Category Archives: Bokashi garden

Coffee grounds. Free to a good home.

Photo: Jenny Harlen“Hello gardeners! Please take some coffee grinds for your garden!”

What gardener could resist that? Well, unfortunately I had to as I was just a tourist passing by. But I was seriously tempted to drag some home to the friends we were staying with.

Coffee grounds are just great in the garden. The nice thing is that they’re brown, so you can just spread them out under bushes and in garden beds. Smells nice while you’re doing it and pretty soon they just eat their way down into the soil where the nitrogen in the grounds is released to the plants nearby (with some good help of whatever microbes are in the vicinity).

The only disadvantage can be if you use a lot of coffee grounds in your veggie patch that the carrots start tasting like coffee. No, just joking. There can be a risk that heavy metals in the coffee build up in the veggie patch if you overdo it. My feeling is that it would take an awful lot of coffee to get you to that point, and the greater worry would be whether we should be running that much coffee through our bodies. However, worth checking out a bit more if you’re concerned.

The alternative is to dose up bushes, trees, flower beds, even a smallish lawn with coffee grounds — none of that is going to get into the food chain. It’s a cheap source of nitrogen and a cool thing to do, just swag home with a bag of coffee grinds when you pass your neighborhood cafe.

Unfortunately none of the cafes round us do this. I’m hoping that will change gradually, like so many recycling-related things. Common sense does seem to be kicking in all over.

A few years ago I did a deal with the local bakery/cafe to pick up their coffee grinds once a week. I kept it up for a few years until other priorities took over, hopefully they have now adopted a new coffee collector.

My original idea was to do bokashi of the grinds to increase their microbial value in the soil. Great idea, well worth doing, but for me at the time just too hard work. So what I did was just dump the buckets of coffee grinds under our multitude of bushes, one bush at a time. Sometimes the buckets were frozen because they’d been stored outside, I just dumped them under the bush as they were. Come spring the weird collection of coffee towers mushed together and I could rake them out a bit.

Given that we produce bokashi bran here at home it’s not something we have a shortage of. Each spring I’d go around with a wheelbarrow of bokashi bran and throw a handful or two under each coffee bush. The microbes could spend the summer doing their good work.

Obviously you could get the same result using bokashi juice (the runoff from a bucket with drainage tap) or using EM in activated form. Either way, pretty cost effective and hard to overdose.

In the autumn I usually pile up a lot of leaves under the bushes and rake a lot straight into garden beds. Partly because I’m lazy and it’s easy to shuffle them up into the first best spot, but mainly because with such an active soil the leaves are rapidly absorbed into the soil around the bushes. They also keep the worms warm and happy for a good while into the late autumn and that’s always a good thing.

People around here say that coffee grinds are a great way of stopping snails in their tracks. I haven’t tested it myself so can’t say for sure, but it seems reasonable. Tugging a slimy snail body over a barrier of coffee grinds is probably not the most pleasant of options for a snail. Have you tested it? (Not dragging yourself through the grinds, obviously, but spreading them in the garden.) Is it worthwhile giving it a go?

So, all up — a lot you can do with coffee grinds without it being such a chore. Great for the garden but the greater good is probably getting them out of their landfill destiny and into the food/soil loop. Well worth giving it a shot in other words.

And you can always reward yourself with a steaming hot latte the next time you’re there to pick up your grounds!

 

Some excellent EM recipes from teraganix.com in the US

If you’ve been into bokashi for a while, perhaps it’s time to branch out into some new zone for your experiments? Make your own activated bran, maybe — way cheaper and fun to do. Or activate the EM mother culture (EM-1®) and make your own activated EM to use in the garden. Does wonders for the soil and is a really cost-effective approach. Lots of microbes for very little work.

All credit to Teraganix for the following information, it’s thorough and professional. Unfortunately all the measurements are non-metric but that’s life. Drag out the calculator!

Teraganix by the way is the official manufacturer of EM in the US. Original. Authentic. Certified, as they say. Look for the logos and the EM registered trademarks when you buy your EM and bokashi supplies, whatever country you’re in. The real thing is available in every country of the world, just make sure you’re getting it.

