Tag Archives: Bokashi tips

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!

Drain your scraps before they land in the Bokashi bin!

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One of biggest frustrations people have with their Bokashi bin, it seems, is that now and then it smells.

Not just a bit, but really, really off. Not good for goodwill in the family or recruiting friends and neighbors to the cause. Mostly, people try to solve the problem by tossing in more bran. Gradually getting more disillusioned as it fails to make a big difference. Sadly I think a lot of bins have ended up in a corner of the garage because of this. A great idea that just didn’t quite make it.

The reason a Bokashi bin starts to smell is, nearly always, that it’s simply too wet in there. No amount of bran will help, you simply ha

ve to get rid of the excess moisture. The easiest way to do that is to simply put a newspaper inside the bin for a few days, it will absorb the humidity and most of the smell will disappear.

How do you know when it’s too wet in your bin? You’d think the drainage tap would take care of all liquid issues but for whatever reason not all liquid goes down to the bottom. Some goes up and hangs in the air pocket over the food waste. Some forms condensation droplets on the inside of the lid. And this is the point at which your bin starts to stink.

Next time you open your bin, check the underside of the lid. Condensation? Then it’s too wet and it would be worth tossing in a newspaper. If it’s not a big problem it could be enough just to add a toilet roll or two, or an empty  egg carton, something along those lines that will take up the moisture.

Usually the newspaper will be

quite soggy after a couple of days, then it’s done its work. You can leave it in there if you like, but if you think it’s just taking up a lot of valuable space you could remove it — just add another paper if and when needed. When you’ve got a newspaper in there it’s also a good chance to push down the contents of your bin, at least your hands won’t get icky in the process. And the more compact it is in your bin the better the Bokashi process will work. I suspect this  also helps squeeze down moisture towards the drainage tap too, and that’s always a good thing.

So then you’re standing there with a soggy newspaper in your hand, wondering what to do next. Don’t just toss it! By this time the paper is soaked with nutrients and good microbes, just the thing to use in your garden. If you’re into mulching, these newspapers are g

reat to lay out under bushes (especially berry bushes if you have them), in garden beds or veggie patches. Admittedly, they look a bit silly and will blow away as soon as they dry out, but you can always cover them with some bark, leaves or soil so they look a bit better. Have a peek under the paper after a few days, most likely it will be a full-scale worm party right there under your nose.

Another option is to toss the nutrient/microbe newspaper in the garden compost and cover so it doesn’t blow away. The carbon in the paper is nea

rly always needed in a standard outdoor compost to compensate all the leaves and other green stuff. And the microbes and nutrients just help it all along.

Or you can tear it into shreds and simply dig it down into your soil. The worms will love it, and after all it’s the worms that feed the plants so why not?

Just realized I’d posted a picture here before starting to write and completely lost my thread. The little white gadget is something I brought home from Ikea the other day and plan to have on the kitchen bench (or maybe in the cupboard under the sink) to store my

food scraps in during the day. That means they can run off for a few hours before landing in the bin. Especially useful if you’re fighting with a bin that is always too wet, or a family that is hard to train. Kids can always find their way to the little white box and put in their apple core. Once or twice a day, probably when you’re cleaning up after a meal, it’s just to take the drained-off bits in the white box and add them to the Bokashi bin.

Here in Sweden people drink enormous amounts of coffee for some reason, and it’s nearly always brewed at home (or in the office) in filter brewers. That means that after each brew you have a dripping wet filter of coffee to deal with. It’s really worth letting it run off first, coffee dries up quite quickly (and is a brilliant nutrient!), and it’s much better to add it your Bokashi bin after it’

s stopped dripping. Especially if you brew a lot of coffee at home! So a neat and tidy drainage solution is not so silly. Previously I’ve used a terra-cotta plant pot with an extra drainage tray as a lid. Works well, and the lid is not so silly if you have banana flies in the summer.

