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Indoor Bokashi (Beerkashi) Composting for the Urban Gardener
Indoor Bokashi (Beerkashi) Composting for the Urban Gardener
Sound's Good/Jan
Published by soundsgood
04-22-2013
Default Indoor Bokashi (Beerkashi) Composting for the Urban Gardener

INDOOR URBAN BOKASHI COMPOSTING WITH BEER BRAN/HOPS/RICE HULLS

As a former country girl and neophyte container gardener with a 4' x 3' east-facing fire escape landing along with 3 huge south-facing windows, the idea of having to purchase and then continually fertilize dirt for my container garden just about made my head explode.

Internet research led me to Bokashi composting that—with its attributes—made it seem like home made nutritious dirt was within my grasp. It took a while to garner all the information needed since I didn't find one place with all the knowledge gathered that fit my particular indoor composting / container gardening needs. Thus, this rough tutorial that includes the wisdom of many and adapted to my particular needs.

For those who wish to harken back to the source materials that inform this writing, here are my collected Bokashi research links: http://delicious.com/love_detective/bokashi

Having watched a ton of videos on the subject, this was The One that pushed me over the edge:

Korean Natural Farming - Lacto Bacillus - YouTube

WHY BOKASHI COMPOSTING WORKS INDOORS

What are the attributes that recommend Bokashi for indoor composting? Let me count the ways:
  • Odor. There's some yeasty pickled scent when opening a bucket, but nothing like rotting. Bokashi EM (lactobacillus) works (eats) either aerobically or anaerobically. The bucket is mostly anaerobic. Perfect. The EM consume ammonia/methane (among other things). Extrapolate.
  • Pests. No offensive odor, no pests. Fermented stuff isn't that attractive to vermin.
  • Speed. Because it's fermented (predigested) and 'cold' (see below) you get to dirt, and dirt to plant more quickly than regular composting. By my calculations six weeks from waste to dirt:
  • Two weeks to fill a 5-gallon bucket with kitchen waste
  • Two weeks to let the bucket 'cure'
  • Two weeks after cured bucket burial in/on dry materials and depleted dirt to apply as soil amendment or planting medium
  • Temperature = Cold. It's 'cold' composting: fermentation v. rotting. No methane is produced as with regular 'hot' composting. It's 'cold' as in ready-to-apply vs. 'hot' like cow or horse manure.

Here's a link to a slideshow documenting what various steps look like: Indoor Bokashi Composting

BEERKASHI -or- BOKASHI BEER BRAN RECIPE

All the above said, here's my recipe for making a couple of years' worth (a little less than one gallon) of liquid stabilized EM ('essential microorganisms') and a grain-based long-term storable carrier for EM that is dried (put to sleep) and added in layers to Bokashi buckets (among other things not addressed here).

This gallon of liquid, molasses-fed, stabilized EM serum may be diluted 1:6 and applied to wheat bran, rice hulls, sawdust, coffee grounds, or even newspapers and dried for long-term storage and use, or diluted 1:500 (or according to some sources 1:1000) for direct application to soil or plant leaves.

I will focus on my experience, that uses a 5-gallon container's worth of my beer-making friend's post-brew bran/rice hull/hops mixture as the substrate.

What you'll need for the whole shizzle:
  • 1C rice
  • 2C de-chlorinated water (leave it out overnight)
  • two non-reactive containers, the largest of which will need to hold about a gallon of liquid
  • A wire strainer lined with cheesecloth or paper coffee filter, or metal Melita-type coffee filter
  • 12 ounces or so of unsulphured molasses. You can get Granny's at your local grocery, or by the inedible gallon cheap at garden or farm stores.
  • Cloth (old tee shirt?) to lightly cover the containers
  • A cool, dark spot where your containers can age without being disturbed (or disturbing)
  • 6' x 6' tarp or other similar-sized surface upon which to dry the bran/rice hulls/hops
  • Box fan to dry the bran/hulls/hops, otherwise it will take a long time indoors = mold?
  • Five-gallon container of post-brew leavings
  • Five-gallon, tight-lidded container with which to transport and in which to ferment the beer leavings (bran/hops/rice hulls)
  • Plastic garbage bag in which to seal wet, inoculated bran for two-weeks' fermentation
  • 4 five-gallon buckets and two lids or two gamma seal lids; or two commercially purchased Bokashi buckets (if you're going to buy, do me a favor and buy from this linked fella Bryan if you can; his videos are awesome and drill down into the science in a down-to-earth way).
  • Drill and 1/4” or larger bit for DIY Bokashi bucket drainage holes

