Category: advice

Is bokashi cost effective? Yes!

By , 20 February 2010 21:39

In this article from the Kamloops Daily News, Deanna Hurstfield is looking to start a bokashi composting network where she lives. It has a good overview of the process.

I need to respond to these lines in the article:

Bokashi seems to offer many advantages, Hurstfield said. The catch? It’s not cheap.

There are bokashi kits available through Internet dealers, she said. The costs of those systems appear to run at about $20 to $30 a month for all the supplies, substrates and microbe mixes.

Here are the costs for the first year of bokashi composting using my system:

Two bokashi buckets: $85
4 x 1Kg Bokashi*: $30
Total    $115
   
Monthly cost:  $9.58

*[two 1Kg bags are included with the bokashi kits]

In the second year or, if you have your own buckets as Deanna does, all you need is the bokashi: $60

Monthly cost: $5

I’ve been generous on the amount of bokashi you need for a year. Although I say that a 1Kg bag of bokashi will last 2 – 4 months, I’ve had customers come back for a second bag after 6 or 9 months, even a year later. Recently, a small office re-ordered a bag of bokashi nearly two an a half years after their first purchase!

While my competitor’s prices probably do come close the article’s monthly estimate for the first year, the cost in the second year is much lower.

"If we can find a microbiologist who can help us figure out what is in there, we can cut the costs even more," she said.

It isn’t hard to find what is in the bacterial culture used to make bokashi. This blog post from 2007 addresses the issue of making and using your own friendly microbe culture, as does Bokashi Composting.

I have never hidden how to make your own bokashi which will lower your costs even more. I only ask that you buy the Terra Biosa Friendly Microbes [aka EM] from me.:-)

Do it today!

 

Bears and Bokashi

By , 3 June 2009 05:16

From the email:

T writes: Have you had any experience with the bears and the fermented compost? Are they attracted to it? I live in West Vancouver and would like to order some dry bokashi mix but was wondering about the bears when I go to bury the fermented food scraps.

All I can say with certainty is that the deeper you bury the fermented food scraps, less smell will percolate above ground. It is my opinion that bokashi compost does not smell like normal rotting food waste so it is less attractive to animals that may want to eat it.

A few years ago, I put a large quantity of bokashi prepared food waste on a raised garden bed and covered it with straw. Purposely, I left one corner exposed and waited to see what would happen. Wasps and flies were around but never landed on it.

Your own experience may vary. I hope this helps.

Al

[as this person did by some bokashi, I’ll be asking for updates]

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Office composting

By , 28 April 2009 23:49

From the email:

I got your site from one of your customers. I want to set up a
composting system on our deck here, but want to make sure that it doesn’t have flies, and that it works on a balcony.

We have a staff of about 60, so we produce a fair amount of compost.

What can you do to help set us up properly over here. Keep in mind, we are a non-profit.

A collection bucket in the kitchen can hold the food waste until it is full. At that point, it can be placed in 5 – 6 gallon plastic pail [HDPE 2] and bokashi sprinkled on top. This will start the fermentation process and keep the flies and smells down as more material is added. A 5 – 6 gallon pail will fill up in about 7 – 10 days. Bokashi can be added to the kitchen collection bucket as well.

When the 5 gallon bucket is full, it needs to sit for about 10 – 14 days to finish fermenting. At that point it can be added to a composting system for finishing.

The biggest challenge will be processing all the collected bokashi compost material. If you have the space, it can be done but it may work just as well to give some of the full buckets to your staff to process in their own compost bins at home. One of my customers, the AIBC office http://www.aibc.ca , does that now.

Here is a simple Do it Yourself compost bin http://www.yougrowgirl.com/garden/urbancomposting.php

This can be adapted to the size required.

Worm composting for large facilities is possible as well.

Here are some options:
1) in Vernon http://www.briteland.com/biobin.htm
2) in Kamloops http://www.allthingsorganic.com/Products/can-o-worms.asp
3) from Quebec http://www.woodwormfarms.com/index.php

I have one more option in the process of being developed that would be ideal for apartment size balconies. When it is ready, I will give it to you to test out.

All these systems are compatible with bokashi as an adjunct to normal composting. In a small urban space, odour and fruit fly reduction are important. Bokashi can assist with that.

