EM® Bokashi bran is a specially treated blend of wheat and rice bran that has been inoculated with EM-1®. It's then used as a compost accelerator in a Bokashi composting bin. It can also be used to amend poor soil, including potting soil. It replaces the missing fungi and microbes that plants need to grow healthy and strong.
Good soil is a living community, and the Bokashi bran brings bad soil back to life. Just mix some into your beds or pots to improve your container plantings.
A third use is to add just a bit to your compost tea, if you use it, to give it a boost of extra nutrients. Your plants will appreciate it!
What Is a Compost Accelerator?
Composting kitchen waste isn't hard, but it does take some time for all the organic matter to break down. By adding an accelerator to your compost, the essential microbes go to work breaking things down faster!
The food scraps and organic matter will be attacked by the microbes and will decompose, becoming ready to apply to your garden in much less time. Once the compost bucket is filled, it only takes two weeks to be ready to apply to the garden!
Bokashi bran needs an anaerobic environment, which means that it works when it's not exposed to oxygen. The powder can be buried deep in the compost pile or even added to your garden soil. But it works best when it's used in the composting system from Bokashi.
What Is the Bokashi Composting System?
The system was developed by Dr. Teuro Higa, who was a professor in Okinawa, Japan, in the 1980s. He studied traditional farming methods from Asian countries and realized that they had known to add beneficial microbes back to the farmland for centuries! He learned which microbes were the most beneficial and created his system of inoculating and fermenting the bran.
It's a pretty simple system. It requires an airtight container, like a bucket with a lid, or you can purchase an indoor Bokashi Compost Bucket Starter Kit here.
The kit comes with a package of bran, complete instructions, and everything you need to start composting your kitchen scraps. Since the bucket is airtight, you can compost right in your kitchen and not have to deal with bad odors or gnats and insects that are attracted to rotting foods. Larger pests, such as raccoons, are not drawn to the compost pile as they are to a standard outdoor compost pile.
Because you are fermenting the compost, the bucket has a drain at the bottom so that you can pull off the liquid produced by the fermentation process every few days. It's a wonderful fertilizer! The microorganisms make an extra-nutritious “tea,” and you will need to dilute it with water before using it on your plants.
How Is the Composting Bucket Used?
Set up your compost system in an area in or near the kitchen. It doesn't take up much space. Keep it out of direct sunlight, and a room temperature is just right.
Chop all your food waste into small pieces, and layer everything—even cooked foods—into the bucket. You'll sprinkle a little of the bran accelerator over the food each time you add more food scraps.
Since the idea is to keep oxygen out of the system, you will pack things in tightly so that air pockets don't form. Do not stir it, ever. Close the lid after each addition of food scraps to keep air out as you are filling the bucket.
A nice thing about this Bokashi method is that you can compost meat scraps, dairy, eggshells, pasta, and even bones! Traditional composting methods will not allow you to do this, and so a lot of food is wasted. The only things to avoid are liquids, grease, oil, and spoiled foods. Otherwise, anything that you can eat can go into the bucket.
Keep adding your kitchen waste and the Bokashi bran until the bucket is full. (You might want a second bucket to keep the cycle going!)
What Happens When the Compost Bucket Gets Full?
Make sure that your lid is on airtight and let the composter sit in a warm place for two weeks. Don't forget to drain off the liquid every other day.
In the oxygen-free environment, the essential microbes will do their work, multiplying as they feed off the organic matter you have added to the bucket. The fermentation process will cause the matter to break down quickly. It's done when everything is soft and smells little like pickles. It should have a pleasant odor. If it stinks, something has gone awry.
How is the Completed Compost Used in the Garden?
The fermented compost is not added to the top of your garden like traditional compost. It can be buried in the garden or added to a compost pile to continue the fermentation process. Most people dig trenches alongside the garden rows and bury the pre-compost there. You can also bury it in pots and beds or in a container of soil. Just be sure that it's covered with soil. Those microbes still need an anaerobic environment.
The compost will completely decompose in a few weeks, and the garden will become lush and healthy. When the soil contains essential nutrients, fungi, and microbes, everything grows better. The roots of the plants grow deeper. Earthworms and other tiny creatures move back to do their part in building good soil.
Nature is a living ecosystem and the more variety of living organisms in your soil the better.
The Benefits of Healthy Soil
Good soil retains water while draining well for the needed airflow to the plant roots. It gets the correct nutrients, in the correct amounts, to the plants when they need them. You won't need to add chemical fertilizers or use pesticides when your soil is healthy, and your garden has a variety of plant, bird, and animal life.
An additional benefit of good soil with a healthy number of the right microbes and fungi is that pollutants can be removed by a natural process. Studies show that fungi are especially good at this. And fungi need microbes to thrive.
Probably the biggest benefit of building healthy soil with Bokashi composting is that your fruits and vegetables will be so much more nutritious and taste better, and your harvest will be larger than those grown without it.
Troubleshooting Your Bokashi Compost System
While this system is much easier than traditional composting, there are a few things to be aware of.
If things seem to be taking a long time to decompose, you may have added large chunks of organic matter that will take more time to break down. It's OK if it takes longer than two weeks, but next time, chop things up into small bits before adding them to the bucket. If everything is about the same size, it should decompose at the same rate.
If your bucket starts to smell bad, there are a couple of things that may have gone wrong. You may not have added enough Bokashi bran to do the job properly, or rotting food may have been added by accident. Another possibility is that air pockets have formed in the layers of waste. Aerobic composting does often smell bad, and you will probably need to throw out that batch; adding it to the compost pile is fine. While the fermenting compost does smell like pickles, it should not have a foul odor.
If you find black or green mold growing in the bucket, it has spoiled, and you will need to throw it out and start again. White mold is not dangerous and can be removed.
Composting is a win-win for everyone. Less waste gets into the trash. Vital nutrients are returned to the soil and then to our food supply. The only real reason not to compost is the lack of space and the time and effort needed to build a traditional compost pile.
Bokashi composting solves all those problems. It's a relatively inexpensive start-up cost, and the only recurring need is to buy the Bokashi bran in sufficient quantities to keep your system working.
It's a very efficient system with few working parts.
Food waste that cannot be composted by regular means can go right into the bucket with very few exceptions. It saves sorting the compostable waste from the non-compostable waste because even meats and dairy can go right into the bokashi compost bucket.
Little work is needed to turn kitchen waste into valuable compost and fertilizer. You don't need to turn a heavy pile of organic matter. All you need to do is drain off the liquids every other day.
It's clean and odorless and takes place in your kitchen. You don't need to trek out to a compost pile after every meal to keep your workspace clean.
Truly, Bokashi composting is so easy that it doesn't make sense not to give it a try. You will be a better gardener for it, and you will be doing the earth a favor by reducing your carbon footprint and keeping more waste out of landfills.