Bokashi rules!

Well, I think it does! Bokashi is one of those few things in life that you know is really cool from the first second, then year after year just goes on convincing you even more. And I’m not alone. The world is full of us, Bokashi fans who are quietly spreading the word by word of mouth. Changing the world. One bucket at a time.

But what I really wanted to write about are Bokashi Rules. The most basic things you need to do to get it working. There’s just a couple and they’re surprisingly simple.

1. Keep it airtight.

Rule number one. You’ll need an airtight bucket. Bokashi (EM) microbes are anaerobic and work best in a tightly sealed environment. Try not to open your bucket more than one or two times per day and it will be fine.

2. Keep it dry.

Some buckets have taps/spigots, others don’t. You’ll get just as good an end-result either way but the key is to keep the moisture level right down in the bucket. And food waste is wet. If you’ve got a tap you can drain off the liquid a couple of times a week (great plant fertilizer!) and if you’ve got a plain old bucket you’ll need to absorb the liquid using newspaper, household paper, egg cartons or whatever you have handy. Squash it all down and you’ll find it doesn’t take as much space as you’d expect.

If you see condensation on the inside of your lid then the contents of your bucket are too wet. Thow in an egg carton or something dry. The reason: if your bucket is too wet it will smell. And that’s not fun.

3. Keep it warm.

Depends what part of the world you live in of course but room temperature is a good guideline. 20 degrees Celsius (sorry, what’s that in F?). Too cold and the microbes in your bucket won’t be able to reproduce quickly enough and there’s a chance your bucket will start going off before it’s fermented. But once it’s done its thing for a couple of weeks indoors you can do what you like with your bucket. Dig down the contents, put it on the porch for storage, tip it into a storage bag in the woodshed. No worries if it freezes during the winter. But heat during those first two active weeks is really important.

And that’s about it!

Keep it dry, airtight and warm and you’ll never have a smelly bucket.

Actually it’s hard to imagine anything much simpler. Not surprising there’s so many of us who really think Bokashi rules!

16 thoughts on “Bokashi rules!

  1. It’s true! Some bokashi manufacturers recommend that you stir your bokashi periodically to encourage aeration. Don’t do it! The only time we’ve ever had a stinky bucket was after following that suggestion. Great post, Jenny!

  2. Thanks for the tips Jenny. My bokashi has been getting smelly and, yes, there is condensation – will try the egg carton idea.

    We don’t have a worry with freezing here so when my bucket is full I now tip it into a bottomless compost bin and top with a little soil or old potting mix, layering it up to the top. Have just started my second bin. When it is full the other one will be ready to spread around my garden.

      1. Hi Jenny

        Yes I am downunder in a beautiful beachside village just south of the Queensland border. And the egg carton idea is already working!!

        I have placed flattened egg carton lids between the last two layers and the condensation has disappeared and there is no smell!!! Another tip – cut two lids in half and place them so the rounded outer corners fit nicely into the bokashi bin corners with no spaces – perfect coverage.

      2. Great to hear it worked! LUCKY LUCKY you living by the beach just there. I think my grandmother on my mother’s side grew up in that area, my mum has always talked a lot about it (not that I can remember the name of the place just now…).
        Smart idea about fitting the carton into the bin!

  3. I have problems getting the bokashi to work when the weather is cold – I live in UK, and keep the bucket in my kitchen, but I don’t use central heating. I have a bad batch at the moment.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for keeping the bokashi bin warm (apart from knitting it a little pullover)?

