8. How much bokashi should you dig down?

So, your bokashi has become soil. How strong is it and what can you plant in it?

As a completely general rule of thumb, around one-third bokashi and two-thirds soil is a good guide for most plants.

If you’re planning to plant rhubarb, pumpkin, or any type of demanding plant you might want to aim for a stronger mix, say half and half. Any stronger than that is probably too strong.

If you plant more normal plants in a strong mix they should probably still be fine, they will develop plenty of fruit and flowers etc, but the risk is everything may be larger than you want it. You may get cherry tomatoes that look like regular tomatoes, for example, and even if they still taste great it wasn’t quite what you intended…

The problem normally for us gardeners is that we can’t produce enough bokashi for our gardens. A normal family just doesn’t produce enough food waste to fertilize a vegetable garden that would feed a family. So you need to take in bokashi from friends and neighbours, or complement with other forms of fertiliser.

So, typically we end up rationing our bokashi, building up one bed at a time.

It may take a few years this way to really improve the soil in your beds, but you’ll notice it coming along.

After some years you’ll have such great soil that the bokashi probably won’t make such a difference anymore; however you have to feed the soil in some way to compensate what you harvest, so it’s just to continue on a maintenance level; a bucket here and a bucket there.

How can you see when your soil is improving?

Actually, you can normally feel it.

Good soil looks and smells amazing. It’s full of worms, has some nice variation in texture — some chunky bits, some grainy, sandy bits, and usually a few other small crawly things.

The real action, the micro-life, we don’t have a chance of seeing. But it’s the foundation for everything else to work, so if you see worms you know you’ve got a good micro-life.

The worms, where do they come from?

Well, who knows. They seem to just turn up.

So many people have told me about gardens devoid of worms, which is a great sadness if you have a gardener’s soul. No worms pretty much equates to impoverished soil. There’s nothing there for them to snack on, basically.

And when these same gardeners have been adding bokashi for a while, they worms just suddenly turn up. From somewhere, we don’t know where, but one day they are just there.

If the food is good and they like the conditions otherwise — not too many poisons, moist and airy in the soil, good variety in food supply — they thrive. Multiply efficiently, and get going on their work of building tunnels, moving nutrients around, converting food from one form to another (in one end, out the other basically) and aerating the soil.

Worms should never, ever be underestimated.

They are the magic that you can see in a garden.

And if you have worms, be happy. Everything is working.

It’s their message to us: we’re here, therefore it’s good. You’ve done the right thing. This garden is good.

We’ll stay.

/Jenny Harlen, Bokashi World

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