Bokashi: Advice From the Experts at 'Jaki Bokashi'
Food waste is too valuable to be thrown away when it can be turned into rich compost and fertiliser for your garden.
Bokashi is an excellent way of doing this, which produces no nasty smells, is faster than traditional compost and has the convenience of being a process which can be started inside, right in your kitchen!
Do It Yourself - Bokashi Setup
Earthwise Harmony asked Roxane from Jaki Bokashi to share with us some insights into the fascinating world of bokashi.
Roxane, could you please take us through the basic Bokashi process, step-by-step.
||Find yourself a handy spot for your Bokashi Bucket, usually close to where your food waste is produced.
||Have yourself a lovely meal, or make that sandwich for work.
||Begin by sprinkling a little Bokashi Mix over the tray in the bottom of the bucket.
||Place your food scraps in the bucket. You might choose to keep your food scraps in a bowl or container and empty into the Bokashi Bucket only once per day.
||Sprinkle Bokashi Mix on top of each layer of waste (approximately 1/2 to 1 cup for every 3 to 4 cm layer of food).
||Use a potato masher to loosely mix the waste with the Bokashi Mix, then press down lightly with the masher to compact the material and create maximum space for scraps.
||Reseal the airtight lid each time it is opened. This is critical to the fermenting process.
||After 2 weeks, you will start to produce Bokashi Liquid which contains nutrients from the food waste and is alive with effective micro-organisms. Once or twice a week, drain all Bokashi Liquid from the bucket and use as soon as possible.
||Repeat the process until the bucket is full. For an average family this will take around 3 or 4 weeks.
||Once the bucket is full, top up with a generous coat of Bokashi Mix and store the bucket and contents out of direct sunlight. The purpose of this is to allow the food waste to ferment without disruption (ie. bucket lid being opened) for 1 to 2 weeks. Remember to drain the Liquid from the Bucket during this fermentation period.
||The Bokashi waste will not break down in the bucket - it will only ferment (which does reduce its volume). The physical breakdown of the waste will begin when you empty the bucket into the soil and because it is already fermented, it will break down to create highly fertile soil within 4 weeks.
||Dig a hole/trench approximately 20 to 25cms deep. Add the fermented food waste and mix well with the soil. Return in a month to lovely composted soil!
||Rinse the bucket with water. Drain and repeat the whole process.
Bokashi Compost: How To
How does the Bokashi principle work... what's going on?
There are micro-organisms in the Bokashi Mix that are dormant until they are added to food waste in an anaerobic environment (your Bokashi Bucket!). Once in this environment they become active, and ferment the food waste. The fermenting process makes the food go kind of sloppy, which means the food compacts down, creating more space in your bucket.
It also produces a liquid. It's kind of like pickling in terms of the process and smell (vinegary), and because all of the nutrients are kept for your plants - nothing is lost in a rotting process, it is all captured in the Bokashi Liquid and the Bokashi waste. The micro-organisms remain alive in the Bokashi Liquid, and hence make a great natural drain cleaner as they eat up unwanted muck in your drains!
How can the 'finished' Bokashi be used at home?
There are two 'products' of the Bokashi process that can be used around your home. The eventual compost which can be used on your soil, and the liquid.
The Bokashi Liquid can be used to fertilise a garden or potted house plants. The fertiliser is quite strong, so a diluted solution of 1:100 parts water is suggested (double that for trees or shrubs). The liquid is also a drain, toilet and septic system cleaner when used undiluted. Adding the Liquid to septic systems will also help to prevent algae build up and control odours.
How to use Bokashi pre-compost: The Trench Method
Tell us the good stuff... how does Bokashi help our gardens, the environment, and what advantages does it have over just using a standard compost system?
I might get a little political here, and lose people! As an Anglo Westerner, I find my culture is very good at consumption, using space and creating waste! Bokashi helps us get on top of these habits. It's a way of helpfully disposing of 30% of your household waste/consumption - so even if you're not into gardening, that's a good thing!
There are a number of advantages over traditional composting (but I wouldn't knock anybody doing this well).
||You don't need a lot of know-how (ie. traditional composters need to know if there's too much 'green', 'brown', moisture, oxygen.
||You don't need the strength and time involved in turning a compost pile.
||You won't be attracting vermin - rats don't like Bokashi waste as it is fermented, not rotting.
||You avoid stench as the waste has a vinegary smell while fermenting, then is underground while composting.
||You don't need a lot of space for a compost pile.
I believe you make your own 'Bokashi Mix'... what's in it, and what does the creation process involve?
We do hand-make our own Bokashi Mix. The feel of doing so is lovely. The Mix includes bran, molasses and a liquid solution of micro-organisms that are similar to those used in beer brewing procedures. We mix these ingredients together then store in airtight containers for about 2 weeks. We then lay out the mix on drying racks, and once dry, bag up the mixture! It's pretty simple really!
Making Bokashi Bran
Making Bokashi Effective Micro-Organism Inoculant pt1.
You have your own Bokashi buckets for sale... how are these made, and what advantages do they have over other brands?
We purchase Australian-made buckets and lids in 2 sizes. We get a false bottom made for these buckets that is a plastic disc with holes in it, that has legs attached. We drill a hole in the bucket and insert a tap.
The advantages of our bucket include the quality of the bucket. These buckets often sit outside for 2 weeks at a time, so it's better if they're durable. The lid of our bucket is the easiest we've found so far to get on and off, and yet has an excellent air-tight seal. This ease is important for people who are frail or have issues such as arthritis. And for those who like things to be easy!
We've also found our tap is superior in that it has a washer on both sides of the bucket - ensuring no leaks - and the flip up/down style is better than the 'turn' style commonly found on bokashi buckets as 1) these can break through over-turning and 2) there is no visual reminder that you've left the tap on, which could later become an issue!