    1. Hi Katie! Tell us about it, life is cold here in Sweden too — snowing wildly as we speak! It seems most other people blogging on Bokashi have the luxury of living in warm just-dig-it-straight-down-in-the-ground countries. Not us.
      Two suggestions: just find the warmest spot in the house (close to a heater, in the bathroom, corner of the kitchen) and put your bucket there. Over 20 is absolutely best but as long as it gets going the bucket should do ok in +15. The second is to make sure the contents are dryish. If you can see condensation inside the lid it’s too wet. Just throw in an egg carton, some serviettes or whatever to take up the moisture. Usually it’s moisture that’ll make a bucket smell.
      Bonus suggestion is to throw in a handful of sugar. Fast food for the microbes and may just get them cracking again.
      Once your bucket has done it’s two-week fermentation session in the “warm” you can store the contents in a cold place until it’s time to dig. It will obviously still look like food waste but will break down into soil fast as anything when it hits the soil come spring. You can store it in a bag of dry leaves, old potting mix, or just as is with a couple of newspapers in an airtight plastic sack or barrel. The papers/dry soil/leaves will all help keep the mix from getting too wet and icky.
      Sorry for the delay in replying here. Happy New Year anyhow!

      1. Dear Jenny

        Many thanks for these tips – the mouldies* will be so grateful!

        Happy new year to you and all the bokashi bloggers!

        *The mouldies are, as you can probably guess, the organisms that grow from bokashi and do such a great job of breaking down the food. Does anyone else talk to the occupants of their buckets, or is it just me??

      2. Mouldies — that’s a good one!! I’m sure you’re not alone in chatting with your microbes, they’re after all part of the family 🙂 Where would we be without them? Hope your bucket comes right now — let us know what you come up with! Just a silly last idea, our cat has a mini electric blanket to sleep on (yes, I know, terribly spoilt…but after all it’s cold). It’s about A4 in size and plugs into a normal wall socket. I’m sure it doesn’t use much electricity. Would it be worth testing one under or over your bucket? The heat would be nice to have in the kitchen anyhow. Best solution would be just to chuck it in and head south for the winter!! Good luck! Jenny

  4. Your blog is fantastic! I love composting but am living in a small unit at the moment and was thinking bokashi was the way forward. So I was researching DIY bokashi when I came across your blog and it answered all my questions – and some! Thanks

    1. Thanks for the encouragement!! Hope it works out for you with Bokashi in your apartment. It’s always easier when you have a backyard but most people don’t so it’s good if we can work together and find out what does work. I think the answer comes under the heading “teamwork”, that we work together with people that have veggie patches, allotments and community gardens to get all of our food waste back in the soil where it belongs. Let us know how you get on!! /Jenny

  5. Hi Jenny

    I’ve purchased second hand buckets as they are much cheaper but the downside is that I haven’t received instructions with either of them. I’ve read in a few places that the buckets shouldn’t be in direct sunlight but need to be kept warm, does this mean they have to be in a cupboard? I currently have space to put them in the kitchen but they won’t be in a cupboard, the sun doesn’t shine directly onto the floor where I want to put them but I’m paranoid about ruining my first batch. Sorry for such a long question, I like to do things the best way possible 🙂

    1. Hi Anna!
      Great to hear you’ve got hold of a couple of buckets and are going to give this a go! It was the same for me in the beginning and I think for a lot of others too, a lot of questions and uncertainty then after a while you realize it’s all just ridiculously easy.
      Your buckets will be fine anywhere in the kitchen where you have space. The thing with no direct sunlight is to stop people putting the buckets outside directly in the sun. One thing is that the plastic may warp in the heat (mind you we’re talking about your downunder heat, not our lame Swedish excuse for heat…). The other is that it can just get too hot for the microbes if the sun is shining on the bucket. More than 50 degrees and they’ll start to curl up and die.
      Actually the microbes don’t like light either but it’s dark for them in the bucket even in a light kitchen so no worries there. It’s good to keep your bran in a cool dry place though. Not on the windowsill! And actually not under the kitchen bench either as there’s often a lot of heat in the hot water pipes to dishwashers and things. In other words just keep the bran in a normal airtight bag or container in a normal kitchen cupboard and you’ll have no worries.
      Would be great to hear how you get on! Just test your way forwards and you’ll be fine.

      1. Thanks Jenny. It’s so great that I’ve found someone as lovely and helpful as you! I thought it might be a silly question but then decided that I didn’t care, I wanted to know 🙂

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