Bokashi Composting: The Pros and Cons – All You Need to Know!
Before we think about the pros and cons of bokashi composting, some of you might be wondering what bokashi composting is!
What Is Bokashi Composting?
Bokashi composting is a fast, easy and simple way to compost all of your food waste using specially selected microbes. These microbes act quickly to ferment (or pickle) your food waste so that the food waste (or pre-compost) breaks down rapidly when buried in your garden, compost pile or containers.
Bokashi composting was developed in Japan. It is still fairly new in North America and Europe but is rapidly becoming many gardeners’ favored approach to building healthy and productive soils.
Pros Of Bokashi Composting
Let’s start with some of the top reasons that people are getting excited about bokashi composting. In no particular order:
1. It’s Easy
Many people can be put off ‘traditional’ composting by the effort needed to get a successful compost pile underway. Traditional composting needs the right balance of brown and green materials as well as regular turning to aerate the pile.
With bokashi, many of the challenges associated with 'traditional' composting are removed. The majority of the bokashi process is completed right in your own kitchen. Traditional back-yard composting typically works on select food scraps only. Bokashi composting works on ALL food scraps: cooked foods, dairy, meat, grains, pasta, fruits and veggies, the lot of it. And this is the key to its popularity.
2. It’s Quick
Using bokashi composting, the whole process from food waste to usable compost takes as little as 4-6 weeks!
You simply add your food waste to your compost bin each day and sprinkle on a tablespoon or two of bokashi bran. Repeat until your bin is full. Then close the lid and wait for two weeks. Finally, bury the bokashi’d food waste directly into your garden or compost pile. Then just sit back and wait for another couple of weeks. Your soil is then ready to grow in.
During the two-week fermentation process, your bokashi bucket will produce bokashi tea. The bokashi tea can be diluted and used as a great fertilizer or the undiluted bokashi tea can be used as a weedkiller or to unblog drains.
3. It Produces Amazing Compost
Bokashi compost is made from the most valuable organic waste; your food waste. Food waste is made of lots of complex proteins. However, these proteins are of little or no value to your garden without help from microbes. Bokashi composting generates the specialized microbes, yeast and fungi that break these proteins up into amino acids; the small parts of the complex protein chains. Plants, with the help of the bokashi microbes, are able to take up the nutrients in the amino acids. Bokashi microbes act as the primary building blocks of a healthy and productive soil structure.
4. It Doesn’t Smell Horrible
Bokashi composting is not completely odorless; as some people may claim. However, the smell is not unpleasant. It smells slightly vinegary and slightly yeasty; a cross between homebrewing beer and pickles. It does not have the putrid rotting smell of many compost piles.
Plus, most of the bokashi process takes place in an airtight bucket. The bin is completely odorless when the lid is sealed.
5. It Doesn’t Attract Pests
Many people are put off composting food waste in their home or garden through fear of attracting unwanted pests; mice, rats, raccoons, foxes and more. The fermentation process is not appealing to wildlife. You can put all of your foodwaste into your bokashi bucket; including meat, bones, dairy, egg shells, cooked food.... everything, without experiencing pest problems.
6. Its Low Carbon
Studies show that by using traditional composting, as much as half of the carbon in the organic matter is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or methane (which is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). Bokashi composting, on the other hand, “does not produce measurable gas emissions in its conversion of organic waste into a nutrient-rich end product that can be used to support plants and crops” (Green, a pilot study comparing gaseous emissions).
And if the carbon isn’t being released into the atmosphere then it means it is being transferred to your garden soil... where you want it.
Also, by composting food waste at home you are reducing the need for pick-up trucks to haul your foodwaste to a landfill site or industrial composting facility. And you are also reducing your trips to the garden centre to buy more compost. More wins for the environment.
Cons Of Bokashi Composting
1. Ongoing Costs
Bokashi composting requires the daily addition of bokashi bran to add the essential microbes that are need to ferment your food waste. Some people choose to make their own bran but this can be time-consuming with mixed results. Most people choose to buy the bran to ensure the bran is good quality and save the hassle of making their own. In reality, the ongoing cost is pretty low. With yearly supplies of bokashi bran available online for as little as $45, this works out to just $3.75 per month.
2. Need To Bury Pre-compost
The bokashi bucket is used to ferment your food waste. After the fermentation is complete (after 2-4 weeks) the pickled food waste (or bokashi pre-compost, as it is called) needs to be buried in your soil or compost pile to complete the composting process. This, typically, requires you to have soil or a compost heap to bury the pre-compost.
There are alternatives, such as burying the pre-compost directly into planters or containers or making a soil factory (essentially a large container to mix your pre-compost with garden soil). Some people even donate their bokashi pre-compost to local community gardens, family and friends.
3. Not Gluten Free
Most (if not all) commercially made bokashi bran is made using products containing gluten. This can make it less appealing to users who are sensitive or allergic to gluten. For those of you looking to avoid gluten, try making your own bran using newspaper or rice husks.
4. Bones Etc Can Take A Long Time To Break Down
Whilst it is possible to put bones into your bokashi composter, it can take a while for these to break down in your garden. If you are someone who does not like the idea of digging up old chicken legs and ribs in their garden, then you are best to keep these out of your bokashi composter.
5. Living Process So Sometimes (But Rarely) Goes Wrong
The bokashi composting process relies on living microbes to ferment the food waste. If these microbes get too hot or too cold or exposed to too much sunlight, they can become dormant and less effective. This will likely mean that your bokashi composting will fail. As with most things in life, sometimes things just go wrong and maybe no-one knows why. Pencil this up to a learning experience and try again!
6. Need Airtight Bins With Spigots To Get Started
There is also a start-up cost to bokashi composting. Ideally, you need two airtight bokashi composting buckets with a spigot. Having two bins allows you to continuously collect and compost food scraps (one bucket can be fermenting whilst the other is being filled). The bucket needs to be completely airtight as the bokashi fermentation process is anaerobic (without oxygen). The fermenting food waste needs to have as much air excluded as possible. The inclusion of a good quality spigot allows you to easily drain the bokashi tea.
Bokashi Living stocks all of your bokashi composting supplies; including high quality bokashi composting kits starting at just $45. Buy online
Bokashi composting is a great way to quickly and easily transform your food waste into high quality compost and nutrient-rich fertilizer. For lots more information and tips on bokashi composting visit www.bokashiliving.com
Blog piece contributed by Nicki Casley, from Bokashi Living Inc
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