Bokashi composting: What is it and how can it help your garden?

By Nicki Casley | October 23, 2017
Image by Bokashi Living
by Nicki Casley
October 23, 2017

What is bokashi composting?

Bokashi composting is a simple and easy way to compost kitchen waste in just 4 to 6 weeks. Bokashi composting uses specially selected microbes (essential microbes, EM1) to ferment food waste and quickly and easily convert it into highly productive compost.

The four simple steps of bokashi composting: add, sprinkle, bury, and grow

A Japanese professor, Dr. Teuro Higa, is often credited with the ‘discovery’ of bokashi composting in the 1980’s. However, literature suggests that the use of micro-organisms for soil amendment and composting has been practiced for centuries in many Asian countries. Dr. Teuro Higa should instead be recognized as having isolated the bokashi essential microbes (EM1) used in the process.

With bokashi, many of the challenges associated with ‘traditional’ composting are removed. The majority of the bokashi process is completed inside one’s own kitchen; no more trudging to the compost pile. While traditional back-yard composting works on select food scraps only, bokashi composting works on ALL food waste: cooked foods, dairy, meat, grains, pasta, fruits and veggies, everything! In addition, bokashi composting does not produce foul odors and does not attract pests. Bokashi composting can handle all of your food waste all year round, even in cold, snowy climates.

A bucket of bokashi fermented food waste

How does bokashi compost help your garden?

Bokashi composting is still relatively new to gardeners here in North America and Europe. However, it is quickly becoming a favored approach for building healthy and productive soils. Bokashi composting benefits your garden by adding two essential ingredients to your soil; (1) microbes and (2) food waste.

(1) The importance of soil microbes

Soils are made up of five major components; mineral matter, organic matter (or humus), air, water and (last, but not least) soil biota and microbes. Most gardeners can identify the first four components, but fewer gardeners realise the importance of the latter. Soil is a living system and needs the essential microbes, fungi, bacteria, grubs, and insects to support your growing garden.

Through the bokashi fermentation process, bokashi composting generates billions of specialized microbes, yeast and fungi. These microbes are the primary building blocks of a healthy and productive soil structure.

Bokashi compost is richer in effective microorganisms than any other form of compost.

It is the microbes in our soil that convert the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and trace minerals into a form that plants can use to grow and produce abundant food and flowers.

Why do the microbes do all this work for the plants? In exchange for all the hard work of the microbes, the plant roots give the microbes a treat. The plant roots release substances called exudates. These are essentially sugars and amino acids, which the microbes thrive on. This relationship between plant roots and soil microbes is a crucial (arguably the most crucial) symbiotic relationship in nature.

Healthy soil teeming with life after addition of bokashi compost

(2) The value in your food waste

Food waste is made of lots of complex proteins and is the cream of the crop for feeding microbes. As such, food waste has a much higher value for building healthy, bio-diverse soils than general yard trimmings. In other words, pound for pound, compost made from food waste is more valuable to your garden than compost from yard waste.
However, these complex proteins found in food waste are of no value to your soil in their current form. During the bokashi process, the bokashi microbes break these proteins up into smaller parts; amino acids. Plants, with the help of the bokashi microbes, are able to take up the nutrients in the amino acids.

Get started with bokashi composting

Bokashi composting kit available here

Getting started with bokashi composting couldn’t be easier. Everything you need to get started with bokashi composting is available here, along with more information on how to bokashi and FAQs.






The above article was sponsored by Bokashi Living. The information contained in this article may contain ads or advertorial opinions.
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  • pauline
    Comment added December 28, 2017Reply

    Thank you Anita. I have added the waste to my garden beds as suggested.
    when you say the liquid can be added neat to drains does this include septic systems. We live in an arid rural area I do not want to harm the organisms in the septic tank. I am watering the soil with the diluted liquid this composting system is win/win for me and my garden. I have 3 other large composting bins but as I am unable to physically turn the contents they take a long time to break down the bokashi system is extremely fast and easier to handle. Again thank you, have a great 2018 I thoroughly enjoy your articles.

  • Anita
    Comment added December 25, 2017Reply

    It's a ratio of 1:100 juice to water.

  • pauline
    Comment added December 14, 2017Reply

    I was given 2 Bokashi systems but no notes on what to do was the waste has broken down. When do I empty it and in what manner? i.e. on top of soil or dug in. And all the fluid I have been draining into milk bottles but don't know how to use it i.e. ratio of water to contents; as a foliar feed or on the soil. Your advice will be most appreciated, I currently have 3 litres of liquid plus the broken down elements in the two containers. How ling can the liquid be stored?

    • Anita
      Comment added December 25, 2017Reply

      Hi Pauline you can either dig a trench and add the fermented waste and then cover with soil (the best use) or add it to your compost bin if you have one. You need to dilute the fluid if you are watering plants, but it's also great to add to drains and waste plugs neat especially good if you have any smelly drains. I will check the dilution but I think it's one table spoon to one pint of water!

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