STEP 1 | COLLECT MICROORGANISMS (one week):

Yield = 1 gallon of Stabilized EM
  • 1C any kind of rice
  • 2C water

Mix rice and water vigorously, then capture and reserve the resulting milky liquid in a glass container large enough to give the rice water 25% - 50% headroom to breathe. A 1-quart canning jar is perfect. Cover the jar with a dish cloth or old tee shirt (so it can breathe) in a cool dark spot where it's unlikely to be disturbed for about a week. After a week, it will smell a bit vinegary sour and have collected some solids at the bottom of the container.

STEP 2 | FACILITATE LACTOBACILLUS (two weeks):

Strain the solids out of the aged rice water (I used a Melita coffee filter thingee), measure what you've got, and add milk (any kind) 10:1 to the aged rice water. You'll need a larger, non-reactive container. I used a big ceramic bread bowl. Cover lightly with dish cloth or old tee shirt (again with the breathing) and put in a cool, dark, quiet spot for two weeks to allow the lactobacillus to proliferate.

After two weeks, what remains in the bowl are curds floating on top and your newly-minted, yellowish, sour-smelling lactobacillus serum underneath. The curds may be scooped off and eaten by your dog or composted. The serum will now need to be strained as above, fed and stabilized.

STEP 3 | STABILIZE & FEED THE SERUM (15 minutes):

The lactobacillus serum is stabilized for up to three years' non-refrigerated storage by feeding it with non-sulphured molasses in a 1:1 ratio. I call the resultant liquid 'Stabilized EM'.

STEP 4 | PREPARE, INOCULATE & FERMENT WITH SUBSTRATE (˝ hour plus two weeks):

While your lactobacillus serum is fermenting for two weeks (Step 2 above), visit your beer-brewing friend, have a beer and a meal, and collect and dry a five-gallon container's worth of beer leavings.

I happened to have one of those big blue tarps handy and was able to spread the bran/hops/hulls out in a thin layer on said tarp with a box fan blowing on it. 6' x 6' was just right. It took a couple days, and I occasionally moved the fan and ran my hands through the mix to check and turn.

Dilute the Stabilized EM 1:6 parts water.

Return the dried bran/hulls/hops to the 5-gallon container and mix your 1:6 stabilized-EM-to-water-diluted inoculant with the dried bran/hops/hulls.

My most recent batch of beer leavings was able to absorb a little more than a gallon of 1:6 EM inoculant: 2C Stabilized EM + 12C de-chlorinated water was just fine for this recipe. YMMV.

Keep mixing and adding the 1:6 liquid until the bran/hulls hold together when squeezed, but don't drip liquid.

This wet, inoculant/bran mix is stored undisturbed for two weeks' fermentation in an air and light-tight container. I tightly packed the wet bran in a garbage bag, then put it in a container for easy transport.

In the end, mine showed a bit of white mold (that's OK, but black mold is not) and smelled yeasty/beery/bread-y and frankly, kind of awesome.

STEP 5 | DRY THE FERMENTED BOKASHI BEER BRAN (two days with a fan):

As before, the big blue tarp and box fan combined with moving, touching and turning for about two days worked its magic. Once dry, you can pack it up in ziplock baggies or jars or whatever for long-term storage.

