The Bokashi Garden

I’ve been using Effective Micro-organisms (EM) and Bokashi for several years.  For an introduction to this subject, see ,

Several ways of using EM and Bokashi

  • Collecting kitchen scraps in the Bokashi bucket.
  • Digging the Bokashi into the garden
  • The bokashi-compost toilet (All photos)
  • Use of clay minderals and the EM-garden box
  • Use of EM Artive
  • Results with Bokashi in the permaculture garden
  • Use of EM Bokashi in the house holding
  • EM Material Overview

Collecting kitchen scraps in the Bokashi bucket

Daily Greens Collect Bin

Daily Greens Collect Bin

Trimmings of leek, wilted leaves of lettuce,  long due leftovers : they all go into the bokashi bucket. During the day I gather these small peaces into a small tray. Every evening, after the dishes, these go into the Bokashi bucket.  Add a little Bokashi starter. One scoop will do, When the bokashi bucket is full – after several weeks, I keep it closed for several weeks. This is now the fermenting bucket. The other bucket has been fermenting for 2 to 4 weeks. It contains the bokashi that we will dig into the garden later.

There is a tap on every original bokashi-bucket. About once a week, you should let the fluids flow out. This is super powerful stuff. Don’t let it flow away in the sink, but use it in your watering can – to give to the plants. They love it. Add water to it to reduce strength.

Het recyclestation met glas, papier, chemo-recycling bakken en bovenop de bokashi emmer.

Kitchen recyclestation for glass, paper, chemicals and the bokashi bucket on top.

The official way to gather the kitchen scraps properly is to chop the parts into fine pieces. I never do. Too lazy. The drawback is that you will find the larger ieces in the garden after quite some time. Covered with straw, no problem. Another variation is to use EM Active instead of the more expensive Bokashi Starter. Using the Starter the result is always dryer. The result is more predictable, high quality, with less effort.

Several things just might go wrong, such as:

  • Leaving the bucket in the summer sun for several weeks. It dries out and is a prey for the maggots. I did this once in the summer holiday. Two weeks out. The bucket was cooking in the sun in the garden. Oops.
  • Neglecting to add bokashi starter (or EM-active). Some friends tried the bokashi bucket for a while. They hardly added any starter. Why would you, if the starter is in the shed at the back of the garden (and it’s always raining) and the bucket itself is right behind the garden door!
  • How about adding flowers? They are grown using lots and lots of pesticides. Consider them chemical waste, not food for bokashi. If you add flowers your bokashi will die and rot, just like compost heaps.
  • I have heard you can add a little meat, but not too much. Meat (and fish too, yes) contains anti biotics. This kills everything. Instead of feeding stock (or humans) any anti biotics, they better give some EM-active (or EM-1 for humans). This is what I’ve heard. But we don’t know. We’re veggies.
  • Howe about leaving the bokashi bucket in the freezing winter cold? Many sorts of micro organisms might not live in heavy conditions. Leave the bokashi bucket at least above freezing point in a protected place.

Digging the bokashi into the soil

Een bijna volle bokashi emmer. Het bruine poeder is de bokashi-starter.

An almost sull bokashi bucket. The brown powder is bokash starter. This bucket is fresh, ready for a 2-3 weeks wait.

After 2 to 3 weeks of wainig and fermenting, the bokashi is garden-ready. Well I’ve heard about community projects where they compost it for months after fermentation, but then you’ll just lose valuable micro organisms. So, it’s time to dig the bokashi into the soil. There are several ways.

In any case, make sure you wear plastic gloves. This stuff has a powerfull odour and it does not wash off easily.

  • simply spread out a 10 cm / 4 inch layer on top of the soil. If you don’t like the sight you can cover with straw or any other mulch. I usually do this.
  • Dig a 10-20 cm / 4-8 inch deep slot, half a meter long / 2 feet. Dig in the bokashi and cover with the original soil.
Even uitspreiden met een klein schepje.

Spread it with a little scoop.

Note that this stuff is quite acidic and will be for 6 weeks. No seeds will sprout here until the pH is back to normal. This goes by itself, of course.

Het hokje

The Place

The bokashi compost toilet

In Japanese, Bokashi means “Fermented Kitchen Scraps”. The name for a toilet is not quite accurate. Even more, because we do not compost at all. Nevertheless, it’s called Bokashi Compost Toilet.

