Posts filed under ‘bokashi’
Just posted this on our facebook page but thought it was so inspiring I should post it here as well. A church in Harlem has taken their precious inner city land and made a farm out of it. They’re feeding their parishioners with healthy, home grown food from their new veggie patch. Just watch the film here, it’s done with love and compassion. Now this is what a church can really add to the world!
Because their land is polluted and hardly farming land (surprise!) they’ve built raised beds to grow their veggie beds. Probably the way to go regardless of what you have under your feet, it’s a much easier work height, lot less weeding, drains well and warms up easily. And looks beautiful.
They haven’t made a lot of fuss about it in the article but they are using Bokashi in the garden. Makes perfect sense really. I have no idea where they’re sourcing their food waste but the possibilities are endless when the whole project is part of a community-based program.
A lot of people are working on many fronts to start up urban growing projects, often on abandoned lots or in community parks. I’ve never seen a churchyard used in this way before and it’s obviously the perfect hand-in-hand solution. Hope we get to see a lot more of it!!
I guess everyone has heard about Alys Fowler except me.
I came across this article she wrote for the Guardian a few weeks ago and it seemed to me a pretty good endorsement by someone who really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to gardening. She has quite an interesting life story — urban gardening in Manhattan, tv gardener for the BBC and into all sorts of projects and books on sustainable gardening and self-sufficient living.
Here’s the article:
And here’s the Wikipedia link with the back story:
Wouldn’t mind a couple of her books! Although that would probably just start me off on more projects than I need right at the moment
Do you remember the first time you looked in your first-ever Bokashi bucket? All the excitement of a sparkling new project on the go. Hopes and dreams about changing your life, changing the world.
So you open your bucket and… Nothing. Just food scraps. Sort of mushy, but still — food scraps. Is that it then? Doesn’t it get any better than this?
The thing is that there IS a lot going on in that bucket. It’s just that we can’t see it.
The first thing to face up to is that you won’t get soil in your bucket. Never. Ever. Just doesn’t work that way.
What you will get is pickled food scraps. That look exactly like the food scraps you scraped off your plate the other day. The “pickling”, or fermentation is a process that is really handy for us. It means we can be as lazy as anything, not have to go out with the scraps to the compost in the dark and slush and not have to put up with the slime, smell and flies you would quite likely have had otherwise if you’re a bit lazy with that compost bin trip.
You have to admit it’s quite comfortable having a no-smell bin in the kitchen that deals with everything.
But that’s not the reason for Bokashi, it’s actually all about dealing with the food scraps in the way that will give the best possible results for your plants.
So what happens in your Bokashi bin actually?
The microbes go to work pretty quickly on the food waste and do two things. One, they multiply. Every 20 minutes or so if they like the look of things. And soon you have a full bin of microbes munching at the bit to get out and do something in your garden.
And two, they go to work on your chicken bones, cheese rinds, macaroni leftovers. Food is made up of a lot of proteins and stuff and the microbes job is to break up those proteins into their component parts, which are amino acids. The tiny little bits of the protein chains.
If you bury a banana skin in the ground your average tomato plant won’t be able to get much out of it. But if that same banana skin had been through a Bokashi bucket first your tomato plant would be able to “eat” it directly. That’s because the plant can take up the nutrients in the amino acids with help of the microbes, it’s a kind of package deal.
I think you could sort of compare it to turning up at a big Christmas dinner. On one table is a pig. On the other is a beautiful array of turkey slices, meatballs, vegetable dishes and dessert. Complete with knives and forks and everything else you could ask for. Which would you choose?
What do the microbes add in all of this? A lot. As well as basically serving up the food in bite-sized portions ready for the plants they tend to do all the running around. Talk to the plants (through their roots) and ask what’s on their wish list for the day in the way of nutrients. Like little mini waiters they then scurry off and fetch the required dishes. And their tip? A nice dose of sugar from the plant, delivered in some way via the roots.
If the same food scraps had gone straight into a traditional compost they would also have become soil in the end. But in the process most of the nutrients would have leached away. Much of the carbon in the compost would have gone up into the atmosphere in the form of methane and carbon dioxide. And the nutrients that remained would have lost their valuable “fast-food” structure during the rotting process. Nothing against composting — but it is a very different process to fermentation.
Now I’m no biologist so I know this is ridiculously over simplified. If you can add something to the description or put it right I’d love your feedback. But all in all I think our buckets and their billions of microbial residents deserve a great pat on the back for a job well done. Over and over and over again.