THE BOKASHI BUCKET(S):

BUCKETS | I use two 5-gallon buckets, nested. The top / inner bucket has a bunch of 1/4” holes drilled in the base so liquid may drain into the bottom bucket and from there be dealt with (see below). I use a pie pan on top (rather than the pictured Coroplast pusher) with which to push new contents/Beerkashi down each time to achieve best contact. Really like Gamma Seal lids with which to achieve an air-tight and yet easily accessible bucket (link at bottom of article). Ultimately, had to vigorously pound those Gamma Seal lids on with a rubber mallet by the way, and the heels of my hands hurt the next day. Worth it. Persevere...

BOKASHI BUCKET LIQUID CONTROL & BOKASHI TEA

Keeping Bokashi bucket contents from soaking in the liquid it will produce is important for bucket success. Most commercially and home-produced Bokashi systems include a method to allow liquids to pass through to a lower collection container that may be emptied so your waste is not soaking in the nutrient-rich Bokashi Tea that in a 1:100 dilution (2T/gallon) may be added to plants without fear of burning roots or leaves (as always, test first to be sure – the zucchini leaves burned up a bit with early misplaced tea splashes). I ended up filling the bottom bucket with water and pouring on the garden plants with a cup. This Bokashi Tea reportedly has no shelf life; use it or lose it. You'll eventually figure out ways to keep liquid production to a minimum if that's what you want/need. Otherwise, remove the liquid every couple of days and pour down the sink or toilet where it will do some good if you don't dilute and feed your plants with it.

WHAT MAY BE ADDED TO YOUR BOKASHI BUCKET

Any organically-based material except that which has started to rot, since a moldy this or that may introduce unwanted pathogens into the mix. Meat. Fish. Bones. Pits. Even liquid-based waste may be added (soups or sauces) provided your bucket is set up to separate and remove liquids, or you've made provisions in your layering with items--like bread, paper or cake--that will soak up liquids.

HEAT & COLD

I hear the buckets don't do well in temperatures above 100 degrees F. Don't know from experience, but will probably find out this summer since we usually get 3-5 days of that kind of heat per year and I don't have air conditioning. Cold will slow fermentation, and according to a Bokashi user in Sweden, even the coldest winter won't kill it. Extreme heat on the other hand may adversely affect the EM's eating habit. TBD. Update: no problems with summer 2012 heat wave. Check.

DUAL BOKASHI BUCKET SYSTEM

Two buckets in rotation works for me, a single human being cooking 99% of meals at home:

1. One bucket is active as a collector; and
2. The second bucket in two weeks' fermentation

MAKING DIRT | (two weeks more or less)

Once “aged” for two weeks, the contents of the fermented bucket may be buried or “planted”. My indoor compost plan is to have several 15-20 gallon containers ready to receive bucket contents, layered as follows:
  • 2” of used bunny hay, including whatever poops that make their way there. This will theoretically hold any excess moisture.
  • One inch of dirt
  • Thin layer of Bokashi Beer Bran
  • Aged Bokashi bucket contents
  • Thin layer of Bokashi Beer Bran
  • Three or four inches of last year's used and depleted potting soil so that the entire surface is covered and well patted down
  • More bunny hay to cover
Reading what others have done / suggested at this stage, next time I will “chop” the bucket contents into the dirt and hay before covering to age for two weeks. It's said that after two weeks, one may safely plant in it.

I covered the dirt-making container at first with plastic and then with cardboard since the local bunny being found its contents interesting and the thing was too heavy to get too high off the ground for her hopping skills. Didn't mind her digging or pooping and eating the hay and other stuff, but did mind the idea of her urinating there since bunny urine is...very stinky and full of ammonia. The plastic was changed out because it was collecting liquid condensate (is that a word?) that I did not want to deal with. There's a little bit of white, hairy mold seen in the above picture. Reportedly not a problem, but rather, a good sign.

