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?