Bokashi Compost Buckets: An Easy DIY Method

Ed Wike
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What Is Bokashi Composting?

Composting is a bio-reduction process of decomposing organic matter without oxygen, which is popularly used for raising plants, in domestic composting and for soil quality improvement.

The process of composting is best done in a suitable composting system where you can monitor and control various stages of composting. If you are new to composting, here’s a comprehensive tutorial to get you started.

However, if you don’t have the time or space for composting, or if you live in a city where composting isn’t an option, you can try bokashi composting. The bokashi composting method relies on anaerobic fermentation process, which is similar to composting, but it uses fermented food waste and some specific microbes (yeast and mold) instead of oxygen.

The end result is very similar to composting – it looks and smells like a rich soil – but there is no heat accumulation, and you can store it in a small, closed bucket. Here’s a do-it-yourself guide to making bokashi composting buckets at home.

How Does Bokashi Work?

Bokashi is simply the term used to describe fermented organic matter that is buried in soil.

The process is simple. You place organic food waste in a bucket with a layer of rice bran, and bury it in the garden. Within a few days, the waste has been broken down by enzymes and transformed by bacteria and fungi. This makes it a great source of organically enriched soil.

The only drawback is that bokashi requires a lot of attention in the first couple of weeks. Most people find that setting up a bokashi system and depositing all the organic wastes into the compost buckets day-by-day is too much effort.

Here is where the bucket bokashi system comes in handy. Using five-gallon buckets means that if you never take out the finished product, there is no need to constantly monitor the buckets of waste and cover them with more rice bran and water. Simply bury the bucket in the ground as if it were soil, and give it enough time for the waste that’s inside to compost.

The longer you keep the bucket in the ground, the better the final product is. It could be weeks or even months until you dig it up and use it.

What Organisms Are In Bokashi Bran?

Bokashi bran is the mixture of bokashi liquid and compostable material. Bacteria, yeasts, and molds are the microorganisms that will help break down and ferment your food scraps in the bokashi bucket.

Not only does bokashi composting involve bacteria, it involves a number of other beneficial organisms.

These include “good” fungi, beneficial protozoa, and beneficial nematode worms.

Together, these organisms help to convert the food scraps into a nutrient-rich substance called humus, which is the equivalent of compost.

Not only is it beneficial to have the presence of many different kinds of organisms in both a compost pile and in a bokashi bucket, it is actually necessary.

Only a complex mixture of these organisms will do the job of breaking down your food scraps. Each type of organism that you include in your pile of bokashi bran helps to break down the waste in its own unique way.

One type may break down carbohydrates, another might break down proteins… the more you include, the better!

In addition to the natural organisms that are part of the bokashi process, you can include other microorganisms that are beneficial for your garden.

Bokashi Bucket DIY: How To Build Your Bucket

You can buy each part separately at your local hardware store, or you could build it yourself. Depending on your personal tastes, you might like to build it using reclaimed or repurposed parts.

A basic bucket works just fine. You simply want to keep the materials air-tight, preventing fermentation from escaping. You can use a garbage or compost bucket, or a five-gallon bucket.

If you’re going to make a pattern on the bucket to indicate the food type, you should cut that into the bucket first, because using a permanent marker on a slippery surface means you’ll end up doing some work if you decide to change the label later.

It’s easy to find bucket lids at your local building and hardware store, and if you ask the counter person, they should be able to look up the size and width for you if you don’t know what you want.

Keep all of the hardware on the inside of the bucket because if you don’t need to remove them, you never will.

The purpose of the screen is to keep the bucket free from any material that might float. The first year that your compost is in the bucket, it will be essential for ease of separation.

Creating Drainage Holes

Drainage holes are essential for the success of your bokashi buckets. When using bokashi buckets for composting, air circulation is a must. You want to be sure to provide around ten percent air to your compost. If air is restricted, your compost may become anaerobic, which can lead to unnecessary odors.