Activated EM-1

EM•1® microbial products can be grown one time for economical purposes. This “growing” or “brewing” process is called Activation (it used to be called “extension”). It does not mean the microbes in EM•1® are not active; they are. It is just a term EMRO developed years ago. Activation involves taking one part EM•1®, 1 part molasses, and 20 parts water. Numbers can be rounded up or down a bit according to the size of the container and are not crucial to the outcome of the final product.
Read more>>

EM bokashi bran

To make your own EM•1® Bokashi (in this recipe) you’ll need some bran (or some other dried plant material), some EM•1®, molasses, and fresh water. A 50-pound bag of wheat bran made into bokashi costs about $22 to make (including the EM•1® Microbial Inoculant, molasses, and bran). Rice bran costs about twice as much as wheat bran. This recipe takes about 20 minutes from start to finish to make a 50-pound bag of EM•1® Bokashi. It needs to ferment for a minimum of two weeks and then is dried for long-term storage (up to several years). If you choose not to make it, you can purchase it ready to use.

Read more>>


EM5 natural pesticide

EM5 is often used as a type of homemade pesticide. The fermentation extracts properties out of plant materials and the alcohol and retains them in the liquid. The EM•1® in the recipe is the fermentation catalyst. EM•1® itself has no pesticide qualities at all. This is an all-natural concoction that can be made by anyone and is in no way harmful to humans or animals. It combines water, EM•1®, a distilled spirit, molasses, and vinegar. The most successful programs with EM5 involve alternating its applications with Activated EM•1® and EMFPE. EM5 is effective for reducing pest populations because EM5 contains esters formed by mixing acetic acid and alcohol, which provokes intestinal intoxication.
Read more>>

EM fermented plant extracts

“Fermented plant extracts – most commonly done as a plain liquid manure or plant extract – is a dynamic practice gaining increased usage in India, Africa, Asia, and Central America where poor farmers need to obtain fertility and pest control from local plants and simple on-farm extraction methods.” Steve Diver, ATTRA*
Read more>>

EM fermented foods

Fermented foods provide a number of valuable health benefits, not the least of which is introducing beneficial bacteria to the digestive system, improving digestion and strengthening the immune system. If you are interested in introducing more fermented foods into your diet, browse our collection of easy-to-make fermented food recipes and find the flavors that fit your lifestyle best. From kim chee (kimchi) to the best mango salsa recipe, we have something for every home and palette. All it takes is a little preparation and Pro EM•1® to get started!

Read more>>

When there’s just no space left…

Photo: Jenny Harlen

Here in Sweden we’re having a fantastic summer, everything is growing like hell and there is absolutely nowhere left to dig down a bokashi bucket even if you wanted to.

We’ve dealt with this somewhat luxury problem by setting up a bottomless barrel right in the middle of the garden bed. Doesn’t look that glamourous I have to admit, but it works brilliantly.

The barrel itself is one we used to have in the greenhouse as a water tank until it started leaking. We took a handsaw to the base and plonked the bottom bit on top of the barrel as a lid. With a stone for weight. Obviously there are more elegant solutions but I’m a great fan of just taking the first best thing you find around the yard.

Then it’s just to dump the contents of the odd bokashi bucket direct into the barrel. Any excess moisture is quickly taken up by the plants and they just thrive on the nutrition that soaks through. Worms find their way more or less directly and set up shop, so in the summer heat the contents of the barrel just seem to melt away.

It’s not so silly to throw in some scrap paper sometimes, toilet paper rolls and cornflake packets, whatever. Gives the worms something to do and helps keep things nice and damp in the barrel. It also helps prevent flies from landing on your food waste and laying eggs, all that we could do without.

We move the barrel around from year to year, just now it’s landed in a raised bed with corn and zucchini. Probably a bit unfair on the ones further out in the bed as they pretty much miss out but the nearby plants are thriving.

Whatever’s left in the barrel when the harvest is taken care of is easy just to spread out and cover with soil. Or, if you are into mulching, it’s often enough just to cover with hay, leaves, garden clippings or whatever. The bokashi microbes work well in combination with the mulch, and even through the nutrition is going to lay around there over the winter it tends to be pretty stable and won’t all just leak away.

Of course, you can always just leave the barrel there over the winter, or move it to the next place you want to improve. Here, where we have frozen soil and quite a bit of snow, it’s a wonderfully easy way of taking care of a few bokashi buckets during the winter. A small barrel like this can’t fit so much bokashi in the winter, so you may need a couple more if it’s too cold for any action in the barrel.

One idea I’ve heard a few people have tested is to install something similar under fruit trees that could use a bit of a boost. It’s an easy way to feed them up a bit and improve the soil health around their roots, many fruit trees grow year after year without a lot of extra input so chances are they’ll respond well to some attention.

