Green @ Home Project: The Bokashi Composter

Green @ Home Project: The Bokashi Composter

Abby Stone
Jul 1, 2008

Green month here at ATLA has happily coincided with our decision to try out Bokashi composting. We've always wanted to try our hand at composting but traditional composting requires a solitary corner in which to accommodate a pile of moldering vegetable matter (challenging when you live in an apartment complex) and worm composting requires...well...worms. Bokashi composting requires neither worms nor an understanding of what matter is carbon and what is nitrogen. Plus, you can throw in meat and dairy, no-no's in traditional composting...

Challenge: We'd like to compost but we need something easy and accommodating that won't attract flies and that we can basically forget about. We're also impatient so we'd like something that breaks down quickly without a lot of effort and that works for the apartment dweller with limited access to a giant garden space. Oh, and since we're no good at following directions, we'd like to skip the long lessons about mixing green and brown, whatever that is, and just toss in whatever doesn't go in the recycling bin or the regular garbage, like toast. With butter. Or soggy salad. Or plate scrapings from last night's dinner for eight. And did we mention that we'd prefer if we could keep it inside our kitchen, maybe even under our sink?

Goals: We've started our Bokashi this weekend with a Happy Farmer Bokashi composter we picked up from our friend Debra. (We know that Kelly Green in Silverlake carries them and of course you can buy them online. They come in white and black as well as tan). We layered in a few handfuls of the Bokashi, a special mixture of rice hulls that have been innoculated with anaerobic (non-oxygen loving) bacteria known as EM, and then tossed in the first of our material: wrinkly cherries we'd meant to make into a clafoutis but never got around to, orange peels, egg shells and flower petals and threw more EM on top. We also cut a flexible cutting board we picked up at Crate and Barrel to fit into our composter and weighted it with a bag of stones leftover from our fish's bowl. It presses down on the waste matter, extracting the liquid (which can be tossed down the drain to introduce good bacteria into our sewage system) and intensifies the anaerobic environment the EM bacteria need to thrive.

Doing a little research we foresee needing a second composter (since after the composter is filled it needs to sit for a week to break down) and a pot outside where we can layer the compost with soil to let it disintegrate since we don't have a garden where it can go right into the soil (apparently, it doesn't break down in the composter, it just pickles). We'll use the resulting soil to fill in the gap between the apartment building next door and ours, to bring the soil in the back of our building to life again and to enrich the soil in our building's common garden. And, we have some idea of growing tomatoes upside down. But for now, we'll just watch its progress.

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