Bokashi kitchen

Bokashi in a bag! Perfect for Christmas leftovers

There’s something I’ve been wondering about for a long time: can you ferment Bokashi in a plastic bag?

So I’ve been testing it over the last months. And I have to say I’m quite excited about the result. Because it works every bit as well as a bucket once you get the hang of it. Perfect at Christmas if you get a rush on leftovers.

That means the up-front investment for getting started with Bokashi is zero. OK, you have to buy the bran but you have to buy that anyway, that after all is the magic of Bokashi. The buckets in themselves are very convenient but it’s the microbes that do the work not the plastic.

So how does it work? Take a plastic bag, a good thick one from a shoe store or something. I don’t know how things are where you live but the ones we get from the supermarket here are a bit thin and often have holes in them. You need your bag to be totally airtight. The thicker the better from an odour point of view as well.

You can put the bag in a bucket if you like or just put it in a cupboard or on the floor. You need a good thick newspaper, say half a centimetre thick in the bag. And you need a bag clamp of some sort: here I’ve used bag clamps from Ikea, they cost more or less nothing and everyone has them in their kitchen drawer here in Sweden.

Right. So you put the newspaper in the bag (a tabloid is usually the same width as a bag and slots in nicely with the fold at the bottom of the bag). Sprinkle in some Bokashi bran, tip in your food waste from the day, sprinkle over a little more Bokashi bran. Actually, just as you normally do in a “real” bucket. Clamp the bag.

And go on filling until the bag is full. It’s good to add a lot of serviettes, kitchen paper and the like into the bag as this all helps absorb moisture. If the bag feels too wet you’ll need to add another newspaper. Which isn’t actually a problem as the newspaper is good to have in your compost/soil later — the worms love fermented with EM microbes.

Keep the air in the bag to a minimum. Just give the bag a bit of a squeeze and a squash now and then before you clamp it.

That’s about it. Easy isn’t it? Leave the bag to ferment indoors for the usual two weeks. Then do whatever you usually do with it — into the garden, into the compost, into the woodshed or garage for storage until spring.

Once the bag has done it’s fermenting thing indoors it doesn’t matter if you store it cold outside. Which means you can stack up any number of bags in the shed through a long, cold winter and even if they freeze they’ll come back to life in the spring. For the sake of neatness you can store them up in big garbage sacks or barrel. One thing to think of if you’re going to store your Bokashi bags for some months is that they will go on generating liquid — be generous with the paper.

Another benefit of plastic-bag Bokashi is that you don’t have any bucket to wash. Just empty the bag and toss it, or use it again. It’s a really handy way of dealing with kitchen waste when you’re away from home (caravan? tent? cottage? canoe trip?) or have too much for your regular Bokashi buckets to handle.

It’s actually no harder than regular Bokashi composting with all the expensive gear so it may be a good way of getting sceptical friends and neighbours to test the concept. Give them some of your Bokashi bran (in a glass jar for example) and show them the ropes. Help them through their first cycle so they gain confidence then they’re sure to be converted! And if they’re not gardeners themselves they could fill the bags then hand them over to you for your garden.

Bear in mind that this plastic bag approach is a new concept. And so it’s not tested so much further than in our own kitchen (as far as I know). So it would be great if you’d test it yourself, give it a few rounds to see what you learn, and let us know so we can share it. Pictures welcome of course!

By the way, I wanted to be really sure the process was working so I kept a couple of bags indoors in a warm kitchen close to the radiator for three months. No problems at all with smell (although the bags did get a bit in the way after a while 🙂 ). If you’re worried about rats and mice, don’t be: we have both in the vicinity as we’re close to farms (despite a hardworking cat) and they just aren’t interested in Bokashi bags. The fermented Bokashi is simply too acidic, too low pH. But test for yourself with a small bag in the woodshed or somewhere to be sure.

Good luck! Give it a go! And if you like the idea spread the word!!

ps If you’re really lazy you could put the fermented bags out in garden as they are. Make a couple of slits in the bottom and the worms will soon be in there working hard. In due course you can just shake out the bag and enjoy all your fantastic soil!

