Our newspaper bokashi experiment is now underway. Here's our current method:
- Make a lactobacillus starter using yogurt, molasses, and newspaper. Wait at least two weeks. (We waited nearly three.)
- Use a gamma-seal lid and a five-gallon bucket to make an airtight container.
- Fill the bottom of the container with about four inches of dry
sawdust to soak up any liquid that forms. Alternatives to this step
include adding a spout to the bottom of the bucket so you can decant the
leachate, drilling holes in the bottom of the bucket and setting it
inside another bucket for the same purpose, or using newspaper or
cardboard to soak up the leachate.
- Place a layer of the newspaper starter on top of the sawdust.
Instructions say that one sheet here is fine, but I had plenty of
newspaper and didn't want to try to tease apart wet pages so I included a
whole newspaper section. (More starter never hurts --- it just helps
the bacteria work faster.)
- Pour in food scraps. These should be no more than two days old and
shouldn't include moldy or spoiled food, but you can include meat and
dairy. As you can see, at this time of year, our scraps consist of
eggshells, orange peels, a bit of discarded dandelion roots, and onion
- Add another layer of newspaper starter to completely cover the food scraps.
- Put a plastic grocery bag on top of the newspaper and use your
fists to pound everything down. The goal is to remove as many air
pockets as possible and to bring the newspaper starter in close contact
with the food scraps.
- Leave the grocery bag in place, screw on the lid, and set aside
for two days until more food scraps accumulate. At that point, you
repeat the food-scraps layer, the newspaper layer, and the pounding,
then continue with bi-daily additions until the bucket is full.
- Let the bucket ferment at room temperature for two to four weeks
after filling, then apply to the soil. (More on this step in a later
I'll admit up front that I'm a bit dubious of the efficacy of bokashi, even more so after I read the "science" chapter in Bokashi Composting
by Adam Footer. So I'm running a three-part mini-experiment to give
myself a rough idea about whether the more complicated bokashi method is
worth the time and expense.
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The control is shown
above. I filled a normal five-gallon bucket (no air-tight lid) with food
scraps, let them sit on the porch for a month or so, then applied them
in a trench in the starplate pasture. I marked the location of the
control and will be adding similar trenches full of bokashi made using
two methods (store-bought starter and homemade starter) in the months to
come. Finally, I'll dig into each area a month or so after application
to determine whether the bokashi method really did make the scraps
decompose faster and whether the soil seems to be better in the bokashi
zones than in the control zone. Stay tuned!