A month or so ago Bruce and I attended our first free horticulture workshop at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute called “EM (effective microorganisms) and Bokashi”. This half day workshop, highly promoted by the Christchurch City Council, encourages folks to embrace this fascinating composting method which allows for the decomposition of food waste to take place in three weeks instead of three months. Too good to be true?
Bokashi is a Japanese term meaning ‘fermented organic matter’. Food waste is placed in a dual bucket set, periodically splashed with some compost-zing bokashi mix (a bran-based material that has been fermented with EM liquid concentrate) and left to ferment in an airtight container before being buried in the ground. The juice produced from the fermenting food waste can be used to fertilize the garden and clean surface areas (the instructor swore it was great for cleaning toilets and kitchen counters).
We eagerly bought a Bokashi bucket set along with some EM Concentrate and rushed home and started composting our food waste. It took about six weeks to fill up one bucket. Once a day we’d pour the days’ scraps into the bucket, sprinkle some mix on it, then squash it down. Every other day we’d pour off the liquid into one of the many drains or toilets. Ideally, we should have left the filled bucket to ferment for another two weeks before burying, but since we’re heading overseas, we skipped this process and just buried it into the ground. It should decompose into soil within3 – 4 weeks.
A successful fermentation process will have a smell similar to that of pickles or cider vinegar. The food won’t look any different; it’s just been pickled. We didn’t mind the smell; Ken thought otherwise.
The Bokashi method of composting is being embraced in something like 100+ countries. It’s being used on huge produce & livestock farms to control pests and smells; successful implementations are doing away with the need for chemical fertilizers. I’d been wondering why we’d never heard about it in the States, but I did some snooping around and it looks like it is being used on a small scale level; it certainly hasn’t been embraced or promoted by the government like it has by the goverments of other countries. Hmmm, wonder why……..
Some resources for further exploration: