Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tales from the Bucket: Rip Van Bokashi

Some days, the less I have to deal with bucket-contents, the better; other days, it's no big deal. Must not have been feeling squeamish that particular Saturday afternoon—I decided to try mini-bags of bokashi with different dry matters to see if they all worked. My favorite dried leaves were my control here, but what about shredded paper with a sprinkling of vermicompost? Or those wood shavings sold as small-animal bedding?

Went with a half and half ratio, mostly for convenience with the tiny little bags I was using (so that I can put them in more places!). But space is always a concern, as are the raccoons and all their ilk, so I ended up stacking all fifteen of my filled-and-tied #2 bags into the same lidded bucket. This is not good scientific practice, but I'm not a scientist. -G- I did put the leafy bags at the bottom, so that gravity couldn't help move their microbes into the other bags, but otherwise, I figured that the test for success would come after planting anyway.

Which rather requires my removing the bags from their bucket...

What can I say? It wasn't really planting season. Sowed few seeds by way of prep for the fall madness, sprouted the odd microgreen, did a bit of rooting from cuttings, but otherwise, I'm more into side-dressing and watering with food than the whole sub-surface slow-release thing right now. So I've got composting planters going for my immediate use, plus soil-topped trenchless buckets for later, plus Verne in his towers and bunking below Repulsive, and I just forgot about the bags awhile.

Until now, when it's time to start planning those fall beds.

The bucket wasn't rocking, nor were there any toothmarks or litters of BSFL casings. Positive signs all! Within: a bunch of white-haired Rip van Winkle bags, sagging with age and bearded with acetobacter growth. The bundles on top are intact enough to move, the middle row and below more disintegrated, and I haven't gotten all the way down yet, but I expect they're in slightly soggy pieces that might need to be half-scooped as much as lifted by their strings. But no worry; there's no off-odors, no insects, no bucket-strain, and they're completely viable—half-composted and half-finished, there's still enough carbon to create a hot-composting reaction, but little enough that it won't even stress transplants assuming the requisite inch or two of soil between. Enough plant-accessible nutrients that starved bean leaves turn green again (one of my favorite low-tech tests!). Enough microbes to replenish the soil web, or to stand in for one, and enough undigested nutrients to sustain the microbes and the plants awhile.

All of which can be had simply by planter-finishing the bokashi, without bothering about the bags. But the bags allow me to use carbon materials that planter-finishing doesn't, for those times I'd rather not bother with composting—or for those settings in which even small-batch composting might not be possible. Plantable bags can reduce the total volume of soil needed in a container or bed, which helps when you have to buy your soil, and they can be used, with some care, in a soil-free container mix, where planter-finishing may not be possible*. And bags are portable! While I suppose I could take a bucket of ferment off-site, I really don't like the idea. Bokashi is unaesthetic at best. Small bokashi bags can be tucked discreetly into each deeper-than-usual planting hole, and they require no special handling.

Nor, apparently, much in the way of special storage. Moisture-conserving and pest-proof seems about it. A versatile, scalable, at least short-term-storable solution that can be made and kept in the same small container. Am I dreaming? cup's empty, so I guess not. But I'm still thrilled.

Happy bucketing,


*Generally not recommended, anyway. Soil-free mixes are too light, but you can add a weight for that; the other issue is lack of complementary microbes, but mature compost or other sources are available.

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