Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bokashi gel?

I don’t much have houseplants (tiny apartment and all that), but I do have office plants. Full-spectrum light on a timer keeps them photosynthesizing, but that’s only part of the equation; they need to be fed, too.

I’d rather fertilize them once a year and have done with it, but that’s really difficult in a desktop container. Once a season I could maybe manage with compost, but compost made outdoors is likely to have… shall we say, inhabitants that aren’t really suited for the workplace. You can freeze-dry or pasteurize compost, which will kill any macro-digesters, but also the microbes, and after all the time I spend encouraging those micro-critters to grow, I think I’d feel too guilty. Or maybe I’m just lazy. (I don’t even sterilize compost for seedlings.) More likely, it’s the memory of the stench the one time I tried drying compost in a low oven.


Whatever the reason, I’m not likely to be using my freezer for CompostCubes™ any time soon. I do sometimes solar-cook a thin layer of finished compost for use in containers, but my indoor potting mixes tend to be pretty light on the slow-release nutrients.

So I water the potted plants with diluted bokashi juice when I remember to bring some in. (My day job is highly resistant to composting/recycling and very oriented toward anti-microbials; bokashi doesn’t have a chance on-site.) Bokashi juice has no shelf-life--none!--but must be diluted and used immediately upon collecting. Diluted, in a tightly capped bottle, it’s okay overnight, but that’s about the limit. Refrigerated? I’ve never had the courage to find out! Which means that I have to refrain from watering the office plants when I notice they need watering, so that I can go home and mix up the plant food.

Not always feasible. If the plants need watering on a Friday, they’re getting watered.

Haven’t found a way around that yet. But I may have found a way to get bokashi juice into the office plants at repotting or even between pottings, that should make subsequent bokashi-juice applications less frequently required and more effective. Maybe. Not free, local, recycled/repurposed, nor completely natural, so not my perfect ideal, but it might mean the difference between stressed work plants and happy ones:


Sold under a host of brand names, this polymer is designed to “Absorb And Release Water In Soil” according to the packaging of the Soil Moist I picked up at the garden center this weekend. So it should absorb and release the dilute bokashi juice. Hardly an original idea—there's a product sold to nurseries called Incredagel that's pre-mixed polymer with plant food and water, and the brand extensions for the one I bought include a range of N-P-K options--but if it works, it’s a welcome addition to the lazy gardener’s repertory.

Of course, none of my plants are thirsty right this moment—it’s been raining—but they will be. And I’ll be ready. –G-



Anonymous said...

You could try just sprinkling a very (very!) small amount bokashi bran on the soil in your pot-plants and then water. Another option is to make yourself some active EM liquid (from either the EM-1 concentrate or by soaking some Bokashi bran in water). This has a longer shelf-life than the bokashi tea and you could bring a small bottle of it to work and add a few drops to your plant watering water. Just remember that this stuff is very strong so you only need a very small amount.
Good luck!

D. S. Foxx said...

Well, I could, but neither bokashi bran nor AEM has as many nutrients nor as diverse a nutrient profile as bokashi juice. This wouldn't be an issue if my potting mix were nutrient-dense to begin with, but seeing as these particular containers were destined for high-traffic, high-visibility areas in an office with NO tolerance for insects, worms, or anything new-and-strange, I went with a sterile, commercial potting mix. So mostly coir with vermiculite and perlite, not much there for plants to eat.

There are commercial mixes that contain fertilizer, but they tend to be petro-chem, so I don't buy them. This mix came from a local garden center, and it's great for seeding, but plant food is necessarily for continued growth. Compost (vermi, hot-, or slow) is a good slow-release fertilizer; compost tea (ditto) and bokashi juice for quick-feeds.

The idea with the gel is to see if a quick-feed application can be made to last longer.

Thanks for the good wishes--the plants and I need them! -G-