Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kitchen Bokashi Series: Part 2 - Food Waste to Garden Soil Amendment

Airtight container half full of bokashi
During the 2009 ECHO Asia Agriculture Conference in Chiang Mai, Keith Mikkelson, from the Aloha Natural Farm in the Philippines, shared about making and using bokashi from food waste. His presentation inspired conference delegate, Kenny Miller, to begin producing his own household bokashi. And Kenny’s positive bokashi experience influenced my family to do the same.

Kitchen bokashi is a useful soil amendment that is produced by fermenting food wastes. It offers households and institutions the following opportunities:
  • a manageable means of reducing the volume of waste by recycling food scraps
  • Healthy white mold forming
  • unending access to an excellent soil amendment that improves garden soil structure and fertility, benefiting helpful soil organisms as well.
To produce kitchen bokashi, food scraps are collected in airtight containers and inoculated with a carrier. Such a carrier is often comprised of a high carbon material, such as rice or wheat bran, that has been inoculated with fermentation microorganisms (e.g. natural lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and phototrophic bacteria). One source of such microorganisms is a commercial product called Effective Microorganisms (EM).

Each shallow layer of food scraps should have a liberal sprinkling of inoculated carrier on top with layering continuing until the container is full. Stored under near anaerobic conditions, microbes will expand throughout the kitchen scraps and ferment the materials.

If done correctly, there will be no spoilage or putrid smell, allowing fermented food wastes to be collected and stored over the long term; even for months until burial. Finally, weeks after incorporation into the garden, the bokashi will become soil-like, providing both organic matter and plant nutrients to the soil.

Kitchen bokashi being buried in the garden
Speaking of plant nutrients, based on lab analysis done at Mae Jo University on a batch of kitchen bokashi, this is how our bokashi’s N-P-K ratio compared to other natural fertilizers and animal manures (compiled from various sources):

  • kitchen bokashi 2.39 – 0.77 – 0.97
  • worm castings 1.1 - 0.8 – 0.5
  • blood meal 12 – 0 – 0
  • chicken manure 1.1 – 0.8 – 0.5
  • rabbit manure 2.4 – 1.4 – 0.6
The next blog will offer detailed instructions on making the inoculated bokashi carrier.

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