So even if there’s nothing much to see when you empty that Bokashi bucket there’s a lot to be grateful for.
And the real thanks is the happy bouncing plants you get at the end of the day. It’s just that there’s more teamwork involved than you’d ever imagine!
There’s something I’ve been wondering about for a long time: can you ferment Bokashi in a plastic bag?
So I’ve been testing it over the last months. And I have to say I’m quite excited about the result. Because it works every bit as well as a bucket once you get the hang of it. Perfect at Christmas if you get a rush on leftovers.
That means the up-front investment for getting started with Bokashi is zero. OK, you have to buy the bran but you have to buy that anyway, that after all is the magic of Bokashi. The buckets in themselves are very convenient but it’s the microbes that do the work not the plastic.
So how does it work? Take a plastic bag, a good thick one from a shoe store or something. I don’t know how things are where you live but the ones we get from the supermarket here are a bit thin and often have holes in them. You need your bag to be totally airtight. The thicker the better from an odour point of view as well.
You can put the bag in a bucket if you like or just put it in a cupboard or on the floor. You need a good thick newspaper, say half a centimetre thick in the bag. And you need a bag clamp of some sort: here I’ve used bag clamps from Ikea, they cost more or less nothing and everyone has them in their kitchen drawer here in Sweden.
Right. So you put the newspaper in the bag (a tabloid is usually the same width as a bag and slots in nicely with the fold at the bottom of the bag). Sprinkle in some Bokashi bran, tip in your food waste from the day, sprinkle over a little more Bokashi bran. Actually, just as you normally do in a “real” bucket. Clamp the bag.
And go on filling until the bag is full. It’s good to add a lot of serviettes, kitchen paper and the like into the bag as this all helps absorb moisture. If the bag feels too wet you’ll need to add another newspaper. Which isn’t actually a problem as the newspaper is good to have in your compost/soil later — the worms love fermented with EM microbes.
Keep the air in the bag to a minimum. Just give the bag a bit of a squeeze and a squash now and then before you clamp it.
That’s about it. Easy isn’t it? Leave the bag to ferment indoors for the usual two weeks. Then do whatever you usually do with it — into the garden, into the compost, into the woodshed or garage for storage until spring.
Once the bag has done it’s fermenting thing indoors it doesn’t matter if you store it cold outside. Which means you can stack up any number of bags in the shed through a long, cold winter and even if they freeze they’ll come back to life in the spring. For the sake of neatness you can store them up in big garbage sacks or barrel. One thing to think of if you’re going to store your Bokashi bags for some months is that they will go on generating liquid — be generous with the paper.
Another benefit of plastic-bag Bokashi is that you don’t have any bucket to wash. Just empty the bag and toss it, or use it again. It’s a really handy way of dealing with kitchen waste when you’re away from home (caravan? tent? cottage? canoe trip?) or have too much for your regular Bokashi buckets to handle.
It’s actually no harder than regular Bokashi composting with all the expensive gear so it may be a good way of getting sceptical friends and neighbours to test the concept. Give them some of your Bokashi bran (in a glass jar for example) and show them the ropes. Help them through their first cycle so they gain confidence then they’re sure to be converted! And if they’re not gardeners themselves they could fill the bags then hand them over to you for your garden.
Bear in mind that this plastic bag approach is a new concept. And so it’s not tested so much further than in our own kitchen (as far as I know). So it would be great if you’d test it yourself, give it a few rounds to see what you learn, and let us know so we can share it. Pictures welcome of course!
By the way, I wanted to be really sure the process was working so I kept a couple of bags indoors in a warm kitchen close to the radiator for three months. No problems at all with smell (although the bags did get a bit in the way after a while ). If you’re worried about rats and mice, don’t be: we have both in the vicinity as we’re close to farms (despite a hardworking cat) and they just aren’t interested in Bokashi bags. The fermented Bokashi is simply too acidic, too low pH. But test for yourself with a small bag in the woodshed or somewhere to be sure.
Good luck! Give it a go! And if you like the idea spread the word!!
ps If you’re really lazy you could put the fermented bags out in garden as they are. Make a couple of slits in the bottom and the worms will soon be in there working hard. In due course you can just shake out the bag and enjoy all your fantastic soil!
It’s a good question. So, how do we?
If the chemical companies could decide the solution would of course be easy. Which is of course the angle here on this poster. According to them…
We can grow more using less water and land through technologies that unlock the potential of plants. These include drought-tolerant seed varieties, products that enhance plant performance and products that protect against insects, diseases and weeds.