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8 comments

  1. Hi Jenny Janine and I read your composting in plastic bags with great interest and have decided that I will run the experiment, but using bio-degradable bags (made from corn starch) … will keep you posted!!
    We are very keen to see whether it would be an answer for apartment dwellers.
    Happy New Year!!

    1. I have to say I was a bit sceptical about the bag thing but it really works, cool that you’re going to test it. I’ve also been testing with bio-bags for the same reasons — we have to get something working for the no-dig and apartment crowd. Here we have two types of bio-bags — thick and thin. The consumer products are nearly all thin, and personally I think they’re a bit annoying. Not strong enough and not watertight so they get a bit slimy. However they work well enough inside a bucket with lid — but you have to carry the bucket with you to the “destination”. The good thing is you don’t have to see the food waste so the ick factor is a bit lower. The bags are hopelessly slow to break down in a compost, but that doesn’t matter if you’re not in a hurry.

      However, we’re also testing some thick bio-bags for commercial use. Much better and VERY PROMISING!! 0.25 mm thickness, 37 liter. Works fine in the kitchen free-standing. We’ve been filling to 7 kg or so, which is a good weight to haul out to wherever. Exactly the same concept as described here with the newspaper and bag-clip.
      I guess these bags will take forever to break down, but that doesn’t have to be an issue. Once they’re dug down there’s really no rush is there? Probably it makes sense to stab a few holes in the bags when they get into the soil (or slit them open a bit) to give the worms and soil microbes a chance.

      It would be great if you could do some testing there! We’ve got months to go before we can even see soil let alone get a spade into it, so if you guys could get this all sorted and let us know what to do come spring it would be great!!

  2. Are mice fussier than possums? -G- Just checked my trial bags, and the one at counter-level’s got significantly more gassing than the one on the floor in the draft, so I’m guessing this is another method where the region/temperature matters.

    The things I do for bokashi! I am using freezer bags with slide-locks, which will pop at the zipper if the pressure gets to be too much–figured that was a better idea than chancing garbage balloons in my kitchen–but the bags will have to be cleaned before I can dispose of them. Sigh.

    Still, anything that works…

  3. Thanks, love this idea, as I thought the bokashi bin was far too expensive for me. I recently bought the bokashi EM stuff, and I hope that this concept will work for me.

    Thanks for posting!

    1. Give it a go and let us know how you get on! It works fine — the secret is to keep things as dry as possible. Newspaper, egg cartons that sort of thing. Good luck!

  4. I’ve only just started Bokashi (haven’t even filled my first bucket yet) but am already thinking of ‘what about when we go away?’ (we are going next week with a wonderful group of friends, our children and their children. They are people that don’t garden mostly, but are open thinkers so won’t have a problem ‘letting’ me save all the scraps.

    They have even got lazy and decided to take paper plates away, so the bag method or undrained bucket method sound great so I don’t have to fuss – I’ll just tell them to chuck it all in and see what happens. I probably won’t call this a trial for your idea (as I have no experience to compare), but I’ll try it out anyway.

    I have a question before I go away and take Bokashi with me. I’ve been searching for detailed info on the whole Bokashi thing (that’s how I found you) and different people have said what you can put in. As I want simple, if it can go in I want it in.

    Can I ask your opinion on the following – cheese; shells of seafood(shrimp/prawns, other bigger shells like crab/lobster); bread and baked goods; flour etc (like if I flour the bench to make pastry or weavels get in my baking supplies; pasta (cooked or uncooked); weeds. (I’m thinking not everyone that has a Bokashi bin has a worm farm (or a compost heap) to take the outdoor bits and sticks etc always take ages to break down, perhaps they could benefit from a treatment first.

    I’m asking some of this as I had to throw out lots of pantry produce due to weavels that came in my birdseed.

