This week in the Flog:
- Composting of Kitchen Scrap Bokashi
- Final Composting Article of the Series
I just love composting. There are so many different ways to compost – whether you are using critters like worms, cockroaches, or BSF larva, or some anaerobic method like bokashi, or you are just composting traditionally with a combination of green and brown ingredients.
My compost pile out on the balcony has been steadily growing as I’ve practiced all these composting styles and added them to it. It’s exciting to see, and the pile looks amazingly rich.
I have one more thing to compost before I apply this to the garden. My bokashi bin I’ve been using for kitchen scraps is getting quite full. I need to empty it, and the compost pile is the perfect place. Why? Because bokashi is not finished compost. You can add it to your garden, but it still needs to break down before it’s available to plants. Also, as a top dressing, it is vulnerable to critters, who universally LOVE fermented food. Animals sense a healthy meal apparently. So if you DO apply bokashi directly to your garden, watch out for that – better to bury it a few inches in the soil.
I’ll compost my bokashi since it is packed with great nutrients which I’d like to include in my compost mixture. But first let’s take a look at a compost tea that was brewed to be applied to the pile with the bokashi. A good microbe rich compost tea is essential for a really good fast-acting compost pile. Here is the tea brewing:
The foam is due to some excess proteins from the fish hydrolysate I added – not a big deal and a great sign of active microbes (of course I check all the teas with the microscope to be sure of the microbe populations). You can do a lot with the fermented extracts, particularly BIM, to help speed up and enhance composting; but you can’t beat the power of a good aerobic compost tea, for introducing populations of aerobic microbes to your compost pile.
Let’s take a look at the bokashi compost. Here is the bin. It is basically just two 5 gallon buckets stacked up – the top is the bokashi fermenter, while the one beneath captures the leachate. I’ll have a separate article on how to make your own bokashi bin.
If you look in the bokashi bin, you can see the fermented materials – fish, calamansi rinds, vegetable trimmings, etc, all the high energy scraps from the kitchen. All looking pretty monochrome and fermented.
The compost pile, after getting all the garden trimmings a few weeks ago, is looking great. All that remains of the trimmings are the stalks and those are pretty soft now. This pile is going to be great:
Time to unleash the bokashi. Here is the “leaning tower of bokashi” added to the compost pile. Almost 5 gallons of bokashi! It’s so much, almost too much for the compost to cover and mix with. It’s a bit moist for optimal composting, so the pile might need to sit for a while before heating up. Dry composting like this requires the proper moisture level – around 60% is fine. If you sqeeze a handful of compost, you should just a get a drop or two of water out, and the handful should clump a bit. Now, the healthy anaerobic microbes will help us here – if the pile is too wet there may be pockets of anaerobic space where anaerobes dominate which can be a bad thing (thus the rule about moisture level). But with all the healthy anaerobes in the bokashi, these pockets would be fine.
Last step for the pile, mix it all up. I’m just mixing the bokashi with the compost really well, watering a bit with the nice rich compost tea, and leaving it to sit. Here is the pile after mixing (you can see the wire from the thermometer I use to capture the temperature within):
I covered the pile with tarp to keep the surface moist and shaded from sunlight. This is great for digesting the materials on the surface of the pile, that normally you would have to turn in to be composted. Some species of microbes, like actinomycetes, thrive in just that condition of the boundary zone where there isn’t too much or two little of any one thing. You can see here there are white “molds” that formed – those may be molds or may actually be bacterial colonies that have formed in the favorable conditions of the boundary zone. Either way, it is an excellent sign of a healthy compost pile:
Lastly, let’s take a look at the temperature readings for this round of composting. You can see I let this go quite a bit longer than before, as it’s the final stage of my compost pile. I turned it a few times, mixed in fresh compost tea at those times and watched the temperature spike right after.
I think the pile was a bit too wet to start with – too much moist bokashi compared to pile. So it sat for a bit and the outer layers dried some. Then when I mixed, the moisture level was closer to optimum and the pile really heated up.
Note it only majorly spiked the first time I turned it, around 185 hours. The others didn’t have nearly the impact since the pile was already well digested by then. This is how to tend a fast acting compost pile, and the kind of response you can expect from it. The aerobic microbes are responsible for the heating of the pile, and by turning and introducing fresh populations, you can drive the process along at an accelerated rate. I love tricks to make awesome compost in much less time!
And the pile, a few weeks into this round, is just TEAMING with organisms. Even visible ones, like pill bugs, are everywhere. It’s a healthy microbe-based ecosystem – it’s amazing to see so much diversity in the middle of the city.
There you go, the conclusion to the composting series. The compost looks incredible. Teaming with microbes. Filled with nutrients from the kitchen, from the worm bin, cockroach composter, and the garden itself. Of course this is overkill and there’s no need to do all the different kinds, but for demonstration purposes it was great.
Next step in the composting process? The post-script of the process – application! I’ll apply the compost to the garden and observe how the plants do with it. The garden is getting a little dilapidated these days and could use some revitalization!
I have a challenge for you. I want to know your composting strategy, and how it’s different from the ones I’ve covered in this series. I want to add to the list! Anyone up for the challenge?