Finding the right bokashi bucket for you is easy. They come in a variety of sizes. If you are creating a large compost pile, you will need a larger bucket. You can also choose to buy several smaller plastic buckets that can be stacked together or used to contain smaller amounts of waste. The standard bucket is a two gallon container with a lid, though you can also find others that leak less.

Do you have a lot of lemons growing in your garden that you are struggling to use up? Here is a great recipe for how to make Homemade Cleaning Spray for your home!

Picking The Right Lid

While the standard bokashi container lid works great, there are other types of lids that can potentially help you get better results. There are a few criteria you should keep in mind when looking for the right lid:

  • You need to have enough space for the fruits and vegetables you plan on putting into the bucket.
  • You need a lid that helps you maintain the fruits and vegetables in a fairly anaerobic environment.

Parameters:

  • An anaerobic environment is needed to prevent the development of aerobic molds and bacteria that could cause the compost to stink. It is the result of anaerobic bacteria that the traditional process of composting produces compost that has a very strong odor.
  • Sufficient anaerobic conditions mean a compost bucket that is covered.

The most important requirement is to keep the fruits or vegetables covered for the duration of the fermentation process. This is so that they will not be exposed to oxygen, which would cause aerobic and anaerobic molds to grow.

While the lid you use will change, the way you add your ingredients does not. The main idea behind bokashi composting is that you add your fruits and vegetables to the bucket and that you put that bucket inside another bucket filled with bran or other material that will absorb the liquid that will accumulate.

Loading And Maintaining Your Bokashi Composter

Bokashi is an easy DIY composting method. Essentially, you add a bit of starter culture to your food waste when you put it in the bucket. The bacteria then does the first stage of composting in your bucket. Then when it’s ready, you should level off the food scraps a bit, but mainly, the bacteria will have eaten up most of the food scraps. This leaves your bucket full of solid plant nutrients that you can use as an excellent fertilizer.

You can purchase starter culture as a powder with instructions from websites like Amazon.

To load your bucket, you can let scraps soften, scrape, and put everything into the bucket. You can also put some scraps in on top of the rest or a bit apart as if you were going to use a compost bin, only you are going to let the culture do its thing first, inside the bucket, after you have added the scraps. When you are ready to plant, take a bit out of the bottom and plant in the top. You can also put this directly into tiny pots for seeds or little plants.

Lining Your Bokashi Bucket

Once you have your liner and have measured the inside of your bucket, get some scissors and cut to fit. Be sure to have a pair of shears to cut it, and cut as you are fitting it to your bucket. Harder material can be more challenging to cut, even with shears.

Lay the liner inside of the bucket and smooth it out. Leave the liner about 3 inches longer on all sides of the bucket and cut off any excess material. Then begin to cut it to the size of the bucket. Smooth it out.

Filling Your Bokashi Bucket

The first thing to do is fill your bucket with all the kitchen scraps. The fermenting material is called “ok”. You can use any sort of food scraps.

In fact, you don't need to shred or peel anything. Just throw everything in. Fruit, coffee grounds, bones, breads, milk “ it's all good.

When filling your bucket, avoid leaves, flowers, and any food with a strong odor, as they will make your vegetables taste off. After adding the food to the bucket, add the bran.

Once you've filled your bucket, add the bokashi bran using the included scoop.

The bran acts as food for the fermentation process and ensures that the vegetables will ferment fast.

You'll quickly realize that the bucket is heavy! Make sure you have a helper when the bucket is full.

After you have added all the ingredients to the bucket, it's time to tightly tie the lid on. You will want to tightly tie it so no air can get in, which would slow the process down.

Next, fill the bucket with water until the contents are completely submerged.

Insert the hose from the air pump into the water.

Plug the air pump in and turn it on.

What You Should Not Add To Your Bokashi Bucket

The bacteria in your bokashi buckets work best with organic matter.

Wood chips/sawdust————DO NOT use this type of 100% wood product. It will slow the process by fooling the bacterial action.

Vinegar————DO NOT add vinegar to your bucket. Adding vinegar to your buckets will slow the process going.

