3. Keeping it dry with paper

So, back to the paper.

A half-newspaper or so in the bottom of the bucket, and another wad in the top is normally sufficient to soak up the liquid from a bucket of bokashi food waste.

The problem with newspaper like this is that while it does a good job in the bucket, it tends to take a long time to break down in the soil. You can solve this by shredding the paper a bit before adding it to the bucket; only takes a few seconds and makes it more manageable in the bucket as well as in the soil.

If you do have thick wads of paper like this coming from your buckets, you can use them in another way. Instead of digging them into the soil along with the rest of the bucket, lay them out around the base of berry bushes and other perennials.

The felt-like newspaper is full of nutrients and microbes and will become a haven for worms. Cover it over with wood chips or bark, leaves or whatever to hold it in place and make it look more natural.

Many people ask if it’s ok to use newspaper in the garden because of the inks used, aren’t they poisonous? These days, printing inks are pretty good, but it depends of course on where you live.

In Sweden, where I live, and I assume the same applies to most of Europe, the printing inks used in newspapers have long been free of toxins and are perfectly ok to use in the garden. The same applies to the newsprint itself, the actual paper, these days it’s made in a clean process that will not cause any problems.

The story is different with glossy paper. The paper has a coating that is probably not the best in the garden. Magazines, advertising materials and glossy cardboard packaging may be printed far from home (especially packaging) and thus use papers, coating and inks we know nothing about. So be a bit more careful about how you use those.

There is another good use for newspaper in a bokashi context.

Too wet = smelly!

Now and then you get a bokashi bin that smells more than you would like. It’s hard sometimes to pinpoint the reason, but it nearly always comes down to the bucket being too humid.

Even though most moisture finds it’s way down to the drainage zone in the bottom of the bucket and can be removed, sometimes the moisture collects up in the upper part of the bucket and becomes condensation.

Have a look at the underside of the lid. Any condensation droplets there? If so, that’s probably what’s causing the smell in your bucket. And it’s really easily solved: just put a folded newspaper on top of the food waste in your bin and wait a day or two.

The newspaper will soak up the condensation, stop it smelling, and your problem is solved. Obviously you could do this using anything absorbent: some old bread, an egg carton, a handful of charcoal or sawdust pellets. The thing is to get rid of the excess moisture that is causing the smell.

If you want, you can go on filling the bin on top of the newspaper (or whatever).

Or, you can remove the damp paper and go on filling the bin. The newspaper can be used as mulch in the garden, it will have picked up a few good microbes and nutrients while it was in the bucket.

I’ve never been able to quite understand why some buckets get this condensation thing and others not.

Obviously some food waste is wetter than others and that is a factor.

Sometimes you can pack a bucket too hard, preventing the liquid from draining down naturally to the tap zone. If this happens, just push a kitchen knife down into the bucket and wiggle a bit to open up some drainage channels, works every time.

Sometimes, I’ve had it explained to me by an engineer friend, the condensation may be caused by a combination of temperature and humidity in the bucket, causing the moisture to collect up on the top rather than draining down.

Whatever the reason, it’s easily fixed. Just absorb it and carry on.

One question is whether the end result will be ok if you have a bucket that’s too wet, or one that smells a bit. Assuming it’s not just a swampy mess, or that the smell is a sign of putrefaction, a bucket that’s not one of your best won’t cause any problems at all. It’s a bit unpleasant at the time, but that’s the worst of it.

When you dig down the contents of a smelly bucket into the soil, the soil will take care of it. The odor may hang in the air for a few hours, but it will soon balance in, and the soil you produce will be as good as ever.

/Jenny Harlen, Bokashi World

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