And, if you’ve got a Bokashi bin in the corner of your garage somewhere, would some of this be the reason you lost interest? May be time to have another go — your garden will thank you for it!

Photo: Jenny Harlen

Photo: Jenny Harlen

Just another thought: if you have a lot of loose tea leaves to deal with or make coffee in a french press you’re probably tearing your hair out with all the wet mess. At home we have one of these nylon coffee filters lying around in the sink, it gets in the way a bit, but as there’s always some tea or coffee slops to deal with we put up with it. They dry out really fast then you can dump them in the Bokashi bin. Also works well if you end up with a lot of wet, slimy rice in the sink. Just scoop it up and drain if off in the filter for a while.

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Bokashi — Keep it dry and it won’t smell. Promise.

The trick to enjoying life with your Bokashi bin is to keep it dry in there. Honestly, it’s that simple. Yeah, you have to have an airtight bin and sprinkle on the bran regularly but if it smells in your bin chances are it’s just too wet. The process is probably doing fine but it’s just nicer if you don’t have any smell to worry about.

The easiest way is just to avoid putting really wet food in the bin. If you have a bin with a tap a lot of the moisture will find it’s way down to the bottom and you can drain it off. But quite often there’s a condensation process going on in parallel and you find you have moisture gathering up on the top of the bin. A simple trick is just to lay a newspaper in the top of the bin, it will absorb most of the dampness and take the smell with it.

But it’s not so silly to drain off as much of the external moisture as possible before you put things in the bin and let the Bokashi juice come on it’s own in due course from the moisture in the food itself. The pictures show a couple of things I picked up from Ikea recently, here in Sweden they were in the kitchen hardware section, by the recycling bins and the place where they sell kitchen sinks and cupboard doors.

The black one is brilliant to have over your sink. You can peel your potatoes straight into it and let them run off for a while. Let your coffee filters and tea bags stand a while before they go in the bin, makes all the difference if they can dry up a bit.

The white one is also excellent. The two parts fit inside one another, the upper one has drainage holes and the lower one catches all the runoff. Nice and neat.

Obviously you can use any old strainer that you have lying around or invent something out of what you have, it’s not the meaning this should cost a lot of money. But from experience I know you tend to get a bit annoyed with most things which is why I fell for these. A flower pot with a drainage hole and dish isn’t so silly either.

Here’s another idea on the coffee front, in all simplicity. We drink a lot of press coffee here (or whatever you call it where you are!). I have a nylon coffee filter handy that I tip the coffee grinds into afterwards. You can just let it run off into the coffee maker or a cup or something. Dries up quite quickly and is easy to deal with.

Shrimps are another thing — dry the skins off a bit first and you’ll have no trouble with them in your Bokashi bin. It’s when they’re dripping wet that they cause problems. You could always put in something dryish on top of them in the bin, serviettes for example, bread, rice or whatever you’ve got handy that will help pack them in and dry them up so the Bokashi can do it’s work.

Anyhow, that’s my two-cents worth on the subject. Not exactly glamorous writing about how you dry up old coffee grinds and shrimp skins but that’s our reality here in BokashiWorld :-)!!

Love to hear your ideas, tips, the simpler the better. The more we can share our tiny daily inventions the easier we’ll make it for more people to get involved and like what they’re doing. So thanks!

/Jenny

Bokashi for people with small courtyards

A few weeks ago I did the rounds to see my parents. No small thing considering my mum lives in Sydney and my dad lives in Auckland. And I am living here in Sweden…

Given that both places are Bokashi hotspots I would have loved to have spent some time sticking my nose into things there. having a bit of a chat with people and seeing what’s going on. But it just wasn’t that sort of trip so the study visit will have to be saved for another time.

One small thing I did do while I was with my mum in Sydney was help her get restarted with Bokashi in her small courtyard garden. (That’s it in the picture above. Cute. But very small…). In true nerd fashion I got her started on Bokashi composting 3 or 4 years ago and she liked it a lot. Not having much space though it made most sense to use the same hole each time to dig down the fermented contents of the bin (my brother got that job :-)). She scooped out the ready soil from the Bokashi hole in advance, worms and all, spread it in good spots in the garden, then the new bucket went into the same spot. Worked brilliantly in a warm climate like Sydney.

