Is bokashi better than composting?

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Is bokashi better than composting?

Also: Does Bokashi speed up composting?

Can I use Bokashi in a compost tumbler?

Can you feed chicken Bokashi?

Maggots in my Bokashi bin

Composting is better than bokashi. When we make compost, we start and finish an entire process. Composting is converting food waste into to compost. The finished compost can be used as a soil improver. Bokashi isn’t composting. Bokashi is the preserving of food waste, in an acid fermentation.

If we want to generate an organic fertilizer from food-waste, then, direct composting is the better option. The sludge generated from Bokashi, will be preserved in acids and will need to decompose from that point to become compost.

Some people think that using the Bokashi system of processing food-waste is, somehow, better than composting. When you use Bokashi you are inducing a fermentation of the food waste. If the result we’re looking for is the finished, black crumbly material that full composting generates, then, we have to ask why do we use the Bokashi system at all?

The Bokashi fermentation of food-waste is doing one job but making another. The attraction of the Bokashi system is that we can make food-waste disappear in the Bokashi bucket and, for a while, forget about it. 

The Bokashi process

When adding Food-waste to the Bokashi bucket we need to add the required amount of Bokashi bran to make sure that the material reaches its optimum fermentation performance.

You need to add at least two tablespoons of Bokashi bran to every inch, in depth, of food-waste that you add to the Bokashi bucket. The one inch depth is the depth after having pressed down on the surface of the most recently added food-waste to extract as much air as possible. 

When you begin with an empty Bokashi bucket, you need to get things off to a good start. You need to be more generous when adding the Bokashi bran to your first delivery of food-waste. All the advice is that when using the Bokashi system, you can’t over-do the amount of Bokashi bran that you use. 

Always add enough Bokashi bran

You can, however, under-do the Bokashi bran. You will know when this has happened because there will be a noticeable foul smell when you lift the lid of the Bokashi bucket.

There will also be a noticeable blue and green mould on the surface of the accumulated mass in the Bokashi bucket. This will happen because the mass of waste will have started composting in the Bokashi bucket rather than fermenting as you want.

You will know when you are adding enough Bokashi bran to the Bokashi bucket because you will sense a smell that resembles yeast. You need to add enough Bokashi bran but not so much that it’s in excess to the point where you’re wasting it. This is something that you need to monitor and, perhaps, experiment with in the early stages of managing the Bokashi system.

The Bokashi process is an anaerobic fermentation. No oxygen is required for the microbes that emerge from the Bokashi bran to perform. The ‘no oxygen’ in a sealed bucket is the biggest clue that truly separates the Bokashi way of processing food-waste and conventional composting.

The Bokashi system is anaerobic

To help remove air from the most recently added layer of food-waste in the Bokashi bucket, some people place an old plate on the surface and press down. The plate can then be lifted off. 

Then the required measure of Bokashi bran can be evenly spread on the surface. The plate can then be replaced on the surface of the fermenting mass to help press the Bokashi bran into the most recently added food-waste. The lid of the Bokashi bucket can then be replaced to secure an airtight fit. The fermentation of the contents will continue.

Your Bokashi bucket will gradually fill up over the weeks and months. You can make more room by draining away some of the liquid that’s generated by the fermentation process. You can use the liquid as a liquid feed for plants but be aware that, because of the fermentation process, it will be acidic. 

This can be rectified by mixing a liberal amount of hydrated white lime powder into the extracted liquid. This will raise the ph level to be near or at neutral.

Sooner or later, your Bokashi bucket will be completely full. At this point, you need to be able to leave the Bokashi bucket sealed and undisturbed for two or three weeks to allow for the most recent addition to become fully fermented.

Then you can empty the Bokashi bucket to be able to start filling it again. The fermented contents can then be sent to the next stage that will, one way or another, convert it to a plant feeding, soil enriching medium.

Looking at whether bokashi is better than composting?

The first thing to note about anything that comes out of a Bokashi bucket, where everything has fermented fully, is that this mass of material will be acidic.

One option is to dig a trench in the garden and bury it. Here, it will be out of sight where it will break down over time to become plant food for whatever plant roots that reach it.

Using Bokashi isn’t composting

If black crumbly compost is what you’re looking for, this can happen by allowing any food-waste to rot. Bokashi bran will not help things to rot. The term ‘Bokashi composting’ is a contradiction of terms.

Whereas the Bokashi system is all about anaerobic fermentation that preserves the waste, true composting is all about being aerobic. The two approaches couldn’t be more different.

In composting, nothing is preserved. The aim is to encourage decomposition to begin and finish as quickly as possible. The acidity that happens in the Bokashi route must be avoided when composting.

However, food-waste that’s been through the Bokashi treatment can be used for composting. Despite the fact that it will be acidic straight from the Bokashi bucket, it would be very easy to convert this material into a good quality compost.

The acidity that comes with Bokashi treated food-waste can be easily neutralized by mixing in some hydrated white lime. The effect of the white lime will be almost instant. When the ph level is near enough to neutral, the composting process can begin. 

Any material that emerges from a Bokashi bucket will rot faster than other items that you put forward for composting. Bokashi treated waste will be a broken down sludge. When the acid level is reduced and air can find a way in, this type of material will rot.

So, when considering whether Bokashi is better than composting you need to understand the fundamental differences between the two approaches. Using Bokashi, you have the convenience of putting all food-waste in a sealed bucket that can be kept indoors because any generated smell isn’t too bad.

From the Bokashi bucket you get a thoroughly broken down fermented sludge which can either be buried in the ground in the garden or with the addition of white lime, it’s ideal for composting into compost that can be used as an organic feed.

Does Bokashi speed up composting?

No. Bokashi does not speed up composting. Many people are confused about the difference between composting and bokashi. If you use bokashi, it will speed up the fermentation of food-waste but it will slow down and delay the making of compost. Bokashi treating of food-waste isn’t composting.

The more I look into the subject of how to use Bokashi the more I wonder why anybody uses it, especially if they want to speed up composting.

You can set up a Bokashi bucket and go through the process of gradually filling it with food-waste together with the required amount of Bokashi bran to secure a continual fermentation. 

Fermentation is not composting. Bokashi preserves food-waste. Where the confusion may be is that when people lift the lid on their Bokashi bucket, they see that the contents have broken down. 

This part of the process can happen very quickly. This is where some people get the idea that Bokashi can speed up composting.

The preserved contents of the Bokashi bucket is not compost in the making. All that’s happened is that there’s been a massive structural change to the food-waste that amounts to nothing more than cellular degradation.

Despite appearances, food-waste that has gone through the Bokashi process, won’t have deteriorated regarding composting. If the aim is to introduce speed into the process of making compost from food-waste, Bokashi treatment won’t do it.

Compared to putting food-waste straight into a compost bin or tumbler, the Bokashi process takes it into a dormant phase where nothing actually happens. This doesn’t speed up composting. If anything, Bokshi slows down the entire process.

This isn’t to say that the contents of a fully fermented Bokashi bucket can’t be used in composting. It will make really good compost but only after the addition of hydrated white lime to remove the acidity. 

You can speed up composting by adding white lime

The adding of white lime will speed up composting regardless of whether you use Bokashi to treat food-waste or not. Remove the acid factor in a compost bin, then, you will speed up composting.

Can I use Bokashi in a compost tumbler?

You can’t use bokashi in a compost tumbler because it would be impossible to achieve an anaerobic digestion. You can use bokashi in a sealed bin where an anaerobic fermentation can take place. Compost tumblers are designed to incorporate as much air as possible to produce finished compost.

Food-waste that has gone through the Bokashi system can definitely go in a compost tumbler. You would need to take action to reduce the acidity, which is easy to do. Don’t use Bokashi bran in a compost tumbler. It won’t work in a compost tumbler or compost bin as in a Bokashi bucket.

Bokashi treated food-waste that’s been fully fermented will break down very quickly in a compost tumbler. The efficiency and success of this will depend on the Bokashi process working properly.

To get a full fermentation of food-waste you need to use Bokashi bran that’s high-quality and make sure you use enough of it throughout the Bokashi process.

That having been said, if the contents of your Bokashi bucket emerge as not being properly fermented, you could still put it in a compost tumbler or a compost bin. It will turn into compost. The only down side will be that you may need to hold your nose while you’re moving it because it’s likely to stink.

Fully fermented or not, when you unload your Bokashi bucket into a compost tumbler or compost bin, there will be further action that you will need to take.

When you use Bokashi bran to treat food-waste it will generate acids. If you do nothing to reduce the acidity, the volume of Bokashi-treated material will rot down but it will take longer. This will lay it open to attract flies and, in some cases, rodents, possibly rats.

This can all be easily avoided by the addition of hydrated white lime. You need to do this at the moment when you empty the contents of your Bokashi bucket into the compost tumbler.

The white lime will take effect very quickly. The acidity of the Bokashi material will reduce to a near-neutral ph point and decomposition will begin.

You can expect to see Bokashi treated material that’s had white lime added to it, rot faster than most things that go in your compost tumbler or bin.

This is because food-waste that’s gone through the Bokashi process will have broken down to the point where it will have no structure. Without the inherent acidity that Bokashi fermentation inflicts, moulds will quickly grow and so will begin the composting process.


Can you feed chicken Bokashi?

Bokashi bran can be feed to chicken. You can feed as much Bokashi bran as they can eat. Chickens will peck at it until it’s all gone. But surely it would make more sense to use Bokashi bran in a Bokashi bucket. Then offer them the contents of the bucket.

Asking around and trying to find out what people think about Bokashi and where chickens fit in, has turned out to be quite confusing. 

The first information I came across insists that you can buy bags by the kilogram and add it directly to chicken feed. The storey being that by feeding Bokashi bran to chickens there will be a significant improvement to the soil from the microorganisms that will be generated in the chicken droppings from this specific arrangement.

