Trying out Bokashi Composting

Trying out Bokashi Composting

I realized I needed a new composting option when I created a new waste stream for our family. Instead of buying frozen chicken pieces, I started buying whole chickens from local farmers. After slow cooking and making broth from the bones, I’m left with lots of chicken bones and goop. This cannot go in our regular backyard compost, but it’s still organic and I hated to throw it out. (Plus it made the garbage super stinky). Enter Bokashi composting.

I had only heard about Bokashi but had never actually tried it. I knew it was a compost that could handle items, like meat, fat and bones, that our average soil bacteria don’t do a great job with. It uses specific bacteria and yeast cultures added to scraps in an airtight bucket. The bonus is, it can break down a wide variety of things while keeping it sealed from pests… like my dog. It sounded like just what I needed.

I was SO excited to try it out. Unfortunately, my first bucket did not go well. I followed the instructions that came with the kit: I put sawdust in the bottom to absorb leachate, added a layer of scraps, and the special culture and pressed it down (the less air space, the better this bacterial culture works). But, by the time the bucket was half full of pressed scraps, it started to reek -- like ‘something died in my basement’ reek. We cried ‘uncle’ and buried it in the garden for the soil microbes to finish earlier than the process normally would suggest. My second bucket went about the same. Theoretically, the process was not supposed to smell this bad – something was wrong.

Fortunately, I’m not one to give up easily. I have done enough fermentation of food (like sauerkraut and pickles) to know that microbes work well when you have enough of them and you give them the right environment. Fail at those two things and you will get stinky slime. Hence, I knew the problem was me not the Bokashi method that works so well for others.

So I informed myself a little more, I googled, I read, and I re-read the instructions. From my research, it seemed that the culture I had was too weak or old (like yeast for bread that has been sitting in your fridge too long to be useful anymore). I got some fresh Bokashi culture and it smelled totally different – very yeasty and alive. I also knew that my ratio of meat scraps to other materials was probably too high – the culture needed more veggie material to eat along with all that meat goop.

My third bucket went much better with the new culture and more fresh scraps. We even moved it with us to our new house, and dug it into the garden once the full pail had fermented for a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to see how things grow in that spot next year.

Now that cold weather is upon us, I have started a new bucket to deal with more meat and bones. I’m much more confident I can keep it happy, but I plan to keep learning and improving, depending on my results.

The moral of the story? If at first you don’t succeed, learn more – THEN try, try again. What about you, have you tried out Bokashi composting? Would you like to? The SWRC website has great information all about it