But the thing is now her arthritis means she’s having trouble with the indoor bins. Too hard to open and close. So we decided to give those away to some neighbors and do the whole thing directly in the courtyard.

Step one, I walked down to the local hardware store and bought a biggish bucket. It didn’t have a lid so I picked up a planter tray roughly the same size that could sit on top of the bucket. I asked the guys in the shop if they wouldn’t mind sawing off the bottom of the bucket for me. Obviously they thought I was nuts but it was really no problem.

Step two, we sort of screwed the bucket down into a spare spot in the little garden, hidden behind a fern. We put the planter tray on top and plonked the nearest heavy thing on top to keep it in place. Ta dah…!

What she does now is to toss her food scraps each day directly into the bucket. A sprinkle of Bokashi bran, lid back on and that’s it. No clumsy lids to open and close and no buckets underfoot in the kitchen.

I’m not saying this is the perfect solution but it seems to be working fine and is a good compromise if you want to get many of the benefits of a full Bokashi system without going all the way. The trick is to throw in a handful of soil now and then, or some dry leaves, to trigger it along.

The bucket we bought was really not that big and filled up in a few weeks so she’s doing another one in another spare spot in the garden. Between the two buckets she should be able to deal with most of the scraps she produces.

And given that her soil is hopelessly sandy this should make all the difference. The worms at least seem to be extremely happy!

Bokashi composting when its minus 24. Celcius.

I have to admit it resists a bit. It doesn’t come naturally to be running round in the garden with compost buckets when it’s -24 out. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe it’ll be warmer then?

Or maybe not.

So I thought I’d write a bit about how we fix it here in the getting-more-arctic-by-the-minute backwoods of Sweden. Having grown up in it, I’m fully aware of the fact that there is another hemisphere. One that is warm. That has summer now. One that people actually do things like take off their clothes and go swimming.

The thing is, it’s just a bit hard to believe.

So this is how I’m planning to tackle the compost thing this winter:

1. Glasshouse. Great storage space when there’s nothing going on. And come spring a warm place for soil production. I’ve lined up a number of sacks, bags and bins in the glasshouse, some already filled with autumn leaves and/or leftover soil from last summer. I’ll empty the occasional Bokashi bucket into them and leave nature to do it’s work. (They don’t need to be airtight, but if I have a lid or a string to tie the bag I do that.)

2. Indoor soil factory. This is a great way of producing some soil for late winter planting — tomatoes, seedlings that need replanting, potplants that are due for fresh soil. The sort of thing you do as indoors as possible, at least here. Basically it’s a big plastic bin with a lid, layer potting mix and Bokashi as you see fit (maybe 50:50) and put in the warmest spot you have. I jam mine up by a radiator, I have a friend who has hers on the heated floor in her (very nice!) spa-bathroom.

3. The trusty old hot compost. It’s good to get the odd bucket in here to keep things going, to some extent at least. If your compost bin is full from the autumn’s garden clean-up this is a good way to give it a kick start. (OK, I admit you can’t kick start anything at minus-twenty-whatever, but the principle holds.) I usually carry out a bag of paper scrap from the kitchen to tip over the Bokashi, it’s a nice easy way of fixing the carbon-nitrogen thing even in mid-winter when you don’t have anything else to use.

4. I do most of my growing these days in long raised beds. (The picture above shows how they look at the moment, not much to see under the snow.) So if it’s not all too hard I’ll add a bucket or two into the beds now and then, tucked in under the cover of leaves and hay I added in the autumn.

5. Then there’s the experiments: I have a couple of big outdoor clay planters I’m testing with Bokashi. Plonked them down in a garden bed and filled with a couple of buckets of Bokashi. Topped up with leaves. And a sheet of plywood to keep the dog out. It’s one big frozen clump just now, but I would expect it to be a thriving worm farm come spring.