Probiotics and cold symptoms

By , 26 October 2008 18:38

Although my focus is on composting, the microbial liquid I use to make bokashi is also a probiotic beverage imported into Canada as a food item. There are many good things to say about the use of probiotics and a member of my delicious network has over 87 links to scientific studies about their benefit to human health.

Earlier this week I felt a cold coming on. I was sneezing and achy and had this I-know-I’m-getting-cold feeling. And a cold was the last thing I needed. So, I drank 250ml 125ml of Vita Biosa, bundled up and went to bed. In the morning, my symptoms had not worsened and I made it through the day feeling pretty good. That night, I drank another 250mls 125mls of Vita Biosa and in the morning my cold symptoms were gone.

I know that anecdotal evidence can’t be relied on to prove effectiveness but then I found this:

A study by the Australian Institute of Sport found endurance runners given a probiotic supplement suffered less severe flu and cold symptoms than other athletes.

Their illness also generally lasted only half the time of those not taking the supplement, lead researcher Dr David Pyne said.

The volunteers were given the probiotic for four weeks and then later given a placebo capsule containing harmless starch for a further four weeks.

The supplement did not affect the athletes’ performance but it significantly shortened and softened the symptoms of the illness.

While taking placebo capsules, seven runners reported respiratory illness such as sore throat, coughs, runny nose, chest congestion and sneezing, lasting a total of 72 days.

But while on probiotics, only three runners reported illness lasting a total of 30 days. Source

I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing this. It looks like I came out ahead. I’ll start taking the liquid in smaller doses on a regular basis.

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Anke's bokashi bucket [Germany]

By , 17 July 2008 06:56

I found a picture of Anke’s bucket on Flickr and provided some advice to her. This is a DIY bucket that a company makes but also provides details on how to make your own.

After I sent her the instructions I usually give to clients, Anke decided start the process over and document it. Links to my website & blog are in the pic of the bucket with foil tape on it.

bokashi – a set on Flickr

Update: Anke added a post on her blog

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Bokashi & Bones

By , 2 June 2008 08:17

Within twelve hours of responding to a blog post about the same topic, I received this email:

I’m trying to find out if chicken bones are okay in my bokashi bucket (hope so cause I already put them in). You said chicken is fine, so how about the bones?…If bones are not okay, should I go to the trouble to dig them out? How
should I best compost bones?

My response [from the blog comments]:

If everything is smelling of fermenting, then you are doing the right things.

But fermentation is not composting. The food wastes added to your bokashi bucket may not look much different than when they went in. but their chemical structure has change completely.

It is when your bokashi food waste goes into your compost heap that the real composting begins. Bones do take longer to break down but in my experience, they become soft and pliable after several weeks/months in the compost.

Will they disappear? Eventually. If you want to make that happen faster, the best thing I can suggest is to break the bones into smaller pieces when you put them in your bokashi bucket.

Hope that helps.

Cheers,

Al

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Bokashi Question – Why am I using so much bokashi?

By , 29 May 2008 06:32

J. received a bokashi bucket as part of a corporate prize draw, so I did not have the opportunity to explain the system in advance or provide a small intro demonstration. My instruction sheet and information brochure are being changed to include some of the concerns raised.

Edited for clarity:

I need more bokashi. I am only 1 person using this system & started the composted at the end of March — so in less than 2 months I’ve used up the bag. I think used too much –but the reason why was because every time I opened the bucket to add more food scraps, I would find mold on the top of the food/enzyme pile AND all over the interior sides of the bucket.  So, I would try to scrape the sides & add more bokashi in order to cover the mold & aid digestion.

I’m concerned that this system really does not break down the organic materials into compost. It really is in a very early state of decomposition and not appropriate for putting in my window planters (I’m an apt dweller). It appears that it only gets to a state of partially digested/rotted food. Is this correct?

Thanks,

J

My reply:

Thanks for your comments. I’ll answer them as best as I can. Using a 1Kg bag of bokashi in a two month period is within a normal range but for a single person, you are correct: it should last longer. Bokashi is very forgiving. As long as it has something to eat/grow on, it will continue to do its work.

With regard to the mold, on Page 2 of the instruction sheet is says:

The Signs Of A Successful Fermentation
Smell: Well fermented food organics should have a smell similar to that of pickles or
cider vinegar.

Visual: Occasionally, particularly for longer fermentation periods a white cotton-like
fungi growth may appear on the surface. This shows that a good fermentation
process has occurred.

The Signs That All Is Not Well*
Smell: A strong rancid or rotten smell indicates a poor batch of compost.

