The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Lactobacillus bokashi

Newspaper bokashi

Our newspaper bokashi experiment is now underway. Here's our current method:

  1. Make a lactobacillus starter using yogurt, molasses, and newspaper. Wait at least two weeks. (We waited nearly three.)
  2. Use a gamma-seal lid and a five-gallon bucket to make an airtight container.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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 peels.
  6. Add another layer of newspaper starter to completely cover the food scraps.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 post.)
Burying bokashi

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.

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!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Ooooh! I LOVE your experiments! It saves me so much time! :) Karen B

Comment by Karen B Fri Mar 20 21:19:46 2015
I love (love!) that you are so sciencey about your homesteading experiments. Not just because I love science, but because I know your final opinions are weighted with careful thought. So great! I can't wait to hear your results!
Comment by Cordy Fri Mar 20 23:10:00 2015

Greetings from Finland. Kuopio, more exactly. I was reading one Finnish gardening blog and she mentioned bokashi. I was immediately curious about the idea. Because we are bit nutty and nerdy family and I want to do-it-yourself and recycle things as much as possible... We live in residential neighbourhood in city-area. We have our own yard with a fence and if we like we can just open our backyard gate and h´go in the woods.

I have grown up in a farm so we had many animals and veggie-garden, but also my mom´s mom was a huge fan og gardening and planting and she also exploded wild herbs and she was very skilled with crafts. Every one who knew my granma says now that I have herited her geekyness towards planting and gardening and crafts..She would have loved the idea about bokashi...and I know for sure that she would have done it herself and not buying stuff.

We have one huge problem in our backyard where we have our lacks the good and fruitful soil. We also not want to buy industrial fertilizers and the main issue is that normal compost which would work also in winter without freezing are so damn expensives here so bokashi would be more than ideal to us.

Last year we had only some various sallads, tomatoes, corn, zucchini,paprikas, chilis, peas and various herbs and it was huge success so this year we want to plant bit more and we need more proper fertilizers. So bokoshi sounds perfect for us. Do you believe that lactobasillus-products which we have here in the stores would do the trick? how often you need to do those EM-mixes?

Drop me email if you like. I´d be so happy.

Greetings from snowy Finland. Luckily I have already some seedlings. If I have some extras...I tend to give away.

Our kids really love the gardening idea. -siperoinen-

Comment by siperoinen Fri Mar 27 05:13:09 2015
siperoinen --- Our experiment just started, so the jury's still out. But if you stay tuned to our blog, we'll be posting results as they come in over the course of the spring and early summer.
Comment by anna Fri Mar 27 09:00:39 2015

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