Category Archives: Bokashi in the world

Pop-up gardening in Christchurch

Christchurch, the third-biggest city in New Zealand, has had a terrible time the last years. They got hit with a huge earthquake in 2010, an even more traumatic one in 2011, and then the quakes and uncertainty just kept coming. The city centre has long been razed but the go-ahead for new building hasn’t really come until recently.

Meanwhile, life goes on. A tough call, but it does.

We were in Christchurch recently visiting our colleagues at EMNZ and ZingBokashi, they’re doing a great work and have been for many years. (And when the earthquake damage was at it’s worst they were out there with truckloads of EM, spraying against smell and potential disease).

They tipped us about the great Agropolis community garden right in the heart of town. It’s a true pop-up affair, the signs are up for the current property to be sold, then I assume they’ll move on to a new spot yet again.

It’s a great little garden. Truly inspiring to see the spirit behind it, hanging in even when it’s tough, and creating a little spot of beauty and good health in the midst of what is, honestly, a traumatized city centre with a lot of building ahead of it.

The garden is sponsored in part by our EM colleagues. Bokashi and EM are used in the garden beds. Everything is very pragmatic here, they’ve made a great soil factory out of an old pallet-based water tank. (I’m sure these things have a name, just not sure what it is!)

There’s a productive greenhouse (plastic tunnel style) on site, information about when the next work session is, a practical watering system round the boxes and a great design on the garden beds. Lots of wooden shipping pallets here!

Anyhow, enjoy the pictures! Hope you’ll be inspired to pass them on to a community garden you know of.

You don’t need an earthquake to get this to happen!

 

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Fresh and healthy herbs and veggies. You quickly forget what once was…

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…until you look up at the backdrop.

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Smart use of shipping pallets.

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Yep. It works!

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Coffee sacks. Not an idea I’d ever thought of. But then again, there’s a coffee roasters across the street…

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Giant size bokashi bin.

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Which is mixed with soil in this highly-pragmatic soil factory.

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Fresh and healthy all right.

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Smart use of stacked plastic crates with bokashi soil.

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The for sale sign is up. The nature of the best for pop-up community gardens.

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Just a practical detail from the watering system.

 

 

 

Bokashi a hit in restaurants and offices in New Zealand

Just a few years ago Bokashi was something that people quietly did in their homes and back yards. A bit embarrassing to discuss it with the neighbors, bit of a hippy warning.

Now it’s really gone mainstream and can be found in the best of restaurants and the most professional of offices. This film from New Zealand, where Bokashi has been building popularity and credibility for nearly 20 years now, is inspiring.

The Mudbrick vineyard and restaurant on Waiheke is no small place — lots of stars, stunning location and a fabulous kitchen garden. Would go there in a minute if I could! But even though their wines are no doubt brilliant, the thing that impresses me is that they’ve got it. They have created a food loop.

Each chef has a bucket for food scraps, no big deal. When the work is done the buckets are taken out to ferment in barrels and ultimately dug back down into the kitchen garden. When you see it on a film like this it all looks so, well, obvious. And they haven’t made it any more complicated than it needs to be. Just a whole lot of kiwi common sense combined with wanting the best possible soil for their veggies.

That the vineyard is located on an island (in the Hauraki Gulf, just outside Auckland where I grew up) means it makes even more sense. Rubbish disposal on any island is difficult, so setting up a food loop in this way is logical, and I would imagine economical.

Unfortunately not all of us have a vineyard to run, so the office stories are more likely closer to home. How hard is it, really, when you think about it? Every office has it’s food waste, and here in the film they make it look pretty easy. Brilliant to see how people think it’s cool to be going home from work these days with a bucket of bokashi to dig into the veggie patch at home. The food loop strikes again!

Admittedly, New Zealand has  a pretty nice climate. Even in the cold south the ground rarely freezes, in the north you can grow veggies year round. Not tropical but for those of us living in Northern Europe (I’m in Sweden even if I grew up in New Zealand), it looks pretty comfortable.

