Bokashi composting is essentially a two-phase process of fermentation followed by decomposition. The fermentation process takes about two weeks, and the complete process takes four to five weeks. One can do the first phase indoors or outside, which is ideal for everyone whether homeowners and apartment dwellers alike. The simple set-up can be convenient to kitchen areas converting kitchen and table food scraps into a valuable source of compost. The second phase requires an outdoor area or a worm bin.
Bokashi: Composting The Japanese Way
Bokashi composting is different from other methods; it includes a broader range of usable wastes, works indoors or outside, has a shorter time for processing, and it supports most other methods of decomposition. One can use dairy scraps and leftovers, and cooked and uncooked meats; other methods exclude these items. Because the Bokashi method does not produce strong odors, it works well indoors. The container can sit in a convenient location like a kitchen. The processing time is ten to fourteen days to produce pre-compost. The additional cure period is a week to ten days. Thus, the scraps can provide nutrients to support plants in as little as four weeks. To complete the decomposition, the pre-compost can go into the ground, an existing compost pile, or in a worm bin. In these ways, Bokashi integrates with the other widely used methods of composting.
What is Bokashi Composting?
Bokashi is an anaerobic (no air) process in which microbes and bacteria ferment foods and prepare them for decomposition in soils. The process resembles pickling or fermenting grapes into wine. Because the microbes work without air, they do not produce bad odors like sulfur dioxide, the well-known rotten egg smell. Bokashi requires a covered and sealed container, some EM (effective microorganisms) medium, food scraps, and darkness. The microbes at work in Bokashi produce odorless amino acids and small amounts of alcohol rather than ammonia, hydrogen sulfides, or sulfur dioxide.
History of Bokashi Composting
For many centuries, farmers in Korea and Japan maintained the practice of adding food scraps to local soils and fermenting them. The rich local soils contained microbes that broke down the scraps into fermented substances. It was called Bokashi, which some have roughly translated into English as the phrase “fermented organic matter”. After some time had passed, they mixed the scraps and soil into planting areas as a long-term source of nutrients. The practice combined the habits of recycling and not wasting food with the desire to grow food naturally. These principles continue today as growers mix microbe rich soil and food scraps and other wastes to blend into compost.
Development of Bokashi Composting
In the early 1980’s, an Okinawa-based university researcher named Teruo Higa isolated some strains of bacteria and microbes that caused the fermentation effects in the traditional practices. Mr. Higa, a Professor at the Ryukyus University, developed a commercial process for Bokashi composting. His method offered a prepared mix to break down scraps into fermented organic matter. The manufacture and promotion of commercial Bokashi products began in about 1982 with the introduction of EM enhanced bran Bokashi mix. This line of production followed the research and development work of Professor Higa. His contributions included identifying the bacteria and microbe strains that produced the fermentation effects. It was effective on a broad range of foods including cooked or raw meat, dairy, vegetables, fruits, grains, bones, eggs and egg shells, cheese, coffee grounds, tea leaves and tea bags. Leftover meals, picked-over plates of food, trimmed meats or poultry, fish, and fruit and vegetable peels are among the everyday items that can go into the composting bucket.
Bokashi grew into a popular form of organic gardening in Asia and then in Europe; Bokashi has spread slowly in the United States. There has been a particular acceleration in the past ten years as businesses, online advocates, and suppliers have gained followings. The attraction for many promoters is socially conscious; there is an enormous amount of food wastes in the United States, and the costs to the public in landfill alone are staggering. The EPA notes that about 14 percent of the annual landfill and incinerator mass is now food wastes. Methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas produced by decomposing food wastes, is a major concern for global warming.
Benefits of Bokashi Composting
For those who value natural, organic gardening, nutrient rich soil is the solid foundation for building an abundant food source. Compost is the key to productive, organic fertilizer. It is the black gold that enriches the soil to support the widest range of crops. Plants grow faster, fuller, and more abundantly in composted soil. Bokashi is a natural and organic approach to improving soil conditions. The process does not involve adding chemicals to the ground that ultimately affect the air and water. The items below describe particular benefits of Bokashi composting.
Advantages of Bokashi Composting