Scary if you ask me.
How about we just start looking after our soil properly? Put everything back into the soil that we possibly can, find smart new ways of hanging onto nutrition so it’s not lost from the food chain, cool ways of working in our local communities so we can grow more food locally in the space we have using the resources we’ve already got on hand.
More common sense and less chemicals would be a good start. And Bokashi is definitely on the common sense side of the balance sheet. We just have to find ways of getting it all moving faster, so we really can feed this growing world population.
In time. Without taking scary shortcuts.
Here’s a thread on Bokashi composting that’s worth having a look at if you’re curious on what people out there in the “real world” think. Actually I think many of the postings are from New Zealand –my old homeland but also a country that’s become a Bokashi hotspot in recent years.
As you can see it’s not only me who is a bit of a Bokashi fan/nerd/passionista! Go on, add your comments, share your successes and air your doubts. The more of us who talk Bokashi and spread the word the better! Bucket by bucket it’s gradually making the world a better place.
This is the result of another of winter’s Bokashi experiments. Super success and well-worth trying for anyone with a greenhouse. And with a winter season to deal with…
We grow tomatoes in buckets in our greenhouse and at the end of the season there’s a lot of tired soil to get rid of. Plus all the other end-of-season plants and pots to be emptied. Quite boring to be honest, and come spring you have to turn around and bring in a lot of sacks of “new” soil.
But since when should soil be “old” and “new”? It doesn’t get old out there on the field or in the woods, it just gets topped up with new organic matter and the soil microbes keep it alive and thriving.
A greenhouse isn’t a field and the potting mix we buy at the garden centre is hardly thriving with microbial activity (more often than not it’s actually sterilised!).
But by using Bokashi in a new way to “renovate” the soil we can give it another chance. And another. And another. Nature at its best.
Here we’ve used the blue plastic bags they provide at Ikea for bringing home your stuff. Good and sturdy with strong handles. Toss in a tomato bucket, toss in a bucket of kitchen-fermented Bokashi, toss in another bucket of soil or whatever. Probably a good idea to lay a newspaper on top to keep it moist.
That’s it. Line up a few bags like this and when spring comes you’ll have fresh new soil to work with — either for replanting or as top-up soil for the garden. I’m not sure I want to replant tomatoes in the same soil even if its “renovated” but it will be great for filling new planters and top-dressing old one. Snail-free into the bargain (which unfortunately soil from my compost bin isn’t).
The heat from the glasshouse will help start the Bokashi process nice and early in the spring, even if your bags have been frozen clumps all winter. There’s nothing much else you can do with a glasshouse in the winter anyhow, so you might has well have it working for you. It’s a true luxury to open it up now in the spring and have so much brilliant soil ready to use.
Just to dig in and enjoy!
W’ve had a bit of a winter pause on our blog here, sorry about that — we’ve been snowed under on all fronts it seems. But life has returned to this stubborn part of the world and any day now the last scraps of snow will melt and we’re in the green. Relief!
On the Bokashi front things are happenning too. The message is spreading (gradually!) throughout Sweden as it has throughout so many other countries in the world. This is a real grass-roots movement, a message passed from neighbour to colleague to sister-in-law and one of those few real things you can do in a small way in a small life to make a difference.
Like in so many other countries there’s also a huge resurgence in interest in growing your own food. The novelty of home renovation, marble bathrooms and designer kitchens is (maybe? hopefully!) starting to wear off in favour of real things like growing your own food in the backyard.
Only the thing is, we don’t want to do it like our grandfather did. God help us, we don’t have the time. And most of us don’t even know how to do it anymore. And we don’t have a spare field.
I think Bokashi has a role to play in this: it makes life easier. And better. It makes it easy to fix really REALLY good soil so you can grow your own stuff and watch it thrive. There are lots of other new ways of doing things too, like growing veggies in raised plank boxes. No digging, no weeding. Quite a bit of work up front building them but then once it’s done it’s done. Fill them with Bokashi (from your own kitchen and that of your neighbour!) and anything else you can get your hands on and you suddenly have a fantastic little organic garden outside your kitchen window.
This time of year people buy a lot of seeds, we probably all know the feeling of hope when we stand there in the shop with the dream of the summer’s first carrots pulled straight from the soil. But no matter how many seed packets we buy the sad thing is that most of us just end up there in mid-summer with a lot of weeds and some skinny carrots that didn’t turn out anything like the ones on the packet….
