To sustainably compost your food waste and maintain your garden soil at a low cost, you can make a Bokashi bucket yourself. This is a type of composting that involves an anaerobic fermentation process. This is based on inoculated bran. Thus, you can ferment kitchen waste, including meat and dairy products, into a safe soil builder and nutrient-rich fertilizer for your plants. What’s more, this is a non-traditional method that is suitable for any household and is also less expensive. Just try it yourself by following the steps and instructions below.
Table of Contents
- What to consider before making a bokashi bucket yourself
- More tips on how to use the Bokashi bucket
What to consider before making your own Bokashi bucket
The name refers to the Japanese translation for “fermented organic matter.” This is created when you layer food waste into the bucket with an inoculant for about a week and a half. Accordingly, in such a system, previously non-compostable foods such as meat and dairy products can be broken down through a fermentation process. Unlike traditional composting, which requires oxygen to break down organic material, fermentation is an anaerobic process that converts sugars and starches into alcohol and acids without air. You can then bury the converted organic material in your garden or compost pile, or even add it to a worm bin.
Materials needed to make it
The only things you need to make a bokashi bucket yourself are, of course, a few buckets, some bran, your kitchen scraps, and time. What’s more, this is a surprisingly easy DIY project that any amateur gardener can do themselves. The best part is that it allows you to reduce your waste and improve your garden soil at the same time.
However, you can also buy pre-made containers for bokashi, which consist of a bucket of some sort, a tray for draining, and a lid. Although these work pretty well, there is a much cheaper option that you can make yourself. The homemade containers may not look as good as some of the pre-made ones, but they do the job just as well and cost significantly less. Essentially, this is a system that puts your food waste in before it turns into nutritious liquid compost that is ready to be added back into your garden soil.
How the fermentation process takes place
The medium can be almost any fine organic matter – bran, rice, wheat flour, or waste products from the grain mill. Used mushroom growth medium, dried leaves or even sawdust are also suitable. This medium is inoculated with beneficial microorganisms. These thrive in anaerobic, acidic environments, but smell less foul than those in unimpeded, natural anaerobic conditions.
To make the inoculant, you can make a concoction that attracts the appropriate strains of bacteria. The material can then be submerged in it, allowing the microbes to ferment. Molasses is a source of energy for the microbes, which multiply wildly for several days. Once the fermentation is over, the inoculated host can be dried, packaged, and stored for an extended period of time. This is a simplified version of a fermentation process that requires several steps.
What microorganisms are contained in the bran of Bokashi.
The most effective and useful bacteria come from one of three families: lactobacillus, brewer’s yeast, or purple bacteria (Rhodopseudomonas). With these three types of bacteria working on your waste products, you can fully initiate the process of composting for pretty much any plant or animal material.
- Lactobacillus is a very common family of bacteria and is known as a probiotic for human use. There are a variety of Lactobacillus species, but most of them are highly beneficial to the fermentation process. They are also known to be widely used for fermenting foods such as sauerkraut or making yogurt.
- Brewer’s yeast has been considered a fermentation agent for centuries and is essential for making products such as brewed beverages (beer or cider), certain sodas such as root beer, and some foods such as bread. To do this, yeasts eat proteins contained in grains, meat, or other food components, breaking them down.
- The Rhodopseudomonas family of bacteria is a naturally occurring inhabitant of soils and some marine environments. In bokashi, it converts atmospheric carbon dioxide into biomass, but it also has a secondary purpose. One variety of Rhodopseudomonas breaks down lignin, which is a major component of wood and other plant materials.
Follow simple steps and make a bokashi bucket yourself
The process of making such a bucket is actually quite simple. You will need two larger containers, a drill to make holes in plastic, a tight-fitting lid, inoculant and a few household items. The buckets can be found relatively inexpensively at big box stores. Sometimes you can even get used buckets for free from restaurants and reuse them. Here is a simple tutorial on how to make the compost bin.
- First, drill 20 to 30 holes on the bottom of a bucket using a 3 to 6 millimeter drill bit.
- Then place the drilled bucket in the other bin where you did not drill holes.
- First cover the bucket with a tight-fitting lid. You can usually find matching lids near the buckets at the hardware store.
- Then start adding your food scraps as well as the inoculant to the bucket.
- Now it’s time to move on to the actual fermentation process.
Let the compost ferment in the bokashi bucket and use it in your garden
To use your DIY Bokashi bucket, you can add a layer of vegetable waste to the bottom and then scoop a large layer of organic grain or inoculum such as bran, rice hulls, dried leaves, sawdust or wheat flour. This layer will keep you from feeling the odors created by fermentation while composting takes place.
- Add food scraps first if you have collected any in between.
- When the bucket is almost full, let it ferment for 10 days without opening the lid.
- Drain and discard the liquid every other day or dilute it with water and pour the organic fertilizer into the garden soil.
- After 10 days, the food waste will have fermented and can be used in a garden, outdoor compost pile or worm farm.
More tips for using the Bokashi bucket.
While you can make a Bokashi bucket yourself and make it easily, it’s also possible to run into some pitfalls if you don’t do things quite right:
- The bucket must be airtight so that the contents can ferment properly. Bokashi is an anaerobic system, and any oxygen that enters it will upset the balance. If you find that the lid you purchased is not as tight as you would like, place a cloth or old t-shirt over the top of the bucket and then snap the lid on. The extra piece of cloth makes the bucket more airtight.
- This basic system does not have a spigot, but it would be easy enough to harvest liquid by lifting the top bucket off the bottom bucket and pouring the liquid that has collected in the bottom bucket into a separate container. However, if you prefer a spigot, you can drill a hole and install it at the bottom of the bucket. Opening the spigot will make it easier to drain the liquid from the bucket, for example.