Worth testing, in any case!

Let us know if you’ve done anything similar and how it went, all ideas are welcome!

Using silage with Bokashi as mulch

Photo: Jenny Harlen

The other day we managed to get home our annual hay bale, always a good day around here!

We live in the country and on every field you can see a pile of these white silage bales looking much like a pile of UFO eggs. Each one weighs some 500 kilos, inside the tight plastic skin is a tightly-rolled bale of hay. The farmers make them directly on the field during the summer and use them for animal fodder in the winter, during the time they stand there the hay ferments which stops it rotting and makes it a good food source. Here in Sweden they’re white, I assume it’s a way of keeping them a bit cooler but also helps disguise them during the six months of white winter we have here.

The thing is, many of these bales turn bad. The plastic fails, the rain gets in, they start to rot. Which means they have no value whatsover to the farmers as they can’t be used as fodder.

But they are the best thing ever if you’re a gardener and can get hold of one! Just ask for the most rotten bale the farmer has on stock — and if he could give you a hand getting it onto your trailer with his tractor!

Here at home we use a bale a year in our veggie garden and around the house when we’re starting up new garden beds or trying to restore some corner or other. It works just brilliantly in combination with Bokashi and the fermentation that the bale has been through means you don’t get any weed seeds out of the hay.

Yesterday the rhubarb bed got a much-needed topup. We have a 5 meter wooden box with some 5 rhubarb plants. The soil has been sinking lower and lower and they haven’t had any real fertilising for some years. I started by spreading out a couple of buckets of Bokashi (would have used more but that was what I had on hand) and then topped it off with a 10 cm layer of hay from the silage bale.

Embarrassingly quick and easy. No digging at all. On the other hand we’ve had a family of crows giving us a hard time this spring, picking through all our garden beds looking for lunch, so I’ll keep an eye on that. In worst case it’s just to throw over a berry net.

The other problem with mulching, at least for us here, can be snails. I’ve had problems in this bed before so early this spring I removed all the winter mulch and have had the bed bare since then while the snail hunt was on. Think it’s fixed now, but I’ll lay out a handful of snail pellets (organic) to be sure.

One of the reasons why it’s good to use Bokashi in combination with mulch like this is that it balances out the carbon-nitrogen balance. If you just lay out a lot of browns (like this silage) there’s a risk the mulch may steal nitrogen from the plants. But with a layer of Bokashi under the mulch there should be nitrogen enough for everyone. If you don’t have much Bokashi to put under you could always kickstart the nitrogen with Bokashi liquid, nestle water or some good old diluted urine.

We’ve been doing this hay-bale thing for a few years now and I just love it. It’s such an easy way to top up a bed (like this one) or to get a new bed going. We’re too lazy to dig round here so when we’re starting off a new bed (whether for veggies or flowers) we just lay out some newspapers, spread out some Bokashi, dump a few buckets of coffee grinds (that we get from the local café) and cover the lot with silage. Smells like a bit of a farmyard for a few days but turns pretty quickly into the best soil.

And if you have a long winter like ours it’s great to have a pile of old silage on stock to cover all the beds for the winter. Gives your worms a warmer place to be and keeps them working longer, and when you remove the layer in the spring (if you do) you’ll be surprised how little there is left.

I know not everyone is surrounded by lakes and fields like we are, but for what it’s worth this is what we do. Maybe you have some other resource where you live that’s cheap and easy to get hold of and could do some good work on your veggie patch?

Love to hear your ideas!

Quick and easy “soil factory”

Photo: Jenny HarlenThere’s been a lot of interest in Vin’s in-ground composting experiment (look for the blog post just before this). This is my quick and dirty version of the same idea. Simple. Cheap. Quick. What more could you want?

The rather shabby looking barrel above has done service as a water barrel in my greenhouse for a few years. When I went to fill it this spring it leaked shamelessly from a crack in the bottom. I found an (equally shabby) barrel to replace it but as I was heading for the over-and-out pile that’s going to the tip soon I got the idea of giving it an extra life as a soil maker.

Out with the saw (just a plain old household saw) and off with the leaky bottom. That’s the bottom bit you can see there on top of the barrel, it turned out to be just the right size to serve as a lid. With a good-sized rock on top to stop it blowing away.

