Friday, October 3, 2008

Dead but not buried

what to do with “failed” bokashi—first, be sure it’s really failed

One of the items I listed in my “instafail” post may be unfamiliar to a lot of bokashi folks, though veteran aerobic composters might recognize the trick: I mentioned adding molasses powder to encourage microbial activity.

When using EM bokashi bran, there’s normally no need for this, but meats and fats spoil very quickly in my climate, and it can take a while for the microbes to get up to speed at first. It might not have been necessary had I remembered to use a weight, or even if I’d added my usual extra couple of doses of EM bokashi bran for luck—enough to fully coat the matter should have worked—but should I ever decide to put “heavy” waste in a new bucket again, I will be adding molasses powder or some other natural sweetener. If it’s on hand anyway, there’s no reason not to use it to start a bucket so long as other waste is present; the microbes will eat the sugar first, but they’ll also be using that material to multiply very, very quickly, and once that simple sugar is gone, the microbes will begin to break down the more complex matter. (So there’s no reason not to use some. Too much...?)

Curious, I went searching to see if any of the bokashi retailers recommend this—and found one. Sort of. NaturEmporium’s sugar-related text isn’t about starting a bucket, but redeeming one:


*Check to make sure you are putting enough EM Bokashi [bran] in the bucket. You should be averaging about 3lbs. per 5 gallon bucket.

*Check to make sure the lid is always closed tightly. When air enters during the fermentation stage, unwanted microbes can enter and begin putrefying the food waste.

*Add a handful of table sugar and incorporate into the food waste. Wait a day and check for foul odor.

*It still smells. For a 5 gallon bucket, mix a small batch (one Liter) of pre-activated EM1 (1:1:20) and pour into bucket. Incorporate and let it sit overnight. Bury contents or incorporate into an existing compost pile.

I’m not sure about using table sugar, but that’s the right idea. Natural sweeteners, powdered or granulated, or liquid plus some dry matter to compensate. There is one possible caution for honey, which has microbes of its own; this is probably not an issue, but why make the attempt when you could eat the stuff instead?

At any rate, this is definitely something to keep in mind! If a bucket smells, add a bit of sugar. As I’ve noted before, I consider odor a failure—in a small apartment, it really is!—but this is simple enough to be worth trying before pronouncing the verdict. And cheap enough to suit me, too. -G-

So that’s the Tip of the Day, but I never can stop reading in the middle of the page. Good thing, too. This leaflet goes on to provide instructions for dealing with failed bokashi that I find rather intriguing, as it seems to imply that even spoiled/molded/beslimed matter can be redeemed quickly, given sufficient quantities of the ever-popular EM bokashi bran.


*White mold is good. This is beneficial fungus that helps produce antibiotics (to suppress pathogens) and antioxidants. When applied to the soil, this fungus will also help with water retention in the soil.

*Green or Black mold. This is not good. These are putrefying fungus and are usually the result of air infiltration, excess moisture, and/or not enough EM Bokashi.

-->Dig a hole twice as deep as the bucket. Get an equal amount of EM Bokashi (if your bucket is 5 gallons, fill a 5 gallon bucket with EM Bokashi).

-->Place ¼ of the EM Bokashi into the bottom of the hole. Add the contents of the “bad” bucket and cover with the remaining EM Bokashi.

-->Cover with 8 inches of soil and do not plant in for at least two weeks.

Of course, that method is burial in the earth, and I’m a landless bucketer, but I do happen to have quite ridiculous quantities of bran around just now, and that’s a standard trench-compost technique adapted for bokashi use—so perhaps I can adapt an above-ground anaerobic composting technique to incorporate outrageous amounts of EM bokashi bran...?

Off to experiment,


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