Bokashi Composting

At the Community Permaculture Lab, Hamilton, we’ve been working with bokashi buckets. Anyone interested and/or have experience with bokashi?

Just started this year to use Bokashi buckets. I am having trouble with the smell and the lid edge is splitting now which lets some air in and smell out. I am not sure how much liquid there is supposed to be but the bottom third gets quite soggy even with the bottom drainage plate. I was able to bury one , one week old bucket in a trench with very old potatoes we were throwing out. The potatoes grew wonderfully and the food scraps had disappeared. Another two one week old buckets were buried in 2 4’ x 8’ veg beds 2 weeks apart and laid to rest for the winter; can’t wait to see what soil it will make. Today, with 8" of snow on the ground I put some new wood chips in a Rubbermaid Roughneck garbage can followed by the Bokashi bucket which had not aged quite the week [ It was the one that stank, with the split rim] and then some sand and plant dirt mix from old outside pots. I put this in my small cold tunnel and will leave it there all winter. So I am down to one bucket now and I am not sure if I will continue the Bokashi or if I will just do a regular plant material compost and the town’s green bin for “other materials” compost. I may try to repair the rim of the bucket as I find the screw type lid easy to open and close, and it seals well when it works. I have also experienced the tap leaking if I press too hard on the material or if it is overfilled. Lets talk some more. Tell me what your experience has been so far. Be well, Anne.

Hi Anne,

Great to hear from another bokashi pioneer. I’m in an urban setting - Dundas, Ontario - and am interested in bokashi due to space constraints and necessary efficiencies. I’ve been testing with Bokashi all summer and have had about 20 pails to use for myself and to pass along to others for testing. I set up my own buckets (didn’t purchase specific bokashi buckets so no tap) and made EM from rice water, milk, molasses, water and initially used wheat bran and now am testing with newspaper instead of the bran. I find that if there is even a sliver of the lid that has not snapped on properly, I will see a bit of green mould around the inner rim of the pre-compost after 2 weeks of resting. It tells me how important the seal is to ensure an anaerobic environment in the bucket. I haven’t had a huge amount of bokashi liquid accumulate in the catch bucket (I have one bucket with holes in the bottom sitting inside another bucket that catches the liquid) and I drain the lower bucket about every 3rd day or so. I haven’t had any putrid rotten food smell and my sniffer is getting used to the fermented smell of the pre-compost. I open the bucket to add more every other day to minimize air exposure. I’ve had just about everything it in - dairy, oil, small bones, no mouldy food (I put that in my regular compost). Because our city green bins are now only for food scraps it seemed like a waste to even use it. I find the challenge to to find a regular supply of food scraps. Thankfully a friend knows someone who owns a restaurant and i get a weekly supply of coffee grounds and egg shells to mix with the food scraps that I do produce so that each bucket has some varied mix of food stuff. I too am very excited to see what happens with next season’s plantings. I’m digging it into the soil, while the soil is still diggable - where I will be planting my tomatoes, etc. Yes, I too am setting up a top soil factory layering mulched leaves with pre-composted bokashi and I’m adding some to my regular compost bins as well to see if there is a difference. I planted garlic with pre-composted bokashi that had rested in the soil for 2 weeks alongside garlic I planted in regular soil. Pre-composted bokashi I’ve dug into the soil breaks down in the 2 weeks I’ve read about. I’ve done other small tests here and there but not enough that I can say definitively that bokashi makes a difference. Next year will tell the tale. Sounds like you had success with the potatoes. That’s awesome after letting the bucket rest for only the one week. I haven’t tried one week, have only done the 2 week rest. I understand that we can continue to empty the buckets outside in the winter (in compost bins or leaf piles or in any diggable ground) and the EM will go dormant until the weather warms up again. I’ve read that a putrid odour of rotting food could be due to too much moisture in the bucket, air getting into the bucket, using mouldy food and/or food chunks are too big, I haven’t yet found anyone, other than you, who has any real experience so I am so glad to hear from you! My experience is solely based on websites so I’ve been muddling my way through. Do you really jam the food down in the bucket to get the air out as you add the scraps? I use a plate over the scraps in the bucket and then use a brick/stone to really squash it down so I get the most air that I possibly can out from between the layers. Does any of this help? Is this how you are doing it as well? Where are you located? You must be further north than I if the ground is already frozen solid. I really like your Rubbermaid idea. Deborah

Hi Deborah, Yes I am north of you I live in Mono, just north of Mono Cliffs Park. I was able to find a lid replacement at TSC/Peavy’s. I’m also tightening my tap after every emptying, this helps. This year was also my first time to do some pickles and sauerkraut. These need to be kept anaerobic in their juices. My next experiment in the spring would be to try something similar with food scraps and bokashi, a mix of bokashi and lacto-ferment starter and also just some lacto-ferment starter by itself. I would not use any salt but perhaps some sugar or molasses. I am thinking of also creating a sample where I would add some local IMOs from the forest behind me. The bucket I would use would not be totally sealed as there is a gaz off process with normal fermentation. I wonder what would be the results of that; after sitting 1 week , 2 weeks, in a bucket, then in the ground, 1 week , 2 weeks, in a compost pile? Luckily I live in a rural area where I can experiment in the old barn foundation and not have a smelly house/basement. Yes I’ve been muddling through as well, but there is nothing like experimenting! Lets keep in touch. Be well , All the best in the new year! Anne.