We live in Sweden, if you draw a line between Oslo and Stockholm we’re half-way along that. Which is not quite the Arctic Circle (fortunately), but right at the moment as I look out the window at a frozen landscape with foraging deer the temperature is somewhere around -10 degrees Celsius.
Perfect skating weather, but a lousy time for gardening.
So what do we do with all our fermented Bokashi at this time of year? The ground is pretty much frozen solid from November through March, so digging it down is out of the question. We do have an insulated compost so a few Bokashi buckets go into that in the course of a winter, it helps keep some semblance of activity going in there and Bokashi is a good addition to any compost — more on that later.
But most of our fermented Bokashi we save over the winter. Come spring we need tons of the stuff and we just can’t produce it fast enough when the time finally comes.
A newly-filled Bokashi bin needs to ferment indoors for a couple of weeks or so before it’s ready to dig down or put into winter storage. When we need the bucket again I simply tip the contents into a big barrel in the wood shed. First I make sure it’s really well drained, then I add a few newspapers into the barrel to soak up any excess liquid. It’s the liquid will get you every time — if it builds up your Bokashi compost will rot. Same with the air — your barrel has to be airtight or things will start to go wrong.
So add a couple of thick newspapers top and bottom and make sure the lid’s on tight.
Temperature on the other hand is not so critical. Bokashi has to be kept warm during the fermenting process, but it can then be stored in whatever storage facility works best for you. In our case the wood shed, for others it may be a laundry or a garage. The microbes go into hibernation at temperatures below +6 degrees C or so and even if they have been frozen for a while they will go back into action again when they warm up again. While they can cope with the cold if they have to, what they don’t like so much is a lot of temperature variation, so try to pick a protected place with a temperature that’s as stable as possible. Not outdoors in the sun and wind in other words.
Come spring it’s a party. We use 35 liter bins with tight lids (each takes the contents of a couple of kitchen Bokashi buckets), bigger barrels also work but take far too long to thaw out in the spring.
Some of our Bokashi gold heads straight for the glasshouse, I mix it with cheap soil directly in the big pots we grow tomatoes in. After a few weeks the soil is fantastic, the tomatoes love it and its better than anything you can get in the shop.
Another few bins head for the veggie patch, I dig them straight down into the soil there. Then sit back and wait for the worms to come! It gives the seedlings a great start and helps replace some of the soil that went into last years harvest. The plants always seem to be stronger and healthier, and you can tell just by feeling a fistful of soil that they’re going to thrive in it.
Then — and this is a strictly rationed process! — another bin or two goes into the outdoor flower pots. Out with all the old soil and in with a layer of shop-soil, a layer of Bokashi kompost, and another layer of soil. The more the Bokashi is mixed in with the soil the faster it will turn into soil so it’s good to stir it up a bit. The important thing is that the roots of your plants don’t grow into the Bokashi until it has turned to soil, it’s too acidic at the start. But often the plants are tiny and won’t reach so far down into the pot for some weeks anyhow so it all sorts itself out.
And finally, IF there’s any left over, I give the compost bin a dose. Helps it get going again after the winter, and the whole composting process is much faster and healthier for the environment if it includes Bokashi than if it doesn’t.
So in these dark days of mid-winter you can see it’s a pleasure to stack up as many Bokashi barrels as possible in wait for the spring. The more Bokashi I have the sooner spring will arrive. Or is that just wishful thinking?
6 thoughts on “Mid-winter Bokashi storage”
Thank you so much for this helpful blog. I live in Alaska with a lot of hungry bears in spring, and I worry about mixing the bokashi with the soil and waiting for it to compost (I think the bears would get to it first). I would like to start breaking down the bokashi now in the winter. Do you think the following would work — when my bucket gets full letting the bokashi ferment for a few weeks indoors, then adding it to a bin in the garage with cheap soil & straw? My garage is unheated and our average winter temps. are 25-35 degrees. thanks for your help!
Sounds like you have a gardening challenge on your hands there! We have bears here too but fortunately not right in our garden. That must be a bit much to deal with! Deer and moose love bokashi though so we share a similar problem, along with the tough winters.
Your ideas will definitely work, we’re testing a lot of similar concepts here in Sweden. Basically you just make a “soil factory” in your garage, woodshed, glasshouse wherever. Doesn’t matter how cold it is. You just need a bin, barrel, wooden box, or whatever you have, with or without lid. Doesn’t have to be airtight, but the Bokashi does have to be covered each time. I have one bin going in the glasshouse (covered in snow of course) where I’m layering soil from last year’s tomato buckets with cured Bokashi, by spring it will be just perfect. Your garage idea sounds fine. Just do it like a lasagne and wait for spring — nothing will happen when its cold but it will go fast when things warm up. You could keep a sack of autumn leaves on hand to use as an in-between layer, easier to handle than frozen soil.
Btw, when I dig down Bokashi in the veggie patch during the spring/summer I normally put an old metal grid on top for the first couple of weeks. Keepts the deer — and dog — out!
Let us know how you get on! We could benefit from your tips up here in the frozen north!
Thanks so much for the tips! I have been doing the lasagna method in the garage, but I am worried about moisture in the bin. We have a lot of moisture here (we live in a temperate rainforest), and when I lifted the lid off this morning it was dripping with moisture. Everything else seems okay, no rancid smell and still that white fungus. Is the moisture on the inside of the lid okay?
I get the same problem here sometimes, too much moisture coming up to the top of the box and dripping around. At least if you’ve got white mould you’re doing ok, if it starts to go all green and icky you’re in trouble!
No big deal though — you could just throw in a couple of newspapers on the top to take up the moisture (they will also ferment and be good in the garden later). You don’t really need the lid if you’ve got the bokashi tucked in under a layer of soil, maybe it would help the moisture thing just to remove it. My favourite trick at the moment is to throw in a few handfuls of vermiculite on the top of the soil, I want to have it in my potting mix later anyhow so figure I can just as well add it now. It takes up a lot of condensation and, here at least, you can buy it in huge sacks from the chimney/fireplace guys, I think they use it for insulation in chimineys but its great in soil.
hi, thanks for the post. I’m from Canada, so your winter tips are good. We also live beside many bears and raccoons who are often in the yard. I’ve read on other sites that once bokashi has finished the fermenting stage, it’s no longer attractive to rodents or bears (and I’d assumed, other animals as well. ) but sounds like you’ve both had different experiences in that field?
Hi Anne. Well it’s comforting to know there’s other people out there dealing with a long cold winter! Soon spring though with any luck😀.
Ick, bears and racoons sound like tough customers! We don’t have them here (deer, moose and squirrels at our place, none of them diggers). The biggest problem we have here is birds in the spring picking over beds with newly dug-down Bokashi, and our much-loved family dog was a digger too in his time. Dogs and birds you can easily deter with a tarp or some kind of covering for 2 or 3 weeks till they lose interest. I know people around here that have wild pigs sniffing around and they are totally hopeless, one neighbour puts down chicken wire over the bed, well anchored.
I could only imagine bears and racoons would be a disaster So think up a good plan or dig deep!
Otherwise you could maybe get some heavy plastic barrels, lopp off the bottom and screw them down into your beds. Fill them with your fermented Bokashi, keep the lid screwed on tight and move them from time to time. But that’s maybe still not enough to stop a bear? Otherwise a soil factory in a tight barrel might be your only option, layer Bokashi and soil, leaves etc and put it in a place where it will get some sun in the spring. Preferably as close as possible to the garden for your own sake…
Well, good luck there! Love to hear how you get on, I’m sure there’s others out there wondering.