Visual: The presence black or blue-green fungi indicates that contamination has occurred
and the process has not fermented but putrefied.

Was your mold white or black? Did your food waste smell fermented or putrid?

With regard to what is happening in the bucket, again, you are correct: the system does not break down the organic materials into "black gold" compost.

It states this on Page 2 of the instruction sheet:

The Composting Process
The composting process is one of fermentation, which is like pickling
onions in a jar. The organic food will not breakdown or decompose
while it is in the bucket. So if you have a bucket that is fermenting
with a pickling/vinegar type smell and looks the same when you put the
food in the bucket, this is okay composting is still happening.

On Page 4 it states that the finishing process is as follows:

How To Use Your Biosa Bokashi Compost or What to do when the bucket is full

In existing gardens
Dig a hole/trench approximately 20-25 cms deep, add the fermented food organics and mix with some soil, then cover with the remaining soil. The FM fermented compost is acidic when first dug in but neutralises after 7-10 days. Bacteria in the soil and compost will start to break down the food and after about 2-4 weeks all the food will have decomposed. Alternatively you can add it to an existing compost bin.

For people who live in apartments, there are different solutions possible and I offer the suggestion provided in this weblink:

http://www.livingsoil.co.uk/learning/planters.html

According to one of my clients, this has worked very well for him.

I hope this is helpful for you J. The concerns you raised will be made more clear in my information brochures and instructions.

Please contact me to get another bag of bokashi.

Regards,

Al

*I did not include this section in my original reply.

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Bokashi and the garden fork

By , 8 April 2008 09:13

Bokashi is compressed as much as possible to allow fermentation to occur in an anaerobic environment.

2 month bokashi fermented

Getting the bokashi out of the bucket in preparation for drying requires loosening the material. Today, after over a year on the job, the fork broke

Broken Tine

After a short moment of reflection – there has got be an easier way to do this – another fork was pressed into service

Garden Fork in Bokashi

I noticed that the tines are closer together – caused by an accident of some kind – and it works better than the old one. Eureka!!

Sunday March 9th, 2008 – Bokashi composting demo [show and tell] @ MOBY

By , 4 March 2008 21:34

From an email by Tina D

MOBY has invited Al … to do a Bokashi Composting workshop. I have been using the system for a year now and love it ( no fruit-flies in the summer). Please RSVP moby_lize@yahoo.ca if you would like to attend.

See below for more information.

Bokashi Composting Workshop

Check the craigslist link for info

http://vancouver.craigslist.ca/cls/594388059.html

Date: Sunday March 9th

Time: 11am
Location: MOBY Garden
Cost: $5 – can be used toward the kit which costs $45

Limited space – 12 people only. Please RSVP to moby_lize@yahoo.ca

For more information please see these websites:
http://www.greatday.ca
http://www.bokashiman.com

This is not an official guerrilla gardener meet-up so please to moby_lize@yahoo.ca

To be clear, we will not be making bokashi. I am showing the process, how it works and the results bokashi compost dug into Tina D’s MOBY garden plot in January. In all, we’re looking at about 30 – 45 minutes.

Four Ways To Compost Indoors

By , 24 January 2008 10:25

A post from Tiny Choices explains

Four Ways To Compost Indoors

For those of us without access to backyard, frontyard, or even sideyard space in which to compost our food scraps, there are four ways in which we can participate in this wholesome and environmentally sound pastime from the comfort and safety of our own homes.

In the post they talk about the Naturemill composter, Worm composting, Community composting and Bokashi:

“Bokashi (Japanese for “fermented organic matter”) is a method of intensive composting“– and it’s supercool– basically, the bokashi (a dry mixture most commonly made from bran, molassas, water and “effective microorganisms (EM)”) ferments your food scraps in an almost odor-free way– the process is reported to smell like apple cider vinegar!

Bokashiman says: “Simply place your kitchen waste in the bucket, sprinkle a small amount of the [bokashi] mixture over the waste, slightly compress and reseal the container. The beneficial microbes immediately go to work to ferment the food scraps, releasing valuable nutrients and enzymes, without the problems of odour, heat or insects. The organic material does not breakdown, it pickles.”

Nice. They do a good job of including all the major bokashi suppliers in only four paragraphs.

Update: The blog post on TinyChoices includes some Q&A discussion about various options for finishing the bokashi in the comments section.
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