Pine Needles————DO NOT add pine needles to your buckets. It will make the pine needles rise to the top. Pines needles should be composted to keep them in the soil and to get the maximum nutrients out of them. Once pine needles are broken down through the process in the bokashi buckets they will be added to your garden or planted into your yard.

Cat and dog poop————DO NOT compost cat and dog poop. Cat and dog poop can be added to your garden just like you would any other animal waste. Only add pet waste at least 6 months after putting the food waste into the bucket.

Keeping Air Out Of Your Bucket

If you've got an odor problem in your buckets, the problem is often anaerobic (moisture-dependent) bacteria, which generally thrive in the airless moisture of a bucket. The first step I recommend for dealing with odor problems is to purge the oxygen in the bucket, by changing out the air in it. I like to think of this as "scrubbing" the air in the bucket.

To do this, just put the lid on tightly, give it a good shake, and leave it for at least a few hours. You can leave it outside in the sun if you'd like, or just put it in a well-ventilated area of your house.

After this, you'll want to add a bit of high-nitrogen "activator" material to the bucket, just to provide a bit of extra food for the microbial growth. I like to use a mix of coffee grounds and shredded paper, but you can use leaves and yard waste, or kitchen scraps if you like. I wouldn't recommend using stuff like meat-based scraps, but vegetable scraps and coconut fiber work great.

Bokashi Tea: What To Do With Bokashi Liquid

You can add fermented tea from the bokashi bucket to your garden soil or around your trees and shrubs to inoculate the soil with beneficial bacterium. The best time to do this is when your plants' joint roots have just begun to spread into the surrounding soil. The bokashi has the potential to both improve your soil fertility and slow down the growth of weeds.

A small lime tree or two on your patio will not only be a great conversation piece, but will also help keep the atmosphere cool and clean. You can even keep certain years when they are most productive growing zucchini or cucumbers in containers so you can grow your favorite veggies more successfully and to keep the vegetables in the ripest and most-suited stages of maturity.

Keep Your Bokashi Compost Open

You don't have to bury the bokashi tea once it's finished. The bokashi liquid, or tea, is quite safe to just leave out in a container. Keep it covered and out of reach of pests. We recommend making the compost tea in smaller batches if you want to do this.

You can also move it into a large plastic bucket or a big (germicidal) spray bottle.

What Happens If You Get A Contaminated Batch

Bokashi composting is meant to transform kitchen scraps and other compostable waste into a high quality compost indoors, close to your cooking area. The process is something like this:

Food scraps are placed in a fermentation container (the bokashi bucket). Using a starter made from koji rice bran (the “secret” ingredient) and molasses, you add active microbes into the bucket and mix it with the food scraps. Wait a week or two for the food scraps to initially ferment. Then you “harvest” the compost. The whole process is super simple.

Bokashi composting is ideal for apartment dwellers or people who do not have a garden. The process takes place indoors, and the end product can be used inside the home, in containers or gardens.

But what if something goes wrong? Is Bokashi composting a fail safe and fail proof process, or can you get a bad batch?

Here are possible mistakes that can happen when making a batch of bokashi compost:

You take too long to harvest the compost.

How Long Does Filling The Bucket Take?

An average two-gallon bucket with two tumblers produces compost in one month. That data is based on an idea that it takes 14 days to fill each tumbler. This is a bit rough estimate.

In practice, this varies by the actual amount of food waste in each tumbler and the food waste's moisture content.

You start to compost in the first tumbler, so it’s even easier to fill it in two weeks. While all the waiting is underway, you can prepare the second tumbler and the third, which will be ready in another month.

The third bucket is ready to receive the compost from the second bucket, and the first bucket is ready for its next batch of food waste.

There's no limit to how long the cycle can go on, and you can keep on making compost for as long as you want.