Another experiment is an old metal-grid rubbish bag holder I found in the shed. I plonked that down in the rhubarb patch for the winter. Into that I’m putting paper sacs filled with Bokashi. I’ve also been tossing in some leaves (when they were still accessible). The grid is rat-proof and my idea with the paper sacks is that they would keep the flies off long enough for the Bokashi to turn to soil. Obviously all rather theoretical under the circumstances but worth a try anyhow.

6. Then of course it’s possible just to put the buckets out in the wood shed and let them freeze. I have a lot of buckets so that would be no problem, and if the winter goes on long enough and I get fed up enough I may do just that.

So, that’s my plan. What’s yours? Or are you just lucky enough you don’t need to resort to these desperate measures? Although whichever way you look at it, it’s good to have options. There’s many ways of making soil and the cool thing is I’m pretty sure we can all do it, regardless of which end of the planet we live on.

Banana box Bokashi

It doesn’t get much simpler than this. If you’re in a hurry to grow something and haven’t got anywhere to do it, just grab a banana box and start planting!

I tested this idea some months ago and it’s turned out really well. I plonked down the banana box on an area I’m clearing for a new flower bed. I’d already covered over the lawn with newspapers to block the grass and covered that with a layer of dry reeds from the lake nearby. You could use hay or lawn cuttings or any other mulch you have handy. Obviously I want to get Bokashi into the soil but I just couldn’t be bothered digging. Hence this project…

The banana boxes I got hold of had a layer of thin cardboard inside so I left that there to cover the hole in the base. I put some newspaper round the sides to cover some of the other openings in the boxes. Then in with some “old” soil, in with a bucket of Bokashi from the kitchen, and in with a bit of cheap potting mix I had handy. That’s it. Left it a couple of weeks for the pH to balance up then planted some wild strawberries I had handy. My idea is that the Bokashi will do its thing and turn to soil, the boxes will collapse in due course  and during the winter the whole thing will spread itself out as a top layer on my new bed.

So far so good, the strawberries are doing brilliantly (this picture is a month or two old, they’re now overflowing their boxes and taste great). The boxes are holding together and will last the season. Which makes me think this must also be a good way of growing a few veggies during the summer if you don’t really have anywhere to do it. Even if you had to do it on a tarp on some asphalt it would probably give you the chance to grow a few lettuces and herbs. Worth a try anyhow.

There was another advantage and that was that it was a really quick way to empty a couple of Bokashi buckets in a hurry. You know, for those times when you really need the bucket again but haven’t really got the time or motivation to start digging in the garden. Just dump it in a banana box and get on with your day!

Love to hear from anyone whose tested something similar. Otherwise give it a go and let us have your tips and ideas!

Bokashi 1-2-3

Jenny Harlen

Jenny Harlen

The thing with Bokashi is that it’s dead easy. The whole concept seems really strange and different at first but when you start doing it you can’t help thinking what’s the big deal. Because there is none, big deal that is. Basically you just toss your kitchen waste in a different bin to what you used to and at the end of the day take care of it yourself instead of waiting for someone else to do it for you.

So: the Bokashi 1-2-3.

1. Put all your food scraps from the day in your Bokashi bin — meat, fish, pasta, coffee, veggies.

2. Sprinkle over a handful of Bokashi bran — the “good” microbes start working on your food waste.

3. Keep on filling your bucket until it’s full then leave it to ferment for a couple of weeks while you fill the other bucket.

4. Drain off the Bokashi liquid regularly — it’s a fantastic organic fertilser for your plants.

5. Use your Bokashi compost in the garden! Dig it down into your veggie patch or garden beds, add it into to your traditional compost, or mix with soil in outdoor flower planters or tomato pots.

6. Enjoy your healthy plants and the knowledge you’re doing a great thing for the environment!