We have put together these FAQs based on questions we get from you, our dear users. Please do let us know if there is something we have missed.
Using Bokashi: an overview
- Place alternating layers of food scraps and the Bokashi “bran” in the Bokashi bin until the container is full.
- Liquid (known as Bokashi juice) is drained off as necessary. This liquid can be used as plant food, or can be poured down the drain. This may be a good practice for households with septic systems, as it is believed that this may help maintain a healthy septic environment within the holding tank. Bokashi juice is acidic so if being used as a plant food it should be diluted at a rate of 1:100 parts water.
- Once the bucket is full to capacity the waste can be buried under 20cm of soil.
- Some people like to run 2 bins:
- Waste from the first Bucket is allowed to continue to ferment for 10-14 days or for any additional length of time. The waste can then be buried.
- The empty Bucket is then ready to use during this “holding period” on the full bucket.
Note: Bokashi Compost will look different from other compost that has decayed. As the food waste does not breakdown or decompose while it is in the bucket, much of its original physical property will remain and it will have
a pickled appearance. Breakdown of waste will occur after it has been transferred to the soil.
Burying Bokashi Compost in a garden will supply plants with a nourishing food source and condition the soil with enriching microbes. If the fermented Bokashi compost is being transferred directly to the garden, the material should be buried in a thin layer for 4 to 6 weeks prior to over-planting.
And some of your other questions answered..
- How does the system work?
The Bokashi bucket uses beneficial microbes to FERMENT organic waste rather than allowing decay. The end result is a fermented (or pickled) mass of waste which can go straight into the soil where it will form valuable compost.
- How much Bokashi bran do I use?
Just a light sprinkle over the top of the waste in the bucket. As long as the surface area is covered, that is enough.
- Are the beneficial microbes in the bran safe?
Absolutely. The microbes used in Bokashi are organically certified by NASAA. The types of microbes used are those already found in many types of food, including cheeses and yogurts.
- What can I put in the Bokashi bin?
Any type of organic matter produced in the kitchen, which means you can add vegetable scraps, tea leaves, tea bags, small amounts of paper, coffee grounds, onions, citrus, garlic, wilted flowers, tissues, even meat. DO NOT put dog or cat faeces in the bucket, as these are a human health risk.
- How much does it cost to run the system?
Refill packs are available in 1 kg bags. 1 kg of bran should last the average household about 10 – 12 weeks. A great way of obtaining 20 kg of totally natural fertiliser every 4-6 weeks!
- What do I do with the material once the bucket is full?
There are a number of things you can do.
- Firstly, you can bury the contents of the bucket directly into your garden. Just cover it up with soil or mulch and in 4-6 weeks it will have broken down into rich conditioner for the soil; when the bucket is full again, you can do the same thing in a different part of the garden.
- Place the contents directly into an outside compost bin.
- Line a large planter box with sand, empty the bucket into it and cover with more sand. After 4-6 weeks you will be able to plant directly into it. Great if you live in an apartment or have a garden with no digging space.
- Give the fermented waste to a community garden, friends, relatives or even your building’s gardener.
- How often do I need to add the (Bokashi) bran?
Usually about once a day; less often if you are not adding to the bucket.
- Is fermenting better than compost?
Compost is a good source of nutrients for your garden; however, during the composting process, much of the goodness is lost. Fermented waste, however, retains all the energy (no heat loss) and most of the nutrients in the waste. Fermented waste has the bonus of providing beneficial microbes to your garden and this, over time, will produce amazing results.
- Why can’t I just bury my food waste directly in the garden?
Without fermenting the food first in the bucket with the bran the waste will simply rot, smell and start to attract flies, rats and cockroaches. The bran ferments the food so that it quickly turns into humus once buried and doesn’t result in pests or insect infestations.
- Is fermenting good for the environment?
Fermenting waste is more efficient than composting. Greenhouse gas emissions are greatly reduced during fermentation, there are no insect or rodent problems and the end product is extremely valuable as a soil conditioner and fertiliser. The process retains all the energy (not released to the atmosphere) and all the water is retained, not
- What if the bucket starts to smell?
Check that the lid is being replaced tightly and that you have covered the surface area of the waste with Bokashi. Secondly, make sure the fluid is drained off, using the tap. Finally, make sure that the waste has been compacted down with a masher or similar, to ensure there are no air pockets.
If the waste is too smelly, simply bury the waste in your garden, rinse the bucket in water (no detergent) and start again.
- Do I need to wash the bucket when I have emptied it?
Yes, but just with fresh water. Do not use soap or detergents, as these will kill the microbes. Remember to line the drain plate with a thin layer of Bokashi before adding any waste.
- What can I do with the liquid I drain off?
This liquid is teeming with microbes and nutrients! You can dilute it and use this directly on your garden or plants: dilute 1:1000 for foliar spray or 1:100 (10ml per 1 litre) for lawns and garden beds. If you have a septic system, you can add the liquid undiluted to the toilet or septic tank. The microbes will work to make the septic system more efficient. Alternatively, you can simply tip it down the sink undiluted – the microbes will go to work on your drains and keep them clean and odour-free.
- How much liquid should I get from the bin?
The amount of liquid that you get, will be depend on the type of waste you have put in – lots of fruit will produce lots of liquid, but if you have lots of cooked food, vegetables etc, then you’ll get less. The amount of liquid is not an indicator of whether the system is working and you won’t get any more (or less) liquid by increasing (or decreasing) the amount of Bokashi you add. Expect some variation in colour of the liquid.
Some people run two bins in rotation, leaving the first one full for as long as it takes to almost fill the second; this way the food waste ferments in the bucket longer and you get a lot more liquid.
- What do I do if I go on holiday?
Simply drain the liquid from the bucket, make sure there is a layer of Bokashi on top of the last layer of waste and ensure the lid is firmly sealed. Whilst you are gone, the microbes will keep the waste odour free.
We had a client open a bin after it had been in storage (full) for 15 months – see what happened here.
- How do I know it’s working properly?
You will notice a white cottonwool-like mould growing on the top of the food waste when you open the bin – this is a good sign that the microbes are doing their job. Grey or black mould, or a rotten odour, indicates that there is some decay occurring, simply add a little more bran and continue as normal.
- The waste hasn’t broken down in the bucket. What’s wrong?
Nothing is wrong! The Bokashi bucket will NOT decompose the material while the material is in the bucket – it will only ferment (or pickle) it.
Imagine a pickled onion – it still looks like an onion but the pickling process actually changes the internal structure of the cells.
The single criterion to determine if the process is working is the odour – if there’s no rotting odour, then the fermentation process is working. The physical decomposition into humus only occurs once the fermented material goes into the soil. Here, it breaks down very quickly because the material has been pre-conditioned (i.e. fermented) and should turn into humus/soil within a couple of weeks (varies a bit with soil temperature).
- How often should I drain the liquid?
Approximately every three days – more if you are getting a lot of drain off.