Bokashi composting without using the bran!

I feel composting should be a part of your life. I want to compost comfortably without worrying or having a burden in your everyday schedule. It’s so easy to give up or feel disappointed when there is a problem or things go wrong with your composting activity.

If you live in a small flat like I do, making and storing Bokashi bran may be bulky. So I have been experimenting using activated effective microorganism (EM-A) solution for Bokashi composting instead of using the bran. Now I have some results so here is my post about Bokashi composting without using the bran!

I contacted Robert from EM sustainable living and he told me that using EMA solution for Bokashi composting is definitely possible but it’s just going to be a little bit wet. Well, that’s fine by me as I find Bokashi tea extremely beneficial!

Reasons why many recommends using Bokashi bran when you start doing Bokashi composting:

We generally use Bokashi bran because bran is a source of carbon and easy to inoculate the EM. In Japan we use rice husks instead. I tried to inoculate the EM using coffee ground but it was a bit too wet and the whole mixture started to sizzle (probably EM really liked it and it was bursting out of my container and got very messy – I still used the mixture and it was fine but simply wasn’t practical).

Using Bokashi bran also absorbs some moisture. You don’t want Bokashi compost to be too wet as this will risk draining down the EM.

How you can Bokashi compost without using the Bokashi bran:

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Making an EMA (taken from EM Sustainable Living):

To make 1L of EMA – Use plastic bottles:

50ml EM

50ml Molasses

Make up to 1L of water (900ml)

Then leave it in dark cool place for 1 week

So for me, I made 500ml of the EMA (25ml EM, 25ml Molasses made up to 500ml water). For the water, I used boiled and cooled water so as to remove chlorine and kill germs as much as possible (although boiling does not get rid of chloramine). Because molasses are really gooey, I usually mix the molasses with 900ml of boiled water then cool it. This makes mixing later much easier.

How to use EMA for Bokashi composting:

Dilute EMA with water (1:20) and this solution can be used for spraying onto for Bokashi composting instead of sprinkling bran.

So for example I used 1 tbsp (15ml) to make up to 300ml water (again I used boiled and cooled water) in the spray bottle.

Like I would do for the bran, I sprayed the base of the bucket. Then added food. I sprayed the EMA liberally (but not soaking wet – if too we I read that it can increase odour). Initially I was a little worried whether it would work or not, but it was completely fine (the last image of the semi-fermented food smelled exactly like how it would smell when I used the bran)! I ended up having lots more Bokashi tea, but that was not a problem.

Making your own EMA and using it as a replacement of Bokashi bran is:

  • Compact
  • Economical
  • You get extra Bokashi tea

So if you feel you are not sure about Bokashi composting because of the burden of using the Bokashi bran, try EMA as a replacement of bokashi bran before you stop it. Slowly you will find a good equilibrium to fit the composting activity into your daily lifestyle! ūüėČ

Bokashi Compost Tea – What It Looks Like and How to Use It

Bokashi tea is the liquid you drain off from the Bokashi bin. It smells like sweet vinegar. It has lots of effective microorganism (EM) in it with nutrients from the breakdown of the food. As it comes out of the Bokashi bin, it is acidic and too concentrated for the plants to use so you need to dilute it.

The amount of Bokashi tea you get from the Bokashi bin depends on what food is in the bucket. So the wetter the food there is the more liquid produced. Sometimes I have too much Bokashi tea to use especially during winter so I put the tea in the container and keep it in the fridge until needed or give it to my friends. I have so far kept it for a good couple of weeks, and they were OK.

You can use Bokashi tea for several uses: removing odour (caused by bad bacteria) in the sink by pouring the undiluted liquid down the sink. In Japan they use Bokashi to make leaf composting. So I have also used the Bokashi tea in the same 1 in 100 dilution and poured it onto my standard community compost bin that had lots of fallen leaves inside. But using Bokashi tea as a fertiliser is by far the best use of this amazing liquid!

To feed the plants, dilute 1:100. It means add 1ml of Bokashi tea to every 100ml of water (more realistically 10ml to 1l or 100ml to 10l of water). But in practise you don’t really need to be precise about it or at least I have been measuring it roughly (it helps to know how much water can be held in your watering can then you can put the rough amount of Bokashi tea).

