As mentioned in Compost part 1, I use the Bokashi composting system. This uses a bran containing microbes to pickle food waste and speed up composting. I live in a flat, but am lucky enough to have a reasonable sized balcony so have room for both plant troughs and composting bins.
My process is as follows;
- Food waste is cut up into reasonable sized chunks. This can include cooked and raw food items, tissues, hair, coffee grounds. For example I would cut a juiced lemon into quarters, a banana skin would be cut into three or four. This is so the break down happens evenly. I do not include meat bones, fat or liquids. The material is left in air tight containers, in the fridge, until I have a couple full.
Compost in waiting
2. The food waste is then transferred to the Bokashi air tight bucket. For each container of food waste placed in the bucket, I press it down with a potato masher, this is important so there is not too much air between the layers, and you can fit more in. Then I sprinkle on a handful of Bokashi bran. The lid is then returned to the bucket ensuring it is air tight. Otherwise the food will rot (in a bad way) and not pickle.
A white mould may form on top of the food waste, this is normal. It should smell quite sweet and almost like a cider. Fermentation is occurring! The tap at the bottom drains off the liquid that will form. How often I need to do this depends how wet the material was and the weather. This liquid is my fertiliser, it’s super strong so needs diluting a lot.
The Bokashi Bucket – This is were the pickling happens
3. Once the bucket is full. Leave it for a few weeks, or a few months, it will not go off as long as it is air tight. Start filling your second bucket.
4. I have a large dustbin on the balcony with holes drilled in the bottom. A large saucer underneath catches the liquid that will be produced. I empty this around every two weeks. It’s a great drain cleaner. Into the dustbin I put around a third of the contents of the Bokashi bucket, then layer sawdust, or shredded paper, it can’t go in most paper recycling so is a great use for it. This addition helps balance the very high nitrate levels. I also layer the Bokashi with green waste, to help get a more even compost.
The composting in action
5. When the material has been in this bin for a couple of months I transfer it to open containers to finish breaking down.
6. The resulting material is then crumbled by hand to break up any lumps. Anything that has not composted thus far goes back into the dustbin stage to go around again. Home composting does not get to the temperatures of council composts so things can take a bit longer to break down. I mix the crumbled material with existing soil, coconut coir, or other compost, and top up my troughs. I do not put the material undiluted around already growing plants. It can be too potent and could damage them.
It took a while to get the process right for me and my space, but I got there in the end. Some batches still work better than others. This is down to the mix of material and the weather. However I am still learning and hearing of new things which might help make it even better. Currently I am scavenging leaves to add to the mix! Remember it all gets there in the end, you just have to be patient.