One of my photos documents a post-chop, two-week-old container of “new” dirt. The paper and hay were evident, as was the corn cob that was soft and easily chopped into smaller pieces with a shovel. I mixed it up pretty well and added a handful of Bokashi Beer Bran before returning it to rest for another week. No pests and not much odor, though what odor there was, was certainly nothing foul-smelling. The volume had reduced somewhat, too.

Also included is a photograph of the pre-chopped “Dirt Generator” after 3 weeks' resting. It shows an abundance of white mold and more reduction in volume. As I later chopped this up, noted only the scent of dirt. The hay had not decomposed much and made the chopping / mixing process more difficult but I think it's a nutritious, balanced, water-absorbing addition.

The thickest paper remains whole, but most of the other materials are broken down almost beyond recognition. Moisture content seemed reduced despite the appearance of mold.

For liquid control I used a layer of thin crumpled paper on top of each bucket deposit in Bucket #2: toilet paper wrappers and plain newsprint that came as packing material. This paper decomposed well.

FLASH FORWARD ONE YEAR:

Modified the dirt machine a bit. Found I needed the 15-gallon aluminum container for other things.

Lined two large (12” x 14” x 53") steel containers I had on hand with visqueen bags so the re-purposed containers would not rust (badly/quickly) and allow moisture control. How much moisture is ideal remains to be seen, but my guess is some moisture = good.

Again, two inches of hay first, some used potting soil from the summer's planting containers, thin layer of Beerkashi, a bucket of two weeks' aged compost, another thin layer of Bokashi Beer Bran, and topped with more used dirt.

You can see in one of the photos a thin layer of bits of hay on top, recovered from the bottom of the Bunny's hay bin and laid on top for recycling. This gave me the unintended benefit of knowing where I've finished mixing fresh compost in with older and where I've already removed improved dirt.

As I mix in old dirt and remove the refreshed, find chicken bones, avocado pits, increasingly small corn cob bits, and egg shells . I chop 'em up if I'm in the mood.

Planted some potato pieces that had gone to root a few weeks ago with results beyond my wildest hopes. I'm adding an inch of the last of last year's commercial potting soil daily to bury the plant stems as some farmers recommend, but the potatoes grow too fast (possible?).

All the other early plantings from seed of radishes, romaine, spinach, cilantro, cucumbers, parsley, carrots, bush beans, and parsley are doing splendidly.

It's my hope that I shall never again have to purchase potting soil beyond my initial investment of 4 or 5 bags.

Pleased to say that my trash output has been cut in half: less frequent due to lack of stinky stuff and reduced volume.

As I'd hoped.

Finally, an image of cilantro (at center, from last year's plants' seeds), heirloom radishes (left), and very happy baby spinach (right). The deer fence has been repurposed to deter dig-happy squirrels.

Good luck!

Many, many thanks to Bryan at Pro-Kashi whose excellent, thorough videos got me started with some confidence in the science behind the methodology, this Extreme Bokashi thread over at the Wildlife Gardeners Forum, and Jenny's Bokashi Blog.

HELPFUL LINKS:

Videos - Bokashi Bran by ProKashi

Extreme Bokashi - make your own innoculant

Jenny's Bokashi Blog | Blog on all things Bokashi — food recycling for our fuure

https://www.google.com/search?aq=f&s...IpPc4AP1noHwAw
Attached Thumbnails
Indoor Bokashi (Beerkashi) Composting for the Urban Gardener-bokashi-11-coroplast-plate.jpg   Indoor Bokashi (Beerkashi) Composting for the Urban Gardener-bokashi-dirt-closeup.jpg   Indoor Bokashi (Beerkashi) Composting for the Urban Gardener-bokashi-dirt-machine.jpg   Indoor Bokashi (Beerkashi) Composting for the Urban Gardener-bokashi-dirt-week-3.jpg   Indoor Bokashi (Beerkashi) Composting for the Urban Gardener-bokashi-01.jpg  