So we have to be innovative.

Look for new ways of doing big scale bokashi. After all, when spring comes we need every bit of fertilizer we can get our hands on so even if the process involves a bit of winter storage it pays off big time when the spring comes.

My current best suggestion for winter storage would be to store bokashi in bottomless barrels on-site in the garden. Something we could all have a go at testing and compare notes? Obviously it needs to ferment indoors for a couple of weeks. But then to drop the fermented bokashi into a barrel with a good lid isn’t hard work. Line up the bottomless barrels on the land that needs fertilizing the best then let them fill up over the winter.

When the spring warmth comes the microbes, worms and other critters will spring into action. They’ll work the nutrients down into the soil and probably make a faster start on the gardening than you will. When the time comes to prepare the land, you can remove the barrel, dig down the ready and not-quite-so-ready bokashi into the soil and you’re ready to go.

Not a lot of carrying and lifting there. And a great way of making a food loop small or big that stretches over the winter.

Worth giving it a go? Let us know if you’ve got any good ideas on the subject!

/Jenny

ps the photo below is a 120 liter bokashi bin we’re currently testing here in Sweden in an urban gardening project, available from Agriton in Holland. It’s a bit hard to see, but it has a tap for draining off bokashi fluid, a metal grid in the bottom for separating the solids and liquids, and a pretty airtight lid with a good catch. Will let you know how it goes!

Photo: Jenny Harlen

Bokashi 101 on webradio

A couple of weeks ago I got to do something fun. Talk about Bokashi on webradio!

There’s a woman in Montana who does a web radio show on gardening. (What else could she possibly write about given that her name is Kate Gardner?!). She called and we talked. And talked…and talked. Probably got a bit carried away with it all actually but it was such fun. And in the end she knocked it up into a nice little session called Bokashi 101.

So if you’ve got an hour to spare load it up on your iPod and take the dog out for a walk.

It was really fun talking to Kate. But what I learnt is that it’s hard to keep your thoughts in a straight line when you’re being asked questions. Running a course is much easier! So there were a couple of really important things I would have liked to bring up if I’d only remembered.

And they are this:
1. That the topsoil on our planet is fast fading away. Some estimates are that we are losing 1%  per year. Yikes. So whatever we do in this generation of ours, we have to make sure we start building top soil again. Every bucket of Bokashi you dig down adds a bucket of topsoil to the planet. A bucket for mankind and not for the landfill…

2. That the single most important thing about Bokashi is that it puts carbon into the soil where we need it and not into the atmosphere, where we absolutely don’t. Each bucket you dig down is a sort of micro carbon sink. A bucket of carbon in the soil is a good thing. Half a bucket of carbon in the air is not a good thing. (What happens in a regular compost pile or even a landfill pile is that almost half the organic waste goes up into the air in the form of greenhouse gases. Much of it as methane which is a far worse gas than carbon dioxide.)

Today (on my dog walk!) I listened to the next installment of the Bokashi story on Kate’s web radio show. Here she’s talking to an inspiring couple in Great Falls, Montana, who are working hard to set up large-scale Bokashi composting units in schools and food banks in the area. There’s a lot of trial and error behind how Michael and MJ do it and it’s interesting to hear their story. Everything we’re doing with Bokashi is a sort of pioneer thing, a lot of product development, and the more we can compare notes and share ideas the better it’s going to be.

Anyhow it’s well worth listening to their story. If you’re curious about the nuts and bolts of how they build their bins check their website. Basically they’re using shipping pallets, insulation foam and plastic to build modular, insulated bins. Food waste, wood chips and Bokashi bran in; three months later soil out. Really cool concept, and I think somewhere here is the start of what we’re going to be doing all over in a few years time.

Got your iPod handy? Got your dog handy? Take a nice walk in the autumn leaves and enjoy!

