Monday, November 14, 2011

Compost Mishaps

So I may have gotten ahead of myself on the composting front. The worm bins are going so well that I thought I should take it to the next level; bokashi. This is a Japanese anaerobic method of composting that basically pickles the food and then you put the pickled scraps through a regular composting process. Why go throw the extra hassle? With bokashi you can put in dairy, meat, and bones which you can't do in a worm or regular compost pile! So after a few weeks of research, I took what I like best from several sites and came up with this...

1. Buy a plastic, sealable bin making sure that it will fit in a trash bag just in case this experiment goes horrible wrong. Some web sites sell bokashi buckets that have a spigot on the bottom to catch the "tea" to use as fertilizer. I skipped this to save money, and since I have worm "tea" I don't think I need anymore fertilizer.
2. Most folks purchase pre-made bokashi bran. This bran is inoculated in effective microorganisms (EM) (good bacteria). They then layer the bran on the bottom of the sealable container put food scraps over that and then another layer of bran with a weight of some sort over that so as to keep air out. You continue layering until the bin is filled. You can then let the entire bucket ferment for a few weeks and take the pickled food and put it in you your worm bin, regular compost, or dig it into the ground. Being a DIYer, I found some web sites that talked about people who used newspaper which is much cheaper than bran. I also decided against buying EM solution. I went to the home brew store and bought lactobacillus.
3. To get the bacteria started, I put it with molasses and warm water kept it in a warm spot over night and then put it in my bin with shredded newspaper. As a test, I took a few handfuls and put that in the small plastic baggie. The plan was to allow everything to ferment for two or three weeks, dry out the newspaper and begin a bokashi bin.
4. I had mixed success. The newspaper molded instead of fermenting, and I now have a giant bin of funk! However the newspaper in the baggie is perfect. The only mold color is white which is okay and the mixtures smells sweet and sour just like it should. I have come to the conclusion that the problem with the bin was it had too much exposure to air.

In my next attempt, I want to make this even more of a DIY project. I plan on making my own EM solution from a old Thai farmer recipe. (Check out this site for the info.) Yes I recognize the fact that I probably shouldn't be trying to do more of this myself considering it didn't go so well the first time but it is just ingrained in my personality to always strive for more self sufficiency. Now the question is how to get a get the bin of mold out in the trash without Jeff noticing...

The starter yeast with molasses and oats.
Newspaper shreddings- pre crazy mold!


  1. Oh, my. There seem to be lots of us out there, us DIYers! I made my own bokashi too. I bought cheap wheat bran at the health food store (they sold me the last several pounds still in the 10-pound brown-paper shipping sack). I mixed molasses and some "good bacteria" from my compost heap and even a bacterial drain cleaner I had on hand! Let it get good 'n' nasty, then mixed it with the bran and into a plastic container. It smelled like super-pickles, just like it was supposed to; it molded over in a frothy white blanket, just like it was supposed to; I dried it, as instructed; and then...I tried to use it. I had a nice clean small bucket, with a tight lid, left from a non-harmful chemical & well-cleaned, to put all my bokashi and kitchen scraps into... But noooo..... No decomposition, just layers of "pickled" stuff. My theory is that people who think bokashi is composting their scraps are nuts. It hides the smell of decomposting scraps by smelling so strongly of pickles. I cringe to think what my composting worms and insects would think of trying to eat that nasty mess. For a creature with a soft outer body (like a worm), it would surely burn....

  2. Wow, thanks for the interesting comment. I wonder if there is a way to experiment to see if bokashi is working without killing innocent worms!

  3. To Lee Joliffe,

    Yes the Bokashi initially pickles, but think of that as 'pre-digesting' the food and making the fibrous parts more edible.

    The people putting it in worm bins say the worms stay away for a few days then love it, the people who dig it into the garden say it's gone in a few weeks.

    I just put it in a pile in the compost area of my backyard and it disappears PDQ, but I don't time it. I just toss into 5 gallon containers and let it pickle for a few weeks, the dump it onto a leaf pile and it's history in weeks at most

    What I really love is the no smell. I get some store-bought bokashi and put it in a gallon jar of diluted molasses water and pour it over kitchen scraps.

    Before I got the 'real' Bokashi I just used this bacterial septic tank stuff from Whole Foods - same thing -- it all lasts forever because I just use it to inoculate the molasses water.