meat and dairy and produces a great nutrient-rich soil builder for your garden. Definitely don’t add any meat and dairy products to your worm farm!

By using fermentation rather than decomposition in one part of the composting process, gardeners can get a more varied range of enzymes and microorganisms into the soil, which aids in plant health. The process is also much quicker than normal composting and is completed in an anaerobic environment (an airtight container), meaning there are no bad smells or chances of pests getting into the bins. 

The process of fermentation also doesn’t release any methane or other greenhouse gasses like composting does, so it’s actually a much more environmentally friendly process.

Where Did the Concept of Bokashi Originate?

The practice of Bokashi has its earliest roots in Korea. This traditional method would involve fermenting food waste directly in the soil by using natural bacteria in the ground. The hole that it was placed into was carefully constructed to create a completely anaerobic environment. This was reportedly a common practice used on Korean farms dating back centuries.

In the 1980s, Japanese scientist Dr. Teruo Higa discovered what is now termed Effective Microorganisms (EM) for use in the Bokashi composting process. These microorganisms occur naturally – such as lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and phototrophic bacteria – and play a vital role in improving soil biodiversity. Bokashi composting has now spread to more than 120 countries around the world and is a great way to eliminate organic household waste.

How Do Bokashi Bins Work?

bokashi bran and food scraps

Bokashi is an anaerobic process requiring the use of an air-tight container and Inoculated Bokashi bran as the fermentation agent. Inoculated Bokashi bran normally consists of wheat bran, rice bran, water and a bit of sugar.

In a Bokashi setup, you can place any kind of organic kitchen scraps inside the container. Be sure to press the contents down firmly so that they are nice and compact. This helps remove any air/oxygen that may get trapped inside the food scraps. Sprinkle some Bokashi bran over the contents until the scraps are covered and press them down again. Each time you add a new layer of food scraps, you’ll need to add another layer of bran. Once the bin is full, seal it with the lid to make sure that it’s airtight.

Fermentation and Pre-Compost

Here, the fermenting agent works on breaking down the organic matter through fermentation and anaerobic processes.
It takes around 2 weeks of fermenting for the process to be completed, but during this time, excess liquid is created and will need to be removed. Ideally, you should drain the liquid from your Bokashi bin every second day or so. Most Bokashi bins come with a little tap or spigot to make this process much easier.

When completed, the inside of the bucket will look like the pickled version of whatever food was placed inside. This is sometimes called the pre-compost stage of the process, as it’s only partially broken down. This pre-compost is still very acidic and raw, and not suitable for direct contact with plants or their roots.

The Final Product

The next stage is when the actual “composting” of your food scraps takes place. First, you need to dig a hole (preferably in a garden) that’s large enough to be able to bury the contents and cover them. Place the fermented mixture into your garden soil, keeping it away from tender roots. If your soil is quite dry, you can water it slightly to help the process along.

fresh compost

Alternatively, you can instead add it to existing compost piles to be mixed through, negating the need to bury it. It might seem like a hassle if you’re just going to add it to a compost pile anyway, but the ability to compost meat and dairy products, and the time it can take off your composting make it worth it. We’re talking weeks, as opposed to months!

How to Use Bokashi Compost in Your Garden 

After 3-4 weeks, your buried food scraps will have been completely composted into a lovely, nutrient-rich soil for use in your garden. The pH level will also be around 6-7, so you don’t need to worry about it affecting your soil acidity. A soil pH meter can help you measure the acidity of your soil if you’re unsure.

From here, you can use your newly created soil conditioner directly in your garden, by either mixing it in with the soil or layering it on top. If you’ve buried it in your garden for the composting process, simply turn it into the soil and start planting your veggies and ornamentals directly into it. They will love just how rich the soil is with nutrients and simply thrive!

Another product that you can obtain throughout the fermentation process is Bokashi tea. Bokashi tea is the liquid by-product that you’ll be needing to drain from the bin regularly. By extracting the liquid and diluting it with water (remember, this is basically pickle water, so it is quite acidic) you can get a good quality soil improver with a lot of great enzymes and some nutrients. To use it, we recommend a tea to water ratio of 1:100. Once diluted, use it to water your lawns, garden beds or pot plants. Do not apply it directly to the foliage but rather to the soil around your plants.

Another interesting use for Bokashi tea is as a natural cleaning product. You can pour undiluted Bokashi tea down drains, toilets, and even septic systems to remove any algal blooms you may have in the pipes. It can also help to control odors!

FAQs

Do Bokashi bins smell?

No composting system is completely odorless. Having said that though, Bokashi bins contain far fewer odors than your traditional composting piles. This is because the fermentation process doesn’t produce as many odors since it doesn’t use bacteria to decompose the contents. If your bin starts to smell, it can be a sign that the food scraps are starting to decay instead of ferment.

What do I do if my bin is producing a foul odor?

To eliminate odors from a Bokashi bin that may not be operating as intended, try the following:

  • Add more Bokashi bran (if not adding enough to coat the food scraps)
  • Press the food scraps down to remove any air pockets inside the bin
  • Check to make sure the lid is secured firmly and is airtight
  • Drain any excess liquid that may have collected at the bottom
  • Move the Bokashi bin out of direct sunlight if possible

My Bokashi bin has gone moldy. Is it ok?

A little bit of white mold in your Bokashi bin is fine. However, if you start seeing dark black mold, or mould that is green/blue, then it could be a sign that something is wrong inside your bin. Try adding more bran to restore balance to the bin.

In Summary

Bokashi bins are a great alternative to composting and can take your kitchen scraps and turn them into a brilliant soil improver for your garden. They’re good options for people who can’t compost, either through space or ability and for those who don’t produce enough of the right food for a worm farm. 

The process uses fermentation rather than decomposition, which results in a product with a whole range of different enzymes and micro-organisms which can boost the overall ecosystem of your garden soil.

Bokashi bins are airtight, don’t stink, and don’t allow pests to get into the food scraps. They allow you to recycle all your normal kitchen scraps, as well as meat and dairy products.

Once the waste has been fermented, all you need to do is bury it into your garden soil, or mix it through your existing compost pile. If you don’t own a compost pile or have room for a garden, then you can donate your Bokashi contents to a nearby community garden. They’ll be sure to thank you for providing them with an all-natural soil conditioner that costs nothing to make!

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