And yes, this is a much happier doo than a water closet. The many advantages are:

  • Recyclcing very useful and essential nutrients using the permaculture garden
  • Prevention of the leakage of pathogens and other dangerous waste at the water filtering company and in the water cycle
  • In the Netherlands, nutrients will no longer appear in the Wadden Sea but in our food.
  • Save 8 liters (2 gallons) of water per visit
  • It’s more fun. Every time I walk away, my heart opens up and the garden says “thank you”.
  • Less or no odour. A water closet announces every turd touching the water by a peculiar smell called turd in wc. You can do without!
Het bokashi compost toilet

The bokashi compost toilet

I’ve improved my original system from may 2010 in februari 2011. This is what I need.

  • A bokashi bucket (with a tap), behind a door, under a roof, lighting and everything, in the back yard
  • A food digester for phase 2.
  • Bokashi Starter
  • Several extra bokashi buckets for lazyness
  • A big bunch of straw
  • Wood chips or possibly non-bleeched sawdust
  • Toilet roll. Strictly organic. Bleached or poisonous ink disturb the process.
  • Optional: rain water reservoir to clean the equipment

How do you do it??

De opbrengst


Phase 1: fill it up

  • Fill the bucket with 1/4 wood chips and 1/4 straw. Don’t let the straw stand up because it might puncture your behind.
  • Sit down. The easy part.
  • Use the toilet paper as usual. After usage, fold it a bit and put in at the front on the bucket. This keeps your passage to the results clear.
  • Put a little scoop of bokashi starter over your results. No problem to put some on the paper, but I never let the paper cover the results.

Phase 2: waiting

The buckets fill quite quickly and it takes a lot of extra straw to cover it all up. So I save some effort and wait until all my buckets have been filled.

Make sure the contents is not too wet. You see, the hard part in the process is the urine. Yes, indeed, not the poo. We have the wood chips or saw dust to suck up the urine. Too much urine will cause a strong smell and attract maggots. We will save this trick for the day we run out of proteins, but for now, no maggots please. Some are okay, but not too many. They turn into flies. Maggots and flies prefer rotting, not fermentation. So, make sure to use enough wood chips and straw and change buckets quickly. Don’t leave buckets for more than 2 weeks. Move to Phase 3.

Het vam-vat

A typical food digester of the Dutch type 'vam-vat'.

Phase 3: into the food digester

Get yourself a cheap used  food digester over the web. But hey, we will not use it to compost food. No. Here we will complete the fermentation with Bokashi Starter. It only takes up to 15 days for a safe process. That is better than the months or a year for usual slow composting. I wait for the food digester to be filled and then wait another 15 days – the extra set of buckets keeps me going on.

At the bottom of the food digester, use a thick layer of straw. Empty all full buckets wearing those plastic gloves again. Well this part may be a bot smelly. Cover with more straw. This absorbs the urine smell. If it does not get away quickly, use more straw or wood chips in the buckets next time, or, put some more on the food digester. Now you know why pig farmers and riding schools use straw in their stables!

Of course you clean everything with the water from your rain water reservoirs. No soap of course, just rinse.

Phase 4: into the garden

Dit is het resultaat van het bokashi compost toilet.

Final Results from the Bokashi Compost Toilet

A pitchfork,  plastic garden gloves and a wheelbarrow help to get the contents of the food digester into the garden. You can do this after 15 days after your last portion. But I tend to wait longer because this thing is so large.

Once put on the garden, the straw gets a bit brownish in all colour combinations. Here and there you might see a squashed turd. And guess, you could also cover this up with extra fresh straw or other mulch.

Clean all your equipment (the buckets, the pitchfork) using the water from your rain water reservoirs. No soap of course, just rinse.

Using EM Active in the garden

When I have a bottle of EM Active that is almost due, or, when a new brew is coming up, I put it into the garden. The 62 species of bacteria in this brew have been woken up with sugar (activation). For this activation process I use the Activator, but you may also just use a bottle and a water trap. 50 ml of EM-1, 50 ml sugar cane molasses and 900 ml of water * 1 week of activation = 1 liter EM Active. Dilute to 1:100 (1:50 for lazy people) to feed the garden.

Make sure to never use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on the garden (or nowhere, actually). These poisons kill all life in the soil. And that’s the most precious part of life: the soil.

I go through the garden several times a year. Sprayer-dispensers break down quickly. This is probably causes by the sugar molasses which are so sticky that all tubes get stuck.  A garden type watering can does a better job, but it is a lot of work. A third way is to add the EM Active to the water reservoir and then use the thick garden hoses to let it into the garden.

EM List of Materials

By the way, I have no sponsor contract with the Dutch but that’s where I get the goods!

  • The Bokashi (Kitchen) bucket
  • Bokashi Starter
  • EM-1 enSucar Cane molasses
  • EM-Activator
  • Literature De Geheimen van een vruchtbare bodem, Erhard Hennig.

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