  #1  
By WG Admin on 04-22-2013, 02:15 PM
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Well done
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  #2  
By Equilibrium on 04-22-2013, 08:31 PM
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Rack Em!!! You done good.... nooooooooooo..... you done excellent!!! Anyone can do this.... literally.... anyone. Coupla things I've learned "playing" over the last few years. T-shirt material works great.... better than a dish towel which I had been using in the beginning. What I found works better is thread bare underwear. Ya know how guys hang onto their underwear a little bit too long trying to get a few extra wears out of their tightie whities>>>? That's the underwear you want to get your hands on. It's perfect.
--
For me.... inoculating newspaper with my EM serum works the best because I can tear off a sheet of newsprint at a time and toss it in my kitty litter bokashi buckets and after I add a few inches of waste.... I tear off another sheet of newsprint and add it and keep layering like that until the bucket is full. I've found that for my big momma composter out back in the shade, inoculating wood pellets for wood burning stoves works best. I think a bag of the pellets is about 40 lbs. Could be 50#. I inoculate a $4 bag of wood pellets with the EM serum. The pellets will disintegrate soon after they absorb the EM serum. They're basically reduced to sawdust. Anywhooo, I dry the sawdust in a kiddie pool. Every few days I stir it so it dries thoroughly. When it's done drying, I store it in 5 gallon buckets and sprinkle it over the top of my compost pile when ever I remember. Adding the inoculated sawdust accelerates the rate at which our food wastes and chicken poops process in that pile exponentially. 1 thing though, that compost pile is in deep shade not sun. High temps will destroy the essential microorganisms. The center of it might hit higher temps but the top layers of waste never do.
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  #3  
By soundsgood on 04-23-2013, 05:22 AM
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Eq! Yes! I KNEW you would have streamlined and customized your process Thanks for taking the time to share how YOU do it.

Started writing this last summer in anticipation of converting my many city pals who were also beginning to garden (roofs, windows, fire escapes). Also, writing/teaching helps me to fine tune the thinking. Wanted to have something to email 'em when the time came that I'd been doing it successfully for a year and had proof that Urban Garden 2.0 plants were as happy as imagined. Yup.

Re-read the above-linked WG Extreme Bokashi thread as I posted the words: wow. There are (were) a lot of people here trying it. Hope others who've refined will also post their experience, testimonials and tips/tricks.

Bokashi is extraordinary and may be scaled to work in cities as some towns across the pond are proving.
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  #4  
By biigblueyes on 04-23-2013, 10:18 PM
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Very nice! I'll have to come back and study this. My bokashi experiment was a bust. I may need to try again.
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  #5  
By soundsgood on 04-24-2013, 05:25 AM
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Hope it proves an inspiration for you toward success, BBE. Nice to see you again. Know you were active on the original discussion. Good luck!

It was a pressing matter to succeed, with no dirt of my own and being highly motivated to grow at least greens for the bunny.

Just closed up a container of last year's Stabilized EM 1:6/bran for two weeks ferment, as much proof of concept that it has a long shelf life as a need for more Bokashi bran.
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  #6  
By biigblueyes on 04-24-2013, 12:12 PM
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The bran came out fine. It was the bucket of compostables mixed with the bran that went bad. As in Maggots!
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  #7  
By soundsgood on 04-25-2013, 07:39 AM
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Yeah. I had that issue with bucket #3 or #4. Think it was because i hadn't sealed it properly one day. I closed that 'un but good, left it to ferment, and started a new one. After an extended ferment, all the maggots were dead. What got me through that was thinking of those who use flies for composting...
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  #8  
By biigblueyes on 04-25-2013, 03:08 PM
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I imagine the bunny thanks you for your persistence!
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  #9  
By CincyGarden on 05-17-2014, 05:09 PM
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This is awesome. Thank you. A few points (questions, really) to follow, but I've taught folks to do this in workshops, and I couldn't have done any better with your work.

Thank you, again.
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