No Garden? – Become a Bokashi Kitchen Composter

I know I am very lucky. We have loads of outside space so can set up huge compost heaps without it affecting how much space we have to garden or entertain. But lots of folks have smaller outside spaces to work with. And, much as they may like to be a garden composter, they struggle to find the room. I know actually using the garden is likely to take priority over recycling garden waste. So what do you do? You don't have to decide between composting waste and having room for the kids to play!

There are several options. Firstly go for a small purpose build garden composter like the beehive compost bins I'm such a fan of (purely for aesthetic reasons I admit). But, if even that size compost bin is not practical have you thought about inside compost solutions?

There are lots of worm-composting systems which it is reported can be used indoors. Now I have a bit of a thing about worms. And, as much as I see them as beneficial in the garden I have no desire to get up close and personal with a bucket load of the critters in my kitchen. Maybe you are less squeamish than I, in which case vermiculture, or worm composting is a serious possibility.

If however, you don't want to invite any more life forms into your kitchen perhaps you should take a look into the kitchen composter. I was amazed by these products. Having never been in the market for a kitchen composter I didn't really know a lot about them. But, more recently as my love of compost generally, and a desire to find out more widely about the subject has led me to research composting solutions more widely, I have to say I'm completely converted.

The kitchen composter doesn't have to sit indoors but its so small that is where it is ideally suited to be. The only issue I have with the whole process is that it really isn't a kitchen composter at all. It is in fact a kitchen waste fermentation system, which I think sounds much more exciting and techie! I know most people would be horrified about having kitchen waste fermenting indoors for weeks on end but every review of these has confirmed you don't get any odours from the kitchen composters. But then they are sealed to keep out air and ensure anaerobic fermentation.

What is a Bokashi Kitchen Composter?

A Bokashi Kitchen Composter is a bucket with a really well fitting lid. At the bottom of the bucket is a drainage tap so you can drain off any excess moisture which is created during fermentation.

Commercial products are pretty cheap but you could make yourself one by looking out for cheap, quality buckets with lids and adding one of those cheap plastic water barrel taps.

Bokashi is Japanese for 'fermented organic matter'. That's what you end up with in your kitchen composter bucket.

Using a Bokashi Kitchen Composter

Using the Bokashi composter system is really straightforward. The whole idea of this kitchen composting system is that, you introduce helpful microbes, yeasts and so on to the kitchen waste. The simplest method is to buy Bokashi starter which will be sawdust, wheat or rice hulls inoculated with all the good yeasts and bacteria you want to work on your kitchen waste.

First you put a layer of the bokashi starter in the kitchen composter bucket. Now add a layer of kitchen waste and sprinkle over some more of the starter. You continue using the kitchen composter in this way till full. Ideally you would save all the kitchen scraps through the day and only put them into the pail once a day. That way you don't keep opening the lid too often, which would expose the fermenting waste to the air. Also it means you layer the food waste and bokashi starter correctly.

Once the kitchen composter is full you seal and leave it alone for a fortnight. At the end of that time the kitchen waste will be fermented and pickled. It's quite odd because it doesn't look like compost at all. The physical appearance of the waste will be little changed, just a little pickled looking! But the waste is fermenting, and breaking down and will be full of the organisms to continue this process rapidly.

Once the kitchen composter has sat, sealed and full for a fortnight its time to empty the contents. Simply dig them into your garden soil (or indeed garden pots). Don't worry you won't need to dig huge holes every fortnight. Simply sprinkle the contents of the bokashi bin in a thin layer and cover with soil. After a month the area is ready for planting. The fermented kitchen waste will be broken down and the soil much enriched.
What is the Tap For?

As your kitchen waste ferments it is likely to produce liquid (think making sauerkraut, lots of cabbage becomes not so much cabbage and lots of cabbage juice). And, if you're adding tea bags and coffee grounds, or other wet food items to the bin, you'll end up with even more bokashi juice.

The tap, is so you can drain off the bakashi juice and either use it as a liquid plant feed, or tip it down the drain where its acidity will help it clean the pipes. If you have a septic system, the bokashi juice is said to be even more beneficial because you're sending all the good bacteria that like to break up waste, into your septic tank.

What Kitchen Waste to Put in the Kitchen Composter?

This is the most exciting bit. Lots of garden composters advocate only putting certain types of kitchen waste on a standard garden compost pile. The thinking is that if you put certain items (such as cooked food or meat) on the compost heap you will attract vermin. Now, this isn't the post to argue this particular point. Though I do feel very strongly that all organic kitchen waste should go on the compost heap and that the heap should just be made vermin proof. Otherwise I feel we're wasting the opportunity and goodness of recycling all our kitchen waste.

I digress (I feel an altogether different blog post coming!). The point is, because the bokashi kitchen composter is a sealed unit, and that you introduce all the good micro-organisms in to make sure the waste is broken down quickly, you can put any organic waste in.

That's great news. If you are using a Kitchen Composting System like Bokashi, you can put raw, cooked and processed foods of any kind in. Dairy, fish, meat, coffee grounds, tea bags, paper and tissues all go into your kitchen composter bucket. That makes a real difference to the amount of waste you'll send to landfill.

Where to Bury the Bokashi Bucket Compost?

This is the biggest issue with bokashi new users. No one really wants to be digging holes every fortnight. If you have a well stocked vegetable garden or flower borders one method is to simply uncover shallow trenches between your plants and tip the contents of the bokashi bucket there and top with soil. The plants will all send their roots towards all this new goodness.

The second, lazier option is to hide a bottomless bucket in the garden. Simply empty the bokashi bucket into the bottomless bucket and sprinkle over some soil. One month later remove the bottomless bucket to uncover a bucket shaped pile of broken down humus. This sounds like a real winner to me!
Would I Become a Bokashi Kitchen Composter?

Definitely, if I had less space and if I didn't already put ALL my kitchen waste (even the fish, meat, bones and dairy) on my outdoors compost bins. If we had problems with vermin I would consider the bokashi system, regardless of our space as a way of recycling the kitchen waste safely. But in that case I would just bung the contents of the bokashi bucket onto my compost heaps rather than bury them.

But would I buy a Bokashi Kitchen Composter? Honest answer is I'm not sure. They're not all that expensive but I think I might get creative with a cheaper plastic bucket instead. Even the bokashi starter can be made yourself, though I'm really not sure that would be worth the hassle.

But, for those with no garden, or a lack of space for a vermin-proof compost heap I defintiely think the bokashi kitchen composter route is a fabulous option.

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