Having lopped off the bottom it was then easy to sort of screw the barrel down into the garden bed. Under all the garden scrap you can see in this bed there’s actually a bit of soil: I’d like to build up the level somewhat and also to improve the nutrient level there. So my idea is to dump the occasional Bokashi bucket into the barrel, top it with some paper scraps or a handful or two of the garden scrap. Let the worms do their work and come up and get it!

In a couple of weeks it’s pumpkin planting time here, the frost risk is over for us 2nd week of June. I have a few pumpkins and squash coming along in the greenhouse so I thought I’d plant them right alongside the barrel and see if they can’t take up some of the nutrients coming through that channel. Hopefully they’d like to sprawl out over all the compost scrap in the bed.

Transplanting a rhubarb here was another option but to be honest I can’t be bothered — they’re so happy where they are.

So, yes, it’s an experiment, but having fiddled and fixed with all manner of strange Bokashi experiments over the last years I haven’t got the least doubt this will work just fine. The nice thing is that when it gets boring with the barrel in that spot it’s easy to move elsewhere. A sort of mobile composting unit, quieter than a chicken tractor but the same idea. Perfect if you have clay soil that you can’t get a spade into and so need to go up instead.

Love to see your versions of this sort of thing. Has anyone got something going that’s even shabbier than mine??!!

/Jenny

Vin’s Bokashi experiment in Florida. Perfectly. Simple.

Got a great mail the other day from Vin in Florida, “a Florida backyard gardener who loves feeding her garden soil”. She included a bunch of pictures showing the Bokashi experiment she’s been running the last few months. (Can’t help but envy all that green while we’ve just been looking out at nothing but white for months!) The really fun thing with this experiment (apart from the healthy worms and plants of course) is the simplicity of it all. Why make it complicated when you can make it easy? Way to go, Vin!! /Jenny

My Bokashi Experiment began in Oct 2012. Pics here taken Nov 8/12:

265029_623014091048704_2061720641_n 486022_623014204382026_1102061488_n

This bucket is buried in a bed created by a concrete retaining wall.& I combine kitchen waste & garden leaf clippings in layers. Each time I put in kitchen waste (including paper napkins) I sprinkle bokashi bran. I call this my Garden Bucket. I use a potato masher as my push down tool. Notice (in the pic) above the bucket is a tomato plant and on the left bottom is a small onion shoot. On March 1, 2013:

549405_623014421048671_2065261317_n

This the same bucket in the earlier pic of Nov 8th. I have not emptied it since starting as the level goes down very fast & of course no need to drain, etc. The plants around seem happy – tomato has borne nice big fruits (1 on lower stem right next to the bucket) and the onion has grown tremendously (I cut onion greens often to use in salads & soups).

Even the marigold, which I use as pest deterrent, seems to like the “food” here. So, since I have found this concept working for me, I have put more ‘bokashi buckets’ in my backyard. This is on a bed I am re-doing, incorporating some wood branches like hagelkultur, which will be for a combination of tomatoes, beans and vines… maybe squash.

555407_623014551048658_276599233_n

4” of topsoil & composted manure will be put over the branches but leaving the bin top accessible, so I can continue to add kitchen waste. I’ve also put 1 in a ground-patch, between 2 path pavers.

420227_623015207715259_78274091_n

Plants around have survived the Florida winter and seem healthy.  There is also a 10” papaya seedling about 4ft away from this path & I’m hoping (if it survives & grow to late spring) the roots will reach close enough to get some nutrient from this bucket.

576163_623015671048546_1233207848_n

I’ve prepared a “spare” bin in another bed & I have put some earthworms around it. When this weekend’s chill front is over (hopefully the last 1 for 2013) I may plant some peppers and jicama around it.

How to make a soil factory!

Just had a query from someone in our facebook group looking for a blog I did ages ago about our “soil factory”. I couldn’t find it either (how do you just lose a blog entry??!!) so I posted up a few pictures in the facebook group with a quick description. For the sake of posterity here are the pics:

Just like any other raised bed, but reserved only for producing soil! Saves you thinking about where to dig down your next Bokashi bucket, just keep digging them down here and fill the wheelbarrow with good healthy soil when you need it. Add whatever else you have at hand, wood chips, straw, harvest leftovers. Not weeds! I generally cover mine with a big black tarp to keep seeds blowing in and preserve moisture. Breathes enough and helps warm the soil. You can do this in any shape or size, it doesn’t have to be this big!

btw we found out it’s easier to build these big boxes on a flat surface (driveway?) upside down then tip them right side up and carry them into place. It’s really hard to get them straight and nice if you build them on site.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA