When it comes to compost many of us assume that we need a garden or yard to house a bin and to harvest compost. The good news is that composting is not only achievable for apartment dwellers, it’s super easy with bokashi.
Bokashi bins are a convenient way to compost without the need for a green thumb or a garden. They work well indoors and fit comfortably under most kitchen sinks or on bench tops, allowing apartment occupants to compost from the comfort of their kitchen with minimal fuss and waste going to landfill.
Harnessing the power of fermentation, bokashi is like compost on steroids. Bokashi uses an anaerobic process (created by a lack of oxygen) to ferment your food scraps, helping them to break down several times faster than unprocessed food.
Apart from keeping waste out of landfill, bokashi benefits include:
- Accepts any type of food scraps, including meat, dairy, onion, citrus and bread, as well as fruit and veg
- Bug-free and low-maintenance
- Infrequent emptying. An average eat-at-home family will take 3–4 weeks to fill a 15–20 litre bin
- Inquisitive animals and pests ignore it
- Super-charges your plants with bokashi juice, a byproduct of the fermentation process and a powerful liquid fertiliser that promotes plant growth. Just make sure you dilute this liquid gold 1:100 with water (the colour of weak tea).
Harvesting a fermented bonanza
When it comes to harvesting your bokashi bonanza there are a number of options that will suit everyone, whether you have a grand garden, a balcony garden, or no garden at all.
The traditional way to dispose of your bokashi waste is to dig a trench and bury the fermented scraps in at least 10cm of soil, mixing it well with soil and covering it with 8–15cm of topsoil to mask any smells.
If there are surrounding plants dig a bit deeper; 20–25cm to keep it away from plant roots, especially young plants because fermented matter has high acid and nitrogen content that can burn the plants’ roots.
Using this method should produce rich fertile soil in 1-3 weeks. In this short space of time the scraps are absorbed into the soil, providing your garden with a healthy mix of nitrogen, nutrients, microbes and enzymes. If you use this method it’s a good idea to spread your bokashi scraps out as much as possible so they’re not concentrated in one spot.
If you have an outdoor compost bin your fermented bokashi waste will fit right in, as long as you balance it out with an equal amount of carbon-based materials, like dry leaves or shredded paper. Mix the contents well and cover with a carbon layer. This will help maintain a healthy balance of carbon and nitrogen and keep your compost smelling sweet and earthy.
Pot of gold
If you live in an apartment where space and soil are not freely available try the ‘pot of gold method’. All you need is an empty bin, pot or tub and some soil or potting mix. Add one part soil on the bottom, then the bokashi fermented matter, followed by two parts soil on top. This solution also works well for those with clay soil that might be too hard to dig.
The pot of gold method is very effective if you follow a few simple rules:
- Stir your contents in when you first add them into your bin or pot (this will help eliminate any unwanted smells). Do this each time you add new bokashi contents
- If space is at a premium and you are using a flat tub, you can cover your tub with a few lightweight cascading plants, carefully positioned on top to hide unseemly edges
- Keep the contents covered with other plants or a lid to keep the rain and bugs out
- To deter soldier fly larvae from taking up residence cover it with at least 3 inches of soil.
One of our dedicated bokashi revolutionaries, Andrea, shares her pot of gold secrets.
I sprinkled the good soil on my pot plants around the balcony. The soil in the pots goes stale within about 6 months to a year of potting, after the plant has extracted the nutrients. Topping it up with this or adding worm wee or compost can help to bring it back to life. It makes your potting mix go further and become super-charged!
Andrea reaped the rewards from her super-charged soil in a recent spud and sweet potato harvest.
If you don’t have plants you can also gift the nutrient-rich bonanza to friends and family members with gardens or compost bins, or contact your local community garden to see if they will take it.
If your council offers a food waste collection service, you can also add your bokashi matter wrapped in layers of newspaper.
Alternatively, you can sign up to a compost community like www.sharewaste.com.au that helps people with compost connect with local lik-eminded people wanting compost. There are also local versions like Compost Exchange - Sydney.
Small and easy to maintain; bokashi is a flexible solution for households and properties of all shapes and sizes. Cut your waste in half and dramatically reduce your carbon footprint with this compact compost superhero.
Budding bokashi enthusiasts, reap your own bokashi bonanza with 50% off delivery anywhere in Australia with coupon code BOKASHIBONANZA through the link below.
Like what you've read? Subscribe to our updates & we'll send you more blog posts and other news from the front lines of the revolution.