If you don’t have much space and travel frequently, the best home composting choice for you is a Bokashi on balcony!
What is the meaning of Bokashi? The name is Japanese and means “gradation”. What is Bokashi made of? It’s a mix of microorganisms designed to break down food scraps, including meat and oil, by the process of fermentation. These microorganisms are called also EM (Effective Microorganisms). Bokashi EM are a mix of bacteria and yeast.*
How does it work? No worry, as explained before, there is nothing complex about composting.
You need a bag of Bokashi bran (either buy it from one of the many suppliers, or even make you own if you’re up for it) and a bucket with a lid. Any bucket works, but there are also specialized double buckets available which filter and collect the Bokashi juice and deliver it from a tap. This is very convenient if you want regular compost liquid to fertilize your plants. The juice needs to be used freshly after it is produced and must be diluted first before giving it to the plants. The amount of juice produced will depend on the food scraps you used. One of my buckets that had only coffee grinds and fruit fiber hardly produced any liquid.
The lid on the bucket is important because the fermentation happens without oxygen. For people used to traditional forms of composting, I must say this is a very different type of anaerobic composting. With the Bokashi microorganisms there is no bad smell at all. It smells a bit like pickles, and only for a few seconds while the lid is open. The less you open the bucket the better to maintain the oxygen low. Put your food scraps in, add a layer of Bokashi bran, press it down to get rid of air pockets, and close the bucket again.
I like using several smaller one-liter buckets. After you fill the bucket, it takes about two weeks for the Bokashi to break down. At this point you will have stable, fermented food scraps, but it won’t look yet like compost. There is a second step which is to mix it with soil. You can use old potting soil from your vegetable garden containers, or you can bury it in the ground. In this way you can improve your yard’s soil, or even the neighborhood’s. The microorganisms in the soil will continue the process, and in another two weeks you will have compost.
The process takes in total four weeks. Two in the bucket, plus two in the soil. This is assuming the temperatures are over 20 degrees Celsius. If temperatures are lower, then it will take longer, and if they are really low or below freezing, the decomposing process will stop. But as soon as temperatures are higher it will restart again. You can also keep the fermented scraps in the bucket until you can mix them with the soil. Just make sure to drain all the liquid. You can also place a layer of old newspaper shreds or other compostable absorbing material at the bottom of the bucket if you don’t want to collect the liquid.
I like to use the Bokashi liquid to fertilize my tomatoes while they are growing. I also have a vertical garden and every month in the summer I harvest rocket and radishes. Before seeding a new crop, I mix the old soil with the contents of my Bokashi bucket, and leave it in a box I have in the balcony. After one month the vegetables are ready to harvest, and I have fresh compost to plant new seeds in. I keep rotating the soil in this way and it works very well. I also rotate soil from different family of plants, to make my garden more resistant to pests.
For me the advantages of this composting system are:
– can be done in a small scale for a balcony garden
– no bad smells
– low maintenance
– able to process all kinds of food scraps
– can be left alone for several weeks (or months) if you travel
Where can you find a compost kit if you like to try Bokashi:
Amazon provides good solutions like this one
Lenara is garden advisor at Urban Gardeners Republic and blogger. She believes that windows, balconies, roofs and yards, small or large, can become a green oasis with delicious fresh edibles. She has a certificate in Permaculture Design and love creating sustainable and ecological gardens for urban spaces. You can read more from her at www.balcony.ga
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