Why? Could it be we’re trying to do it the way we remember our grandfather did, but without the patience and love he put into it? Probably without the knowledge either. Definitely without the time.
So it has to get easier, we have to find new ways of achieving that seed-package carrot dream! And good soil is the key to it. Bokashi is a fantastically easy and rational way of getting good soil. And if you combine that with smart raised beds, mulch growing and other new approaches. you can say goodbye to the worst of the back-breaking work your grandfather did. And spend time enjoying your juicy fat carrots instead!
I know Bokashi is about making soil out of what you can’t eat in the kitchen. But it’s just as much about tossing less stuff. Carrot peelings are one thing but you can’t help feeling a bit embarassed when you tip what should really have been dinner into the bin. Happens to the best of us. But I suspect a couple of months watching what goes in the Bokashi bin makes a lot of difference to a lot of people, suddenly you just can’t do it any more. And find yourself cringing when you’re at someone else’s place and they go around happily tossing out perfectly good leftovers. (Even worse is when you start wondering if they’d let you take them home with you…:-))
Anyhow, here’s an excellent blog with lots of good ideas for reducing food waste. From one sinner to another, as it were….
Low level activity here on this blog. Which is not to say I haven’t been thinking about bokashi, about compost, about soil, seeds, plants and… SPRING! Not many minutes pass in a straight line without green-coloured thoughts passing through my mind. We’ve seen nothing but white now since early December. It’s like a Christmas card the whole thing, but we’ve had a lot of temps below -20 and it gets to you a bit. In the end.
On the plus side: I work at home (as a freelance translator). Fire going, cat n dog snoozing, customers out of reach at the other end of an internet connection. Quite idyllic actually. And still just a few minutes into town to fix the civilised stuff. Most of my workload is in the autumn and winter which is just perfect from a “microfarming” perspective. No way do I want to be stuck at my desk all day when the sun is shining and the world is green.
On the Bokashi front: As you can imagine it’s a bit of a challenge finding ways to deal with all the ready-fermented Bokashi buckets under these conditions. Just now I’m running a series of little soil factories in a heated workshop. Big plastic storage boxes (75l I think) with layers of cheap potting mix and Bokashi. Jammed up against the heater… They’re stacked under a longggg trestle table (5m) where I’ve set up planting trays and grow lights. I collect plastic sweet boxes (3l) from the local supermarket and these are ideal as seedling boxes, just drill a few holes in the bottom. With the plastic lids on an angle they make great mini glasshouses, the lids can then be used under as drip trays.
I usually start up the “season” on Valentines Day, it feels good to do something useful with such a silly day. Tomatoes and some of the extra slow stuff. This year I’m trying to plant a lot of herbs, the seeds are all on their way and I thought I’d give it a try to start them up now, the perennials at least.
The challenge is that things get incredibly crowded inside if you don’t watch out. It’s all too easy to overdo it and end up with stuff coming out your ears and nowhere to put it. I should be able to open the greenhouse mid-April for some of the hardy stuff and in May some of the non-frost things can go into the ground. But we’re not over our frost limit until school breakup, first week of June. Hence the logistics dilemnas!
But believe me, things grow as hell anyhow with round-the-clock sun. And that’s where all the Bokashi efforts come into play as well, the better the soil the better it all goes. When you get a turbo start to the planting season like we do, soil is all the more important. In my humble opinion.
So that’s why I’m working hard with buckets and boxes and heaters and lamps. To be honest I think it’s a lot of fun and a great contrast to sitting behind a computer, soil therapy if you will.
An important part of it is also testing out how we can do stuff here in these cold places. I get a bit of mail from places like Alaska and Canada, they share our dilemna and understand all the reasons why you have to be resourceful. In NZ where I grew up its easy: you just stick the stuff in the soil and there’s no need to innovate. (Luxury!?)
Part of my test mission here is also to see how we can do mini-recycling projects on a local basis. I’ve decided to put embarassment behind me and now have some regular suppliers of “stuff I need” in town. The pizzeria (mayonnaise buckets for Bokashi), the supermarket (for sweets boxes), the coffee shop (for buckets filled with the week’s coffee grounds) and a couple of offices (for their lunchroom food scraps). So I tootle around and fill the car and you know what — I get a smile and welcome in each and every place. Noone thinks its a bit silly. Surprising, isn’t it?
Best of all is that the plants are going to just love the soil we’re brewing up there in the shed. Can’t wait to open the first seed packets and get it all going.
Snow storm or no snow storm.