19 March 2013

bokashi--part 2

Bokashi juice
Here's where we get down to the nitty gritty.  Above is some yummy yummy bokashi juice.  Make sure you read the preceding sentence with a lot of sarcasm.  This juice that comes out of the bottom of the bucket is loaded with beneficial bacteria and has a wide range of uses.  It's meant to reduce algae build up in your drains.  Diluted it acts like fertilizer.  I did dilute it and use it to help out my chilies and capsicum plants which were struggling and now they are all doing quite well and laden with peppers.  However, I think the juice smells like vomit.  I suppose that depends on what goes into the bucket and we tend to put mainly fruits and vegetables in which produce more liquid.  The bucket itself usually doesn't smell when I lift the lid and the bokashi has a sickly sweet smell to it.  The juice, though, is rank.  As long as I'm able to lift the bucket, I prefer to perch it over the edge of the sink and drain it straight in while I have the water running.

Ready to bury

In order to complete the last steps of breakdown, the fermented food needs to be buried in the soil.  When you go to bury the contents, you have to wait a week after the food at the top has been put in so it has a chance to ferment.  You can see in the picture how the food is covered in white mold, which means to process is working.  Green mold is another story, but fortunately that hasn't happened to us.  I reckon it all begins to look slightly yellow like it's pickling.  This is where I was crossing my fingers that everything worked like it should.  I was worried that our rocky, dusty soil wasn't even quality enough to complete the breakdown process.  Fortunately everything worked well.  I checked the soil about three weeks later and was having problems finding any evidence of food.  I started to think that maybe I had the wrong area of the garden, but I did come across an eggshell which hadn't broken down yet.  It's like magic!  My hope is that over time we will end up with quality soil throughout our garden.

Just needs to be covered in soil

13 March 2013

bokashi--part 1

Growing up in a family that composts, I feel a sense of guilt every time I throw away food at home.  Of course when you live in an apartment or a rental property, your options for compost are limited.  I had assumed that I would not do any composting until I owned a house and could lay out my own garden plan.  However a few months ago I looked at our waste and realized that a majority of it was food waste(!) so I decided to research my options.

The scheme that I found which would work best for my family's situation is the bokashi bucket.  This is not the stinky, hot composting you might be used to...it's a fermentation process.  This small bucket collects all your food waste, requiring little upkeep, then the contents get buried in your garden once the bucket is full.  It will take me a couple posts to relay all the info, but the super short conclusion is that I'm really happy with this system.  It's basically composting for the lazy.  The bucket can sit right there in the kitchen, collecting everything, and you barely have to do anything to keep it all running smoothly.

I was able to find a start up system at Bunnings Warehouse.  You need the bucket with its spigot at the bottom, a cup for draining the juice, and some active bokashi micro-organisms which come as either a spray or as granules.  We got it set up in a few minutes and started collecting food scraps.  This was my main selling point for this system--you can put ANY food in it.  Meat, citrus, cooked food, bread, whatever!  This is perfect for our family since we have two little ones that don't always finish their meals.

Upkeep consists of adding the micro-organisms after you add food, possibly squashing the contents down as the bucket fills, and draining the bokashi juice.  The juice doesn't start accumulating until a week or so after you've started using the bucket, but then it builds up every day.  When the bucket is full you bury the contents in the soil.  Honestly when you go to dig that hole in the garden, it feels like a leap of faith.  At that point the food doesn't look like it has done much to start on the breakdown process, but it all works!  The next post will have some photos to show what I'm talking about.