Plants grow really well when you feed them with Bokashi tea. This is my geranium. The big leaves are produced after I started the feed.

Cyclamens also seem to love it. This was a tiny pot when I bought it and now it has grown lots over the last year. From my observation bokashi tea helps to grow the plants’ green part. So it would be perfect if you want your plants to grow. I guess it has lots more nitrogen than phosphorus. But I find Bokashi tea has been the best fertiliser I have ever used. All my plants absolutely love it!

Grow Fest Glengall Wharf Garden

I recently took a part in Grow Fest at Glengall Wharf Garden to introduce people about Bokashi composting together with people from Bankside Open Spaces.

So many people including those who were at the different stalls from different green organisations were interested in Bokashi composting.  And it was such a satisfying day for me to meet so many who were keen to compost and reduce kitchen waste at home.

There were yummy food, work shops and loads of green information.

I came home really inspired but at the same time very frustrated about the fact that Southwark council simply is not keen to help people especially those who live in flat to manage our kitchen waste despite the fact that there are so many people who live in flats! Two days before the Grow Fest I spoke to commercial department of Veolia who is responsible for recycling in our borough but again had a very unsatisfying answer.

But I won’t give up. I’m sure there is something I can do. I want to thank Bankside Open Spaces Trust¬†for the amazing support. And Grow Fest made me realise that there are people out there who are also frustrated and passionate about composting and reducing methane gas carbon foot print from kitchen waste.¬† I also would like to thank to EM Sustainable Living for providing us really interesting information and sample Bokashi bran.

Haws Watering Cans

My first encounter to Haws watering cans was at the Garson’s when I went to pick your own with my husband and my daughter. It was a love at first sight because they were so pretty and colourful.

Small watering cans from Haws are not only handy for indoor plants but they are perfect size for children. They love it because the nozzle can be taken off which is interesting for toddlers and also colours are vibrant. So Haws watering cans were the first on my list of must-haves for children’s gardening activities at my raised bed next to Redcross Garden.

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Just to hold it with your hand, makes my gardening so much more fun!

The tall one above is called Heritage (cerise and blue). The short one is called Handy Indoor Plastic Watering Cans (yellow and green).

So here are the watering cans in action! Thank you Haws watering cans for making our gardening activities fun!

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I need your feedback!

I am still on a mission to figure out how we can all dispose/recycle food waste we produce from our home.

Finding out how you feel about your food waste is crucial in helping me achieve my goal. So I created a very quick (5 question only) and I would really appreciate if you can take a few minutes to fill out my House Food Waste Management Questionnaire!

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Q5YSBBB

Kids banana cake recipe – No added sugar simple but moist, soft and fluffy

Baking a banana cake is a perfect example of turning a horribly ripe banana into the most scrumptious tea time treat. 


This is my original recipe and it is soft and fluffy and moist and extremely good. And it has no added sugar. Sounds too good to be true? Here is how to make it!

Makes 4 cupcakes

Ingredients

1 medium egg – separate egg yolk and white

100g self raising whole meal or plain flour (I used 50:50 whole meal and white before and the result is also good)

30g organic butter or margarine (I usually use yeo valley organic spreadable butter) softened 

50g olive oil (or you can use sunflower oil but make sure that the olive oil is an extra virgin and mild one) 

1 ripe large banana lightly mushed with folk (you can use two small bananas)

1tsp of cinnamon added to the flour

1tbs of water

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c fan assisted.
  2. Using a hand mixer, whisk the egg white into a meringue. Leave it aside.
  3. Add the butter and olive oil to the egg yolk and whisk until it is evenly mixed.
  4. Add the table spoon of water and mix further well.
  5. Sieve in the flour cinnamon mix to the oily mix. Using a wooden spoon or spatula mix well.
  6. Fold in the mushed banana.
  7. Add 1/3 of the meringue into the batter and mix well. This will make the batter smooth.
  8. Then add the rest of the meringue into the batter but this time mix lightly and carefully not to break the little bubbles. Once the meringue is all evenly mixed, pour the contents into 4 cupcake cups.
  9. Bake for 20min. When you put the wooden skewer into the cupcake it should just leave a little crumbs when you take it out.

