07. When your bokashi has become soil

Following on from: Time to plant your garden!

I’ve been doing bokashi for over ten years, but even so I like to poke around in my ”bokashi spots” now and then to see how they’re doing. They never cease to amaze me!

Every time I find some bits of eggshell, or a slow-to-decompose tea bag or a bit of avocado peel or a stone, I’m just a little overawed. It really was here I dug down that last bucket! There’s nothing left to see of it, just dark, healthy soil and a few bits and pieces that haven’t quite made it yet.

Usually a fair few worms.

Paper. Takes much longer than food waste and there are divided opinions whether or not paper should be used in bokashi. Do what works for you.

Household paper and serviettes are a given in the bin because they’re often sticky and icky and you don’t want them in your paper recycling. And they will be fine soil in due course so why worry?

If you use a tap bucket, you probably won’t want too much paper in the bucket as this will absorb your valuable bokashi liquid. On the other hand, a newspaper or egg carton on the top of a bokashi bucket that’s smelling a little bit due to condensation can make all the difference; the paper absorbs the moisture and takes care of that off smell.

If you use a bucket without a tap, you’ll most likely have quite a lot of paper to deal with in your soil later. You can choose to pick out the recalcitrant bits and dig them all down in a spare corner, or use them in some other way.

For example, thick wads of newspaper are great as mulch around berry bushes and perennials. They’re soaked in nutrients and microbes, and as long as you anchor them with some form of bark, wood chips or mulch, they will do a great job attracting worms, slowing weed growth and conserving moisture.

Bones. Chicken bones will disappear of their own accord. They take a little longer than general food waste but are really no problem. Just push them down again a bit if they pop up to the surface.

Bigger bones are more problematic. Some people include them in their bokashi, others don’t; it’s completely up to you. What happens when they’ve been in the soil for a while is that they get stripped clean and become very porous and brittle.

What I do is collect them up in one corner when they turn up, in a kind of bone graveyard, and every now and then get a hammer out and give them a few bangs.

The bones break up easily and I spread out the powder and bury the bigger bits back down again. In the old days we used to buy blood-and-bone fertiliser for the garden in powder form, I figure this is much the same. Good stuff, in other words.

Shells. I still have some mussel shells from seven or eight years ago in the garden. They turn up now and then, never break down, but they don’t bother me. They’re a nice reminder of a pleasant evening.

I could get out the hammer and break them up, but haven’t bothered. Or move them to some other corner, or simply toss them.

Just do whatever works for you.

Avocado stones. They are hopeless, take forever to decompose. But ultimately, they will become soil and get out of your way. If they’re close enough to the surface, they may even grow. You don’t have to add them to your bokashi bin and you don’t have to have them in your soil. Again, just do whatever works.

Seeds. So many people have been surprised to find tomato seedlings, small melon, pumpkin and squash plants popping up from nowhere after they’ve dug down a bucket or two of bokashi.

They made it through the bokashi process, probably becoming stronger in the process, and were luckily enough to end up with soil, temperature and light conditions that suited them out in the garden.

Who can get upset about a whole bunch of free tomato seedlings?

Just to replant them carefully and enjoy the bonus tomatoes that will come in due course.

Next up: How much bokashi should you dig down?

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