5. Making soil out of your bokashi

Step three: Making soil of your bokashi This is the most fun part!

There are many, many different ways to go about this.

What is best for you will depend on what type of gardener you are, how you live, what seasons you have, whether you grow mainly vegetables/annuals or flowers/perennials. How big your household is, what type of soil you have, what plans you have to develop your garden for the future.

What I’ll describe here is the simplest method, which is basically digging a hole in your garden bed and adding your bokashi there to improve the soil in that spot. The other alternatives are all variations on this theme and have been tested and developed by many, many people curious to see what works best for them. More on those later.

Step three is basically this: dig a hole, empty the contents of your bokashi bucket there, mix it around a bit with some soil, and cover over. Two weeks later you can start planting.

The bokashi microbes will set to work with the soil microbes and start converting the fermented food waste, the contents of your bokashi bucket, into soil. It’s probably a bit misleading to say they’re converted into soil, actually.

What really happens is that they’re absorbed into the surrounding soil. So while the soil in that spot will become darker, richer, more nutritious, it will still have the same basic structure. Sandy soil will remain sandy, but it all contain much more humus — a definite improvement. Clay soil will remain clayish, but the increased humus will definitely improve it’s structure too. And the more you do of this, obviously, the better the soil will become.

One of the main measures of soil health is soil organic carbon.

How much organic material is in the soil. It’s this that makes soil become magic; the more carbon the better. There’s basically never enough carbon in the soil, modern soils are always depleted, so everything you do to add humus to the soil (like adding bokashi) will improve soil structure, add energy and life, and lift the game. Significantly.

How deep?

So you’ve dug your hole, emptied your bucket, had a good hack at it with your spade to make sure all the bokashi is coated with soil and any big chunks are made smaller. Shoveled some soil over the hole. What next?

First: how deep should the bokashi be buried?

Two answers to this question.

One, what are you going to be planting there? Plant with deep roots that need nutrients further down? Or plants with shallow roots that need them accessible higher up? That’s where you should dig down your bokashi, where the roots can get at it.

Two, have you got any curious animals in the vicinity? You may need to prevent them digging up your bokashi. Make sure the soil covering is enough to deter them or, if you’re concerned, put a grid over the spot (or some chicken wire, some plastic or a couple of planks) to make it hard for them. It’s usually just a matter of a week or two, until they can’t smell it and the bokashi has mostly been absorbed into the soil.

Some dogs love bokashi, others don’t. If you’ve got a dog you’ll find out soon enough.

Birds can cause havoc, picking in the soil. I’m assuming this varies enormously from country to country, but in Sweden we tend to have a lot of problems in the spring when the birds in the crow family like to pick through everything they come across. It’s quite funny to watch, actually, but very annoying to clean up.

Other animals, such as badgers, foxes, moles and possibly even rodents can be curious about your bokashi. So do what’s needed to keep them out if you have them around. Rodents are generally not a problem as both rats and mice prefer rotten food and tend to dislike the acidity of fermented food.

But if they’re hungry enough it won’t be an issue; they will find your bokashi.

I live in the countryside, and despite having a somewhat lazy farm cat there are always rats and mice in the fields and barns. Despite this, we’ve never had them bother with our bokashi.

However, people in urban environments where, I’m assuming, the rats are hungrier and more desperate, have reported them getting into bokashi holes and setting up shop. Not pleasant.

The solution is to dig deeper, cover more, and in extreme cases use some form of closed container such as a bottomless drum dug down with fine netting underneath.

/Jenny Harlen, Bokashi World

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