Here’s the link: http://webtalkradio.net/2011/10/24/the-manic-gardener-–-kitchen-composting-bokashi-101/

And here’s the link to Kate’s blog, The Manic Gardener. Worth reading!!
http://themanicgardener.com/

Bokashi gardening in Edmonton

The good news is it’s thawed in Edmonton! As it has here (even if we got some snow this week!) The apple blossoms are just about to spring and life is good. Again.

Remember the Bokashi project that Mike in Edmonton is running? Here’s an update from one of the test group. Thumbs up it seems.

This little guy is doing great, he’s clearly in charge of sprinkling on the bokashi bran each day into the bucket. Anyhow, if you’re curious, have a read and see how the project is progressing.

Another lovely Canadian with a mission is Desi in Edmonton. Here’s her latest bokashi post (she’s done a few good ones on the subject). Now we’re just waiting to hear the latest from Edmonton now that life has once again turned green there as it has there. So Desi, how’s things in your bokashi garden?!

And Mike, the guy behind it all and rather an interesting blog. Here’s his latest update with follow-up from one of the other members of the test squad, Cara. This is a really nice way of cranking up awareness, no preconceived ideas, no flogging of stuff, no heavy scientific stuff, just some nice friendly kitchen floor experiments. I like it!

Bokashiworld on facebook

I’ve just set up a facebook group for Bokashiworld (I think! I hope!). So far it has a proud membership of 1 (one). Me…

So if you’re a facebook user and would find it easier to follow this blog there rather than here please go ahead and join me!

Here’s the link:

Otherwise you can just search for Bokashiworld and it should turn up.

Oh, and please feel free to have your say. It’s an open forum and there’s no marketing of products involved — the main thing is we give each other a hand to share new ideas and help more people get started. If you have any good stories from wherever you are in the world it would be great to share them. Even better if you have pictures.

See you there!!

Earthquake cleanup using EM in Christchurch

So many New Zealanders have lost their home and their hope to the recent earthquake in Christchurch. One small light in the dark is the work our colleagues in New Zealand are doing with EM. They have loaded up trucks with liquid EM (Effective Microorganisms) and are spraying it on contaminated areas to help fight the inevitable spread of odour and germs. Basically it’s a case of getting good bacteria to outnumber the bad bacteria before they get a hold.

It’s not till you see it happening you realize how much follows in the wake of an earthquake. Cleanup is not just about buildings, it’s also about preventing the spread of disease.

Good luck guys! Well done!

As they say on the YouTube clip…

A devastating earthquake in Christchurch on Feb 22nd 2011 has left the City with extensive liquefaction and raw sewage covering large urban areas.
EM is being used to spray over this smelly contamination to help control the bad odours and to help control the pathogens (bad bugs) that are present.
EM has a history of being used in many disaster recovery situations.
Naturefarm in conjunction with Interclean and CityCare are pleased to be making a difference by using EM to help this clean-up process.

More info here:

http://emrojapan.com/emnews/content/380.html

Create your own Eden!

Isn’t it a great picture? Check the website here, it’s just excellent. A bunch of councils in New Zealand have gone together to produce this site and it really works. Simple, friendly, and pedagogic. Suddenly all this Bokashi stuff doesn’t seem so hard any more, it’s just a good-old down-to-earth way of creating your own little paradise. Here and now.

One of the reasons I’m sitting here in Sweden carrying on and on about Bokashi is because I’m actually from New Zealand. I’ve seen how over the last ten years Bokashi has become more and more part of everyday life there, not an overnight sensation but just something that’s gradually crept into the way things are done. And coming from there I know that you’d have to look far to find a country of more down-to-earth people. This is not the land of hocus-pocus. So if it works there it should work anywhere. On the other hand, New Zealand is not a particularly urban country — even if most people live in towns they still have gardens.

And you have to admit the climate makes life easy, it’s not that hard to go dig a hole any time of year.

But all the same. Keep an eye on what these kiwis are doing. They may show us yet!

Website: www.createyourowneden.org.nz