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What is Bokashi?

Bokashi is a method of composting that originated in Japan. Bokashi translates to “fermented organic matter” in Japanese. The process involves fermenting and breaking down food scraps, using a mix of beneficial microorganisms. Bokashi could be for you if:

  • you want to compost your food scraps at home, and keep the goodness local
  • you have a wide variety of food scraps, including meat, dairy, fish, bones, etc
  • you don’t have the outdoor space to compost

 


Bokashi can be done indoors or outdoors, and is a convenient option for those with little or no outdoor space. The end product can be buried in soil or put in a traditional compost bin to complete the decomposition process.

Bokashi basics

Your Bokashi set-up includes two bins, one which slides into another. The inside bin has holes for drainage, and the outside bin has an air tight seal to stop any air getting into the bins. Bokashi is an anaerobic composting system that takes place without oxygen. 

Store your Bokashi out of direct sunlight – the garage or laundry are ideal, and in mild climates, a shady outdoor spot works well too.

Greens & Browns

Organic waste can be split into two separate groups – greens and browns.

Organic waste full of nitrogen is a ‘green’. The nitrogen makes greens rot quickly, and smell unpleasant. Greens are usually soft, fresh, and moist, including food scraps and fresh lawn clippings.

A ‘brown’ is organic waste full of carbon. These are normally dry and brittle, and take a long time to break down as they have little nitrogen. Browns include fallen autumn leaves, dry “browned-off” lawn clippings, and cardboard.

Bokashi takes 100% green waste and no browns at all. 

 

What to add:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Prepared foods
  • Cooked and uncooked meats and fish, including small bones
  • Other foods such as cheese, eggs, bread, coffee grinds, and tea leaves
  • Wilted flowers

 

What not to add:

  • Liquids such as milk, orange juice or oils
  • Paper and plastic wrap
  • Large meat bones

The Sprinkle

The sprinkle is an inoculant, or compost starter, made from beneficial microorganisms, a bit like that used in yoghurt or sourdough making. It is natural, and contains sawdust and molasses. It also stops the compost from smelling, by fermenting it like a pickle. 

What to Add

Greens and browns

Organic waste can be split up into two separate groups.

How to

Once you’ve got the basics, you can start the Bokashi process.  

We recommend keeping a small container in your kitchen, where you put food scraps (cut up into golf ball size or smaller). When you are ready to add these to your Bokashi bucket, ideally once or twice daily, follow these steps:

  1. Drain off any excess liquid from the container
  2. Spread the Bokashi sprinkle on the bottom of your Bokashi bucket – add one to two tablespoons of bokashi sprinkle per 6cm layer of food. In the summer months, if you are adding meat and cheese, sprinkle an extra two tablespoons to ensure effective pickling and to avoid smells
  3. Squash down the food to push out the air as you go, getting rid of the air
  4. Close the bokashi bucket lid tightly after each addition. The lid can be opened easily again by pressing down on the centre of the circle points gently
  5. Drain off liquid at least every two to three days from the bottom bucket. Some food scraps produce none, and some a lot. The colour of the liquid will also vary
  6. When your bucket is full, close the lid and keep in a warm place, but out of direct sunlight, and leave for ten to 14 days. Keep draining off the liquid as it is produced. The food scraps should smell like pickles, and will develop a white mould on top, meaning it is working.

The end product

The process will create a liquid fertiliser (also called Bokashi juice or tea, by some), as well as a solid fertiliser. These are both wonderful resources.

 

Dilute the liquid fertiliser at a ratio of 1:100, or two to three tablespoons per five litres of water, and use it on the garden – applied to the soil or at the base of plants. To spray directly on foliage, dilute at a ratio of 1:500, or one to two tablespoons per five litres of water. Undiluted, you can regularly pour the liquid down drains and your toilet to clean and clear them.

 

The leftover solid food scraps can be added directly to your garden, or to your compost bin. To add to your garden, dig a trench as deep as the bokashi bucket and twice as long as a bokashi bucket laid flat. Next, distribute the fermented scraps evenly along the trench and mix with the soil. Cover over with at least 50 to 75mm of soil, and if the soil is dry add water so composting can take place. After three to four weeks your fermented food scraps will turn into rich compost you can plant directly on top of.

 

If you are adding the solid food scraps to your traditional/cold compost bin, it is a green layer. See the compost bin information for more. Spread out the fermented food scraps and cover them with plenty of brown material.

 

If you don’t have the outdoor space, check out Sharewaste.org.nz, where you can find an individual or community garden in your neighbourhood to drop the end products to.

For more information about Bokashi composting, we’ve also put together an informative video below, and you can view and/or download our Bokashi fact sheets, in one of 13 languages, here.

If you think you know how to Bokashi and are ready to get started with your own system, take our quiz now to receive a discount voucher towards the cost.

Alternatively, book a free workshop here, and you will learn even more, have any questions answered, plus get a discount voucher towards your new set up.

Bokashi Quiz questions and answers

Bokashi Quiz questions and answers