The storey goes on that when chickens eat the Bokashi bran it will, somehow, reduce the acidity of chickens droppings. This miracle is, apparently, achieved by the microorganisms that are mobilised when the Bokashi bran is ingested by the chickens. 

To someone who has studied the Bokashi system and most of what’s involved, this is very confusing.  When Bokashi bran in the right quantities is introduced to food-waste in the sealed confines of a Bokashi bucket, the result will be an acidic sludge.

The acidic factor in this arrangement is unavoidable and, actually, required. Yet when the same Bokashi bran is fed to chickens we are to believe that the opposite happens and that the chickens will generate droppings that won’t be acidic.

When I saw the question: ‘Can you feed chicken Bokashi?’ I took it, and I suspect many others did as well, that the question here is about feeding the contents of the Bokashi bucket to chickens.

So, let’s look at that. The thing about chickens is that you can throw anything in front of them and they will go to it and investigate. If there is something there that catches the attention of chickens, they will peck at it and give it a go.

If there is nothing there that appeals to chicken they will leave it alone. The decision making process conducted by the average chicken is binary and therefore simple.

What you should be asking yourself is this. Would you be happy to empty out the contents of your Bokashi bucket in front of your Chickens? 

I’ve never tried this but I believe that I can safely guess that if chickens are offered an acidic slimy sludge of preserved food-waste, they will investigate it and they may find something in it that will appeal to them. 

When they have exhausted their investigation they will leave the acidic slimy sludge to seek sustenance elsewhere. The problem with this is that the mass of material that you have dispatched from the Bokashi bucket will just stay there until something happens to it.

The something that will happen will probably include flies turning up and trying to lay eggs in it. This will lead to maggots and more flies. Then there will be a visit from the local rodents.

After a while the contents of your Bokashi bucket will rot down. This will happen as the chickens scratch it around to see if there are any morsels in there. They will be more interested in any maggots that may turn up. 

This may be a route to disposing of the contents of your Bokashi bucket but it would probably be doing a service to yourself, your chickens and everyone else in the neighbourhood if you put the Bokashi waste in a compost bin. Then throw some hydrated lime over it and let nature do the rest.


Maggots in my Bokashi bin

Having maggots in your bokashi bin will look bad but they won’t be a problem. If you see maggots in your bokashi bin, don’t be tempted to empty it out. The maggots will be consumed by the acid fermentation and will die. The remains of maggots in bokashi will add nitrates to the compost that the bokashi will become.

I can’t say that I’ve never seen maggots in my Bokashi bin but the fact is that the environment that should be in and around Bokashi treated food-waste should be acidic. 

The bokashi system is all about fermentation. The fermentation has to be active enough to make the entire contents of a Bokashi bin acidic enough for the broken-down material to preserve.

If the acid level isn’t high enough, then, we are moving away from the Bokashi system and moving towards a conventional composting system.

Flies are everywhere. They’re constantly on the lookout for somewhere to lay their eggs and generate the next crop of maggots. To them, a Bokashi bin looks just like any compost bin.

If they see and can get at a mass of rotting food, they will move straight in. If they can find a way into your Bokashi bin and the conditions are favourable inside, they won’t miss the opportunity.

Your Bokashi bin needs to be fly-proof. The lid of your bin needs to be replaced firmly. This isn’t just for keeping flies out of the Bokashi bin. The Bokashi system is all about anaerobic fermentation of food-waste. You need to keep the bin sealed from air.

If the lid of your Bokashi bin is cracked, you need to replace it. This is where flies can get in and so can air.

The only other point on your Bokashi bin where flies can get in is the tap or spigot. This must be kept closed at all times between drainings of Bokashi ‘tea’ from your bin. 

If you keep your bin secure and fully sealed, no flies can get in to lay eggs. The only way that maggots can appear in your Bokashi bin is through contamination from the food-waste that you load into the bin.

You will have a collection caddy that will collect and hold food-waste until you have enough to form an inch of depth in the Bokashi bin. While the food-waste is being collected, flies will take interest in it and lay eggs all over it. 

This is difficult to avoid unless you have a small sealed bin for collecting the waste. You won’t know that the flies have been at it; you won’t see the eggs but you may see flies hovering around.

You won’t see any maggots in your collection bin unless you leave the food-waste long enough for them to hatch out.

Most people find the thought of maggots being associated with anything that they do, quite disgusting and tend to get upset about the subject. The thing is, maggots are a part of natural life. They’ve always been around and always will be.

Having maggots show up in the Bokashi bin is not a disaster. Maggots aren’t dangerous. You will only find maggots where there is rotting organic material. Given that your Bokashi bin is sealed and no flies can get in, you have to assume that the eggs went in with the food-waste and hatched out.

If ever I see maggots in my Bokashi bin I would take it as an indication that I haven’t used enough Bokashi bran to secure a strong-enough fermentation. A good fermentation will generate enough acidity to kill all the maggots that may show up in the Bokashi bin.

Strong acidity would probably be enough to destroy the fly eggs before they have a chance to hatch out into maggots.

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What else would you like to know?

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Can you put meat in compost? Can you put lemons in compost? Can you put pineapple in compost?

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