What To Do When The Bucket Is Full

When it’s time to start filling the bucket, you may wonder when you should stop. The bokashi compost bucket size is usually small enough that you will produce a new batch of bokashi compost in only a few days to a week. So, even though five days may seem like plenty of time, it is usually best to start a new bucket after three to four days because it ensures that your bokashi compost will finish with a high level of micro-organisms. This helps to ensure that you’re making bokashi compost at a high rate and without any interruptions to the process.

Also, you should start a new bucket of bokashi compost each time you add more food scraps. This helps to avoid any contamination of the existing bokashi compost because when you are adding a lot of scraps it can be hard to know if some pieces may not be as ready to be added as the others.

Converting Pre-Compost To Finished Compost

So what was the point of converting our pre-compost to finished compost?

First, finished compost is what we want to produce in the final stages of composting. As the pile was cooking away slowly over the past few months, the process of breaking down the material produced heat, quickly evaporating the moisture. Since we didn't have any way to monitor the temperature inside the bin, a fallible method was to simply open up the lid and judge by the smell. Once it was noticeably less aromatic, and the material was starting to look uniformly crumbly, it was ready to become finished compost.

These pre-compost methods take up a lot of time. In particular, we had to be there at the beginning to plant the seeds and during the early stages to water the bokashi, and we needed to keep the finished bin covered for the first few months. We also never had any idea how long the process was going to take.

Burying Your Pre-Compost

Bokashi is a Japanese term for fermented organic material. The process is easily followed by anyone who isn’t afraid of a little mess and who is interested in dabbling in composting. The premise is simple: put a combination of partially decomposed organic matter, microorganisms, sea salt, and water in a compost bucket that has some holes in the bottom and put it in a dark, cool place.

Bokashi composting has many benefits to offer. And the best part is that you don’t need to use any fancy equipment. In fact, you have probably already got the basic ingredients you need lying around.

All you need is:

  • A bucket that you can get more organic matter and liquid through
  • A fine mesh scourer
  • A little sea salt
  • Some red wine or Tizer

For the container, you want a leakproof container that allows air flow. Make sure that the container is dark and can be kept in a dark, cool place. You should put the mixture in a porous container such as an old paint bucket.

The right proportions are also very important to ensure that the decomposition process doesn’t attract the wrong kinds of critters.

How Long Does It Take For Pre-Compost To Become Compost?

Autumn is here, and that means it's the perfect time to make your own compost. In this post, we will talk about how to make a compost bucket using the bokashi composting method (or bokashi buckets). It is an easy process, which I recommend to anyone trying to save money and who wants to help the environment. Read on to find out how to make bokashi buckets.

One of the easiest ways to compost while saving money and being environmentally-friendly is by using a bokashi bucket. This is a DIY method that is quite simple to achieve and requires virtually no fiddling after you've built it. I researched the topic for my website and was amazed at the simplicity of the project. Bokashi composting is making a small but powerful comeback as an alternative to traditional composting. Therefore, if you haven't heard about it before, you can now read on for all the information you need to know about using the bokashi method.

What is bokashi composting?

Bokashi literally translates as "fermented organic matter" and is a fermentation process. Plants naturally go through decomposition and end up as compost but this process can be sped up significantly with the use of beneficial bacteria.

Final Thoughts On The Bokashi Process

The bokashi process is definitely an interesting one. One issue, however, is that although it's an easy process, it's also time consuming. If you're going to have an efficient system in place, you're going to need all of the necessary creature comforts. In order to see a good return on your bokashi process, you're going to need to keep up with it. Having various buckets in various parts of your house is going to make this a little tricky.

Another issue is that it's not ideal for those who aren't already interested in composting.

Using bokashi to compost requires research as you'll be the one responsible for creating the mixture.

You may also need to talk to your trash company about setting up set up a process in which they collect bokashi compost. If done right, however, the bokashi compost can be used as a fertilizer for the whole garden. You can also use it with beds for growing vegetables or flowers. It's even suited to indoor potting plants. The bokashi compost is even safe enough to use in your vegetable garden. So it’s not a bad use for your organic scraps.

And best of all, using the bokashi compost is generally cheaper than purchasing fertilizer.