Useful practical Bokashi composting facts

It feels good to know that you are reducing waste and doing something good to the environment we all live in. Today I want to share with you some of the facts that I learnt about Bokashi composting that I didn’t know until I do it.

1. Size of food

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Food turns into compost really quickly with Bokashi composting method. But if you cut the food smaller, this will turn into earth even more quicker. I am a really busy mum so I only chop the food finely like the above image every now and then. You will still succeed in Bokashi but it takes a bit longer to turn them into soil.

When the soil is dry and you bury the fermented food deep enough, within 3-4 weeks the food has turned into soil.

2. Seal, seal, seal

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All the info I read about Bokashi composting claims that it does not attract flies. It is true but not true at the same time. If you have any small gap or if your tap is not properly fixed, the small flies will get in. It’s so important to seal the lid. The smell of the sweet fermentation will attract flies but as long as the food is tightly sealed then it’s ok.

3. Tap

Make sure the Bokashi bin tap is properly fixed. Test it thrice before putting the food in. The last thing you want is the tap falling apart when there are lots of fermented food inside. It’s not the end of the world but makes it inconvenient to drain the Bokashi tea and increases the risk of flies getting in.

5. Bury in the dry soil

When the fermented food is buried in the soil that is relatively dry (image above left), it turns into the soil quickly and successfully (image above right – you can see the fermented food turns into ash). When the soil is wet I noticed the fermented food had gone a bit mushy and took longer to turn into the soil.

4. Using fermented food for the small scale soil generator is not for me

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I tried to make compost by burying the fermented food into a medium bucket. But such small scale container does not allow sufficient anaerobic condition for successful decomposition. Furthermore, as the fermented food is not buried deep enough, this facilitate small fly eggs to hatch and ¬†you won’t like it. So for me, fermented Bokashi food will only go into deep underground outside.

Composting conditions vary places to place so it’s important to keep doing it and fine tune till you find the right equilibrium!

Rubbish!

This evening, my local council phoned me out of the blue to follow up on my email enquiry regarding household food waste management. Southwark council currently doesn’t provide any help to local residents to manage their food waste. Basically all of our food waste currently goes to landfill.

Unfortunately the lady on the phone simply told me that the council is not able to help with food waste. She added that the fact that we have a recycling bin in our building (as well as communal recycling bins around the area) is already futuristic and good enough. In addition she also told me that the council will not help even in future about the food waste especially around where we live as there are lots of flats and it is all far too complicated to do anything about it. She did add that the council once tried some years ago to pilot a scheme to collect food waste within a flat complex in one area consisting of four blocks of flats, but the food waste bins got contaminated and failed the study. 

I was really surprised to hear what she said. I asked if it was ok for me to see the report of the pilot scheme, but she told me that it would be difficult for her to email me (aka “no”). Recycling bins are very common so I disagreed with what she said about the fact that Southwark is futuristic for recycing. When I asked the lady about the anaerobic digestion system she didn’t know what it was. We can reduce the cost of our council tax if the council utilises anaerobic digestion system, and I have seen a blog post by James Barber and he was already talking about it in 2012. But our neighbouring Westminster council already collects all food waste and sends them to an anaerobic digestion system!

Southwark council does have subsidised composting bins like many other councils. But for those who live in flats, composting bins and wormeries are absolutely impractical. They do subsidise bokashi bins but there is no information on it on their website. 

We have so many flats, restaurants and cafes around us and I am increasingly concerned that food waste management is not being considered more seriously by our local council. 

From my point of view and for food waste management, this is what we need:

  • Southwark council to start utilising the Anaerobic digestion system to manage food waste.
  • Various open spaces and gardens to have communal composting systems (not just the cheapest – and impractical -compost bin but a proper one that is easy to use and one people can throw most of the food in).
  • More education and information should be provided by the council regarding food waste especially for those flat dwellers.
  • The council to work on food waste management for flats within a new pilot scheme. People have become more aware of such shames which should result in a more successful implementation. 
  • The council should decidcate more allotments as there is a long waiting list.

Over the course of the next few months I will be emailing some more people who may be able to help (maybe the odd celebrity or too!) and let’s see if I can make a difference!