    Oh, P.S. birdseed? I can’t put it in the compost or the wormfarm without it growing – this might even work. I usually get about 2 shop bags of poo, seed and green feed when I clean the avairy out. I realise that I need to keep this away from my vege patch as it contains animal poo and might pass on something. I’d just bury it in the ornamental part of the garden. As long as Bokashi process makes seeds unable to grow – which I just realised is probably true.

    One day I might have a separate wormfarm for animal poo, but that seed!. I’m planning to make a doggy-dunnit worm pit by burying an open end pipe with holes drilled in the sides (to let the garden worms in) and some above ground to keep air flow when I put a lid on the pipe. Might even look at compost worms in the pipe. This was actually my first project idea, but the discovery of something as simple and Effective as Bokashi changed my priorities.

    Thanks, once again for everything. I can’t believe how happy I am to be back doing simple sensible things instead of being literally sick from the frustrations of long, long office hours and no time to be me.
    Kerri

  5. Hi Kerrie!
    Good on you for taking your Bokashi on tour with you! Actually it’s really painful having to watch things thrown in the bin when you’ve become a Bokashi convert. You end up wanting to sneak things home in your handbag…
    Yep, just throw the paper plates and everything in the bucket. You’ll probably find the plates have a thin layer of plastic film on them, you can easily pick that out of the soil later when everything else has broken down.
    My take on what goes into a bucket is EVERYTHING. Some people have trouble with shrimp shells and other seafood bits, usually it’s because they’re too wet when you throw them in and its hard for the Bokashi to get a grip. Try draining them really well first then bedding them in with something absorbent. Serviettes? And maybe a bit extra Bokashi bran for good measure.
    Definitely all the flour and pantry stuff. (I had a similar problem in a farmhouse we look after, weevils in the flour are not fun…). But try not to dump it all in one big clump, layer it in with the other normal stuff if you can.
    Weeds are worth thinking twice about. If there’s any chance they have seeds you really don’t want to see again I’d say leave them out. Some people say seeds survive a bokashi treatment others say they don’t. You could always kill them off in the sun first or else do a separate bucket that you used in a less sensitive place. Or do a weed bokashi in a big black plastic bag and leave it for good long time. Maybe with your dog poo?
    Your dog and bird poo plan sounds great! And the EM in Bokashi will definitely help keep the bacteria on the right track. And help it break down faster.
    What did I miss here? Probably the garden waste. What you could do is a standard garden heap with that sort of stuff and now and then poke a ready bokashi bucket into the midst of it. That will get the compost heap cracking. If weeds are a problem you could do it in a black plastic bag, great way to deal with gum leaves and stuff too. Depending of course on how you live. Or a standard wooden compost enclosure with a cover to stop it drying out too much/getting too wet, into which you just push the odd Bokashi bucket.
    Actually you can try pretty much everything. It doesn’t cost anything to try and if you come up with something new PLEASE share it here with us!!
    /Jenny

  6. Jenny said, “Actually you can try pretty much everything. It doesn’t cost anything to try and if you come up with something new PLEASE share it here with us!!” … think that’s why I’m hooked. As simple or as far reaching as the individual wants to be. Jenny, you have cut through the scrap to get the real meaning. I’m with you. As long as there isn’t some technical/scientific/health reason against it…it’s in the bucket!!

    Just thought of another question. I’ve seen many saying a fail is moulds other than white on the ferment. If I failed to ferment, I can still just bury the failure and let it break down, can’t I. I wouldn’t use it for worm-food of course; if it happened early and I couldn’t fix it I’d write off that bucket; I might think of throwing in the compost and hope the good guys in there would make short work of it all anyway. With black mould being a garden problem, what’s the best thing to do?

    This could be something that you have had to look out for where your bags are coming from others (who may or may not have kept the process going right while they filled the bucket/bag/bin), so I knew you’d know.

    Thanks so much. My garden is being watered for me today by Mother nature (oops, the peas seeds rotted in the ground, but hey love the rain) and everything else is going wonderfully. At least I didn’t have a 1000 acres in. I feel for the Aussie farmers at the moment with farms being literally washed away. . . again (all the work they put into developing their soil staggers me).

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