02. Filling your bucket – important things to keep in mind

Following on from: Bokashi is all about getting carbon out of the air and into the soil

Bokashi is an incredibly flexible process.

That’s why we all love it. One of the best parts is that more or less ALL types of food waste can go in your bokashi bucket. Cooked, uncooked, fish, meat, eggs and vegetables.

So what are the important things to think of when you’re filling your bokashi bucket?

One: the lid must be kept on tightly at all times. Bokashi is an anaerobic process and will only work in an airtight bucket in this first stage.

Types of food waste you can put in the bucket.

Basically everything.
Fruit and vegetable peelings

Eggshells (although these may take longer to become soil they are a great source of calcium)

Coffee grounds and used tea bags (not the nylon ones) and tea leaves. Coffee filters are fine, they’re made of paper, but take longer than food to break down.

Cooked foods, including fish, meat, pasta, rice, vegetables, everything. The only thing to avoid is liquids (sauces, soups, etc), unless you soak them up in something else first, like bread or kitchen paper.

Dairy products (cheese, sour cream, butter etc) are fine. Just avoid liquids such as milk.

Flowers, pot plants, herbs etc that have had their day. Just avoid soil from pot plants, save it to use later in a ”soil factory” or in the garden.

Smaller bones, such as chicken bones are fine. If you want, you can even include bigger bones. These will be ”cleaned” but will take forever to break down in the soil so you may wish to remove them later. Cooking to a broth first will speed the process and give you a great stock.

Seafood shells such as shrimps, mussels, etc. The soft shells (such as shrimps) will be fine and become good soil. Try to let them dry out a bit before you add them to the bokashi bucket to stop them smelling, use a little extra bran, and if possible alternate them with something else.

No reason at all they should smell then! Hard shells such as mussel shells can go in the bucket but they will more or less never break down in the soil. You can remove them later from the soil if they’re in the way.

Salty foods. Fine in small quantities, but you might want to think twice before adding too much salt to one place in the soil; it’s not good for the soil and not good for the garden.

Paper. Paper is fine in bokashi in limited quantities. You can’t avoid it in a kitchen: paper turns up in the form of coffee filters, tea bags, kitchen paper, used serviettes.

It will always turn into soil in the end, and while it’s not exactly nutritious it adds a little carbon to the soil and doesn’t do any harm. Paper in itself doesn’t ferment particularly well, but in the context of a bokashi bucket it will provide a home for a few microbes and soak up some of the food-waste liquids in your bucket, so all good.

If you are using a bokashi bucket with a tap, you probably don’t want to have too much paper in the bucket as it will soak up valuable bokashi liquid that is better used as a liquid fertiliser. But sometimes the bucket is the perfect place to throw some slimy kitchen paper that you’ve used to clean the bench so why not. Just do whatever makes sense.

If you are using a bucket without a tap, a plain airtight bucket, you will need to use some form of absorbent material to soak up the liquid from the food waste. Paper is ideal, given that we nearly always have some old serviettes or newspapers, egg cartons or toilet paper rolls lying around.

The alternative to using paper is to use some other form of absorbent material: charcoal is ideal (an has a lot of other benefits), compressed sawdust pellets (the kind used in heating furnaces), cat absorption pellets (provided they are made from a chemical-free organic material), or dry food waste such as old bread, pasta, rice etc.

Next up: Keeping it dry with paper

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