Bokashi : Frequently Asked Questions
What is Bokashi?
Bokashi is wheat bran brewed with a combination of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Bokashi is used around the world to manage food waste through an anaerobic fermentation system.
When bokashi is added to food waste in an anaerobic digester, these microbes work in symbiosis to ferment the waste thus preventing rotting and ridding it of pathogenic bacteria. Earth Probiotic Bokashi is made from all natural ingredients that is non- genetically modified and not chemically engineered.
This sounds very technical, is it easy to use?
Bokashi is an extremely easy system to use. All you do is follow a few simple steps and you'll enjoy great success in recycling your food scraps.
Will my food scraps smell in the anaerobic digester?
Because of the unique combination of microbes in Bokashi the scraps ferment (pickle) and don't rot. So there is no malodour only a pickling smell (which some people say smells like cider).
I have mould in my bucket! What should I do?
White mould is good and is a beneficial fungus which helps suppress pathogens. If you have white mould it shows that your fermentation is going well. When added to soil this beneficial fungus helps with soil water retention.
Black/blue/green mould is not good and shows that fermentation has not occurred. This is a rare occurrence and is the result of the bin not being closed properly, and/or not enough Bokashi has been used, and/or rotten food has been added to the bin. The contents should be discarded. Dig a hole and add Bokashi to the bottom. Add the waste and cover with more Bokashi. Then cover with soil and leave for at least 4 weeks before attempting to plant over.
What do I do with the Bokashi juice that I have drained off?
The liquid removed is loaded with microbes and nutrients and makes an extremely effective natural fertiliser. Bokashi juice is acidic and should be diluted at a rate of 1:300 parts water which can be used to fertilise your pot plants or garden. Use the juice within 24 hours as it contains living bacteria, after this period the Bokashi juice loses its effectiveness and will go off.
What else can I do with the Bokashi juice?
Use undiluted and pour down your drains. It will help keep the drains clean and odour free. It is very useful in preventing sludge from building up and blocking drains and is a good way to minimise problems in your septic system.
How do I dilute the Bokashi Juice?
1:100 for lawns and veggies 1:300 for gardens and pot plants 1:1000 for any sensitive plants
USE A VERY WEAK DILUTION OF BOKASHI JUICE TO FERTILISE FYNBOS.
What can’t I add to my bin?
Large bones as these take a long time to break down - but they’re OK if you want to bury them in your garden and forget about them.
- Excess liquid as this can spoil your bin
Food that is rotten.
- Animal faeces, especially if you are going to add your bin to your vegetable garden. Animal faeces contain pathogens which are harmful to Use a separate bin for animal waste and only compost the contents in your ornamental garden.
What do I do with the contents of the bin once it's full?
Add the contents to your worm farm - small amounts at a time until the bin has acclimatised- usually by week 3.
Bury the contents of the bin directly into your garden. Dig a 10cm hole or trench and cover the fermented matter with soil. Dig to a 20-30cm depth if you have pets.
Depending on the climate and depth, the waste will break down into a rich fertiliser within 12 to 18 weeks spending on where it is buried. The warmer the spot the quicker it will decompose.
Make your own potting mix by filling 1/3 of a container with fermented food waste, then filling the container with soil. Mix thoroughly and cover with a lid or a plastic bag. After 10-14 days your potting mix is ready.
The waste can be composted together with garden waste in a heap, bin or composting bag. Use ‘lasagna’ style composting, ie in layers. Thin food waste layers and thicker garden waste layers. Depending on weather, compost will be ready within 12-16 weeks.
How long will it take to fill the kitchen digester?
That depends on the size of your household. Cutting up food scraps will allow more room for other scraps. A family of 4 would fill the digester in about 1-2 weeks.
For the last four days I forgot to add Bokashi to my bin but continued to add kitchen scraps. Will the bin go bad?
Your nose is the best indicator to check all is well in your bucket. If it smells rancid then add two handfuls of Bokashi to try and reverse the process.
If the bucket continues to smell bad then you will have to get rid of it by digging a hole and adding the bucket contents to it. Mix with soil, add another handful of Bokashi bran and cover with the rest of soil. If you have nowhere to bury it then you have to dispose of it in your weekly refuse bin.
Do I have to empty my Bokashi digester before taking a holiday?
No. It is okay to leave it sealed for weeks as the fermentation process will complete and then remain stable until you process it. However, drain off any liquid before leaving the bin for any length of time. If you are planning an extended trip, we recommend you empty the bin into the garden or compost heap before you leave for your well deserved rest.
Does the compost drain from the tap?
No, the tap is used to drain off the Bokashi juice. Only once you have added the fermented food waste to a compost heap or your garden, will it turn into compost.
Do I have to worry about gases being produced during my fermentation process?
No measurable methane and/or ammonia gases are being produced and you will not notice any bad odours. It is perfectly safe to use in the home.
What do I do if my dog, cat, bird, or child has eaten some Bokashi?
Absolutely nothing! Our Bokashi is all natural and contains nothing chemically engineered.
The microbes in Bokashi are common in nature and are not pathogenic. Each has a
specialised function and they all work well together. These bacteria are found in our food (cheese, yoghurt, good bread) and our drink (beer and wine).
Can I add citrus to the bin?
Yes, you can add citrus. While citrus is acidic, found mainly in the juice, the antiseptic properties of citrus oils, particularly orange oil, is the reason why citrus is usually not added to traditional compost heaps. These oils will be broken down through the fermentation process.