These things said, we do also stock a couple of other buckets to give people choice, and are open about their differences.
Homemade bokashi bucket
What environmental considerations do you take into account with your manufacturing and packing processes?
The notion of food and product miles and ethics is complex. On the one hand we want to reduce our product miles and ensure our products are made in a way that is environmentally accountable and safe for our customers. On the other hand, it is easy for Western consumers to turn away from international business that has helped them get to where they are. So...
Everything we do ourselves is sourced, assembled and packaged locally, in an energy efficient manner (but requires human power!). We package our Mix in paper bags that are thinly lined with plastic, whilst all other products we've found are packaged in plastic. We sell plastic dispensers that are reusable that the Mix can be kept in.
The Urban Composter we on-sell is made in China, but the Australian designer has been cautious to engage a family factory that shares its values in relation to environmentally responsible production. We figure the bulk shipping of these is better than individual Australians buying such buckets off the net and having them individually shipped from China or America, for example.
We are phasing out the sale of the Square Bucket that is widely available as it is made in Japan and we are unsure of the manufacture process and any implications from the nuclear disaster that occurred there. We realise this is ethically complex but these things, combined with our preference for a different style of tap, have led to this decision.
What basic equipment is needed to start using the Bokashi system at home?
To do Bokashi Composting you need:
||One Bokashi Bucket (air tight with capacity to drain and release liquid), though two is best because while the first is sitting fermenting for 2 weeks, you can re-start the process with the second bucket
||Bokashi Mix, and
||A way to dispose of the fermented food waste (usually just digging a shallow hole, but some people get more creative).
Dirt Cheap Bokashi
What other things do you sell, for those who want something a little different, or to go further?
We also sell a product that will decompose your loved dogs' waste. You simply dig a shallow hole, sprinkle on the product called Shift, cover the hole and in 2 weeks that soil will be ready to play in again!
We are about to start stocking inexpensive water drip-feeders. They are like plastic funnels with holes in them that you stick in your pot plant or in the ground. You then reuse a plastic bottle, put in a little Bokashi Liquid you have produced, fill it with water, turn it upside down and fit it to the feeder and your plants will be drip-fed Bokashi fertiliser!
For those who purchased their Bokashi Bucket/Kit from another company, we have a comprehensive instruction booklet available for $5 that they may be interested in. It includes things such as "How do I know I'm on the right track?" and alternative ideas on how to dispose of Bokashi waste that ourselves and our customers have come up with.
We also run workshops on making your own Bokashi Mix, which I'll talk about a bit later.
We also have a Facebook page with Discussion Boards (look on the left menu bar) that discuss things like using Bokashi waste in worm farms, making your own bucket and so on.
Tell us a little about each of you and how your life views, gardening and environmental interests and experiences led you to this point as a Bokashi business?
Shane and I are brother and sister. We grew up in foster care so have seen a lot of different ways of doing things. Through this, we kind of have the perspective that there's no one right way, but you should be accountable to your decisions at the time. So, Bokashi involvement grew more out of an ethic of responsibility, than gardening interest per se, but as it happens I really enjoy my garden time. It also happened by accident...
My partner's mother bought us a Bokashi Bucket. She said "I thought you guys would be into this." We tried it, and were! It's so easy...
Anyhoo... Deanna and I met through other work at Relationships Australia (SA). She was working on training projects in central Australia, and I was working in the area of children's mental health. We had the same interest in personal responsibility and accountability. One day Deanna mentioned to me that Jacqui (the original owner) was selling her Bokashi business, and she was thinking of buying it because it felt right; like such a good thing to contribute. I was pregnant at the time, and was looking for work I could do that a) connected me with the earth in some way and b) I could do with a young child. I also felt Shane would be really interested in making the mix and buckets. I asked if we could join in...
The 3 of us went for a chat and a workshop with Jacqui, and here we are now!
Bokashi Composting: Interview with Morgan Coffinger
I believe you hold workshops etc. Tell us a bit about them... and are there any scheduled for this year so far?
The workshops are hands-on and walk people through how to make a 10 litre batch for themselves, which they then walk away with. We also explain how to use the mix once they're home.
We can only do the workshops in SA at this point, unless someone wants to fund us to do otherwise! We've got 2 workshops scheduled thus far, one down South in April, and one central/west in May. See PDF for workshop details. >> Jaki Bokashi Workshop
How do you hope to see the future of Jaki Bokashi unfolding? What are your plans and ideas?
We'd really like to connect with community gardens and schools. I think it will be a great way to maximise options for people to dispose of their Bokashi waste (eg. having drop-off points at community gardens, then the gardens get the benefit of the compost!), as well as practically show people how super easy Bokashi is to do. We like the idea of Bokashi being a community solution to food waste. For example, we'd particularly like to be able to support people in apartments with nowhere to dig in their Bokashi waste by negotiating these drop-off points.
We're a supporter of the upcoming Conscious Music Festival, we sell at the Adelaide Peace Markets, we've donated to the Graham F Smith Peace Trust and we're about to do the same for the Walyo Yerta Community Garden Open Day.
We'd really like to expand our current workshop space (we're in a carport-sized shed) to be able to produce our mix in greater quantities, but funds are an issue!
Where can people find out more, or purchase Jaki Bokashi supplies?
A good starting point would be our website, jakibokashi.com, and there's a bit of chat on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/jakibokashi. This is a fine spot to ask questions. On the left menu of the Facebook page you'll see a link to Discussion Boards which may be of interest to post your questions or to see what's being said.
You then might want to give us a call if you have further questions. Mob: 0412 180 586.