Thursday, February 26, 2009

How much time does it take to do bokashi?

When people ask me how long it takes to bokashi, I tend to assume they mean the time from kitchen waste to compost, but that’s a gardener’s query; the non-gardening green citizen might well be more interested in how much time it takes per day. How much time it takes to ferment instead of tossing the kitchen waste.

In my case, these days, practically none. Some number that, while larger than zero, is more properly reported in seconds-per-day than hours.


To begin with, I don’t chop up my kitchen trash (unless I’m feeding it to Verne). The bokashi bucket gets whatever bits and ends I happen to have, and if that’s eight-inch long pieces of pineapple rind, so be it. While I probably would chop up large pieces of meat, the situation hasn’t come up.

Then there’s the fact that I keep my bokashi bucket next to the trash and recycling containers in my kitchen; there’s no difference in time or effort to toss something into one versus another. Given a sufficiently healthy ferment, the odd tea bag or fruit rind needn’t be followed by another dose of EM; if I’ve only got a small bit of whatever, I just toss it into the bin.

When I add large volumes of organic matter, or any meat or dairy, I add a scoop of EM bokashi bran and use the masher--call it a minute total, once a day or every other day depending on how much cooking I’m doing, plus one utensil to wash*. And twice a week at least, I drain the active bucket, which might take as much as another minute and results in a cup to clean only when I don’t drain directly into the sink. Call it ten minutes a week for the active bucket. About as much time as I’d spend hauling multiple trash bags out of the apartment to the outdoor trash bins, back when I had multiple trash bags in a given week.

The curing buckets get drained when I think about it, but ought to be tapped at least twice a week. In the retailers’ usual model, there are two buckets, one curing while the other fills; in that scenario, a bucket must be emptied and cleaned twice a month. And how long that takes depends on what you’re doing with your cured bokashi.

The quickest option is to toss it into your compost bin. How long does it take to upend a bucket and scrape down the sides? Probably less than it would to locate a stopwatch, so let’s just go with “minimal.” Of course, that assumes you have a compost bin, and that it contains dry matter sufficient to balance the contents of the bucket.

If you choose to use cured bokashi as a slow-release fertilizer without first composting it, then you’ll have to layer it into planters at least two weeks before plants can be added--but as for how long it takes, that’s completely dependent upon how speedy a pot-prep you do. If you trench compost, add digging a trench into your calculations.

I still haven’t found a wholly satisfactory soil-less method of composting small batches of bokashi, though the tests are ongoing. My usual procedure (for now) is to transfer cured bokashi into one or two large planters first prepped with an inch of poor soil. After every two inches of bokashi, I add a handful of good garden soil or mature compost, something with a wealth of beneficial soil-borne microbes, and I top the planter with three inches of soil or two each of soil and dried leaves. Then the whole thing gets set out of the way for a month, ideally in contact with soil Time? Call it fifteen minutes per bucket, plus a bit of soaking time for the empty one before I start the whole thing again.

Making EM bokashi bran takes some time (I figure about an hour’s active time all told, including remembering to add the necessary supplies to the shopping list –G-), but you can always go the retail route for that--and if you choose a company that offers free shipping, the price isn’t too bad; the five-pound bag at Bokashi Center will set you back $15, which comes out to five to seven dollars a bucket, depending on how generous you are with the scoop. And no more time than it takes to authorize a PayPal charge.

Making the buckets, again, takes me some time, but there are retailers practically frothing at the mouth to help you there.

So how long does it take, per day, to do bokashi? As with any new practice, there’s a learning curve, but once you’ve adjusted to separating food remains from landfill-destined trash, it takes no time at all.

It’s just another bin. Or bucket, whatever. And the procedure’s all too familiar for urbanites these days: lift the lid, add your waste, shove down, close lid, and walk away. It’s just the end result that’s so much more welcome this way!


*I sometimes set up a small lidded container for tag ends on days when I’m playing in the kitchen. This keeps me from opening the bucket a dozen times in a day, which would slow the ferment. It does, however, result in another dish to clean. How many seconds does it take to wash one extra dish?


Hangö Skvaller said...

wow! I always believed Bokashi was a printing technique!

Nice to learn new things!

D. S. Foxx said...

It is that, too-- I found the brief explanation at [ ] easiest to follow, though I have to admit, I do wonder how one gets from gradations in color to buckets of ferment!