Can I add ice cream to the bin?
Yes, all dairy products can be added as long as you don’t add too much in liquid form. High levels of moisture are not good for your bin.
Can I feed my worm farm with Bokashi fermented food waste?
Yes indeed, and they love it!
It's important that you don't add all the contents to your bin all at once. Worms, especially the Red Wiggler, are tolerant of low pH (acidic) environments. But you need to make sure they get used to the Bokashi fermented food first.
Start off by adding a few spoons of the fermented food waste to a corner of the worm bin. The worms initially will not like it as the fermented food waste is acidic, however after about 5 days as the ph level rises, they will move in with gusto!
Once they've moved into that waste, add some more fermented food waste to the opposite corner. Gradually the worms will get used to their new diet. Thereafter you can add more Bokashi fermented food.
When adding fermented food to a worm bin the food needs to be fully fermented so it doesn't rot. The worm casings and tea are more nutrient rich when the worms are fed a Bokashi diet.
By adding the fermented waste from my bin into my compost heap, will it work as an activator?
Indeed. When you add your fermented waste to your compost pile, this in turn acts as an activator in the heap and starts the composting cycle within that biomass.
I live in an apartment with no garden, what can I do with my fermented bin?
You can use a little of the fermented food waste as a fertiliser for your pot plants.
Or you can donate your fermented bin to a neighbour, friend or family member who has a garden. If your apartment complex has a communal garden you can explain to the
gardener/ landscaper how to use this nutrient rich fertiliser in the garden.
Another option is to add a spadeful of soil to an old-style dustbin, cover with Bokashi fermented food scraps, and cover with another spadeful of soil. This method turns your food scraps into rich potting soil. There is no need to keep the bin sealed, just covered. The soil will be ready to use in pot plants when the food waste has disappeared.
Remember that the Bokashi method is not only about making your own soil enriching fertiliser, but also about reducing your personal load on landfills.
We live in a townhouse complex and our garden is too small to use all the contents of the bucket. I do have a small compost heap. Can I add this to the heap?
Yes. You can add the contents to the middle of the compost heap and mix with the clippings in your heap. Within 12-16 weeks your compost heap is ready to use.
You can also use the “sealed-bottomless-bucket” system where you remove the bottom
of the bucket, half bury in soil, fill with fermented organic matter and seal. Then you let nature do the work of converting this into soil.
What’s the difference between my Bokashi fermented bin and traditional compost heaps?
Using our system you can recycle all your food waste and not just your greens. During the fermenting process no greenhouse gases are produced or heat generated. Composting, by its nature, produces gases and heat.
Because Bokashi fermented waste contains large populations of Probiotic bacteria it turns into soil much quicker than traditional compost.
The Bokashi fermented waste end product, after the soil microbes have finished the process, is far richer in organic content and nutrients than normal compost.
Will animals find the buried fermented waste attractive?
If you have properly fermented your organic waste and have buried it at least 30cm deep, animals will not find the material attractive. Before you cover over the fermented product, mix some soil in with it to help accelerate the second and final conversion to nutrient rich soil.
Will vermin be attracted to my Bokashi Kitchen Digester?
No. This is a great advantage. Because the system is completely sealed, no mice, rats, cockroaches, flies or ants will be attracted to the fermenting organic waste.
Even when it’s buried in your garden or put into a compost heap, vermin aren’t
attracted. Including flies!
Why does my bin not produce much Bokashi juice?
The amount of juice will depend on the moisture content of the food you add. For instance, high moisture fruit such as watermelon will produce more juice than old toast. In winter your digester will product less liquid than summer. This is for two reasons: (a) winter food tends to be starchier and summer contains more juicy fruits and veggies
which have higher moisture content, (b) the cold of winter makes the microbes less active than the warmth of summer.
Where should I put my Bokashi Kitchen Digester?
You should place the system where it is easy for you to use but out of direct sunlight and away from any heat source. It can be in a cupboard, the laundry room, the kitchen or outdoors.
Why does my trenched waste smell when I dig it up?
The reason for trenched waste smelling is due to:
1/ Not enough Bokashi used in the fermentation process. 2/ Trenches dug in wet and cold earth.
3/ Contents of the digester not mixed properly with soil. 4/ Digester contents layered too thickly.
Trenched waste is a proven way to enrich soil. When fermented food waste is dug into soil not only does it add valuable beneficial microbes to your soil, it also adds essential micro-nutrients. The other wonder of this method is that there is a dramatic increase in earthworm populations in your soil - earthworms are an indicator species of healthy soil.
Also remember that microbes thrive in warmth. So summer tends to accelerate decomposition. Winter slows it down.
But the following methods should be strictly adhered to:
1/ Ensure that you are using enough Bokashi in your fermentation process. You should use around 300g Bokashi for your 20L digester and 350g for your 25L digester.
2/ Rather create thinner 'slices' of food waste than a big mass. Think of the trenching like a lasagne: thin layers of fermented contents fully mixed with soil and then covered with a layer of soil. Repeat until trench is full.
3/ Add biomass to the fermented food/soil mix. This will ensure friability, oxygen draw down and increased microbial life in the soil. Use more brown bio-mass (dried leaves, shredded stalks, straw) than green (flowers, grass).
4/ If you have pets, cover with 30cm of soil/biomass or compost mix otherwise cover with 10cm soil.
(Information provided by Bokashi Brand, Earth Probiotics)