Monday, February 18, 2013

Improve Tree Health with Fermented Food Waste

So, you have discovered the fabulous Bokashi composting method and you now have a few buckets of fermented food waste. What next?  Instead of buying fertilizer sticks for your trees, why not use the fermented food waste to improve the soil around your trees!?

1. Determine the drip ring
Examine the tree or shrub that you will be fertilizing. The top of the tree is called the canopy and the circumference the branches make is called the drip ring, as that is the area that the branches will literally drip upon. Now look at the ground beneath the drip ring and draw a circle in the ground around the tree.

2. Dig your holes
Divide the circle into four to eight slices, like you would a pie or cake. At the edge dig a small trench along the edge of the drip ring (in the “crust of the slice of pie”).

3. Bury the fermented food waste
Now you are ready to use the food waste as fertilizer. Put a few shovels worth of food waste in the trench, mixing some soil in as you go. You can fill the hole if you have enough soil to keep animals away. If not, just repeat in another spot in a few weeks, making your way around the rest of the tree ring.

4. Cover the food waste
The fermented food waste can attract animals if it is not completely covered. We suggest covering it with 12 inches of soil to ensure animals will not come by and dig it up and eat it to avoid a mess. So, make sure the hole or trench was deep enough and that you have saved all the dirt you dug up.

How does Bokashi composting improve tree health?
Amending the soil helps the trees (and plants around them) tremendously. The fermented food wastes are loaded with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, enzymes, microbes, and nutrients that will feed the plants, beneficial fungi, microbes, worms and insects in the area. The added organic matter will also help with moisture retention and drainage, keeping the soil from compacting. This will also help the roots of the tree be able to grow and expand the canopy. As the roots grow the canopy will grow.

So, adding fermented food waste does quite a bit more than just fertilize the soil. Be sure to keep adding throughout the year and you will see your trees and shrubs become more drought tolerant and grow more vigorously than before!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How To Compost Using Bokashi

Bokashi composting has a number of benefits, including almost no odor (the material has its own smell, but it is not like a rotten smell), limited use of space, and it’s one of the quickest composting methods. Another huge benefit of Bokashi composting is the simple, straight-forward process. It’s faster and requires less work, which is always an advantage. In fact, Bokashi composting can be broken down into three very simple steps:

1. Fill an airtight bucket with food waste and layer with EM-1 Bokashi bran
Collecting food waste is standard in any food composting method, but in the bokashi method, it’s important to use an airtight recycling bin. The Bokashi method relies on fermentation to break down food waste, so keeping oxygen away from the organic matter is crucial. It’s also important to layer or coat your scraps with EM-1 Bokashi bran. EM-1 Bokashi bran is a mixture of organic rice bran, molasses, Super Cera, and EM-1 which will aid in the breakdown of food scraps through fermentation. You can also make your own personal mix using this Bokashi recipe.

One thing to remember is that if you’re fermentation bucket doesn’t have a spigot to drain liquid, you should layer the bottom of the bucket with an inch of EM-1 Bokashi bran to capture all the liquid that will build up.

2. Let the bucket sit for 1-2 weeks
Fermentation is an anaerobic process that starts the breakdown of food waste (the sugars are being eaten by the microbes) and causes it to pickle, leaving behind scraps that are perfect for amending soils. Unlike traditional composting that requires churning and monitoring for green to brown ratios, there’s not much you have to do during the Bokashi compost process.
If you have a Bokashi bucket with a spigot, drain the fluid from the bottom of the bucket every other day or so. You can use this liquid as a fertilizer for any of your indoor or outdoor plants, and all it takes is one teaspoon per gallon of water. If you are using a bucket without any drains, you don’t have anything you need to do.

3. Choose how to use your Bokashi compost
After a week or two of fermentation, your Bokashi is ready to use. You have some options with how to use the end product.

  • Add the waste to a compost pile: Burying your bokashi mix in a compost pile will actually speed up the breakdown of your compost.
  • Bury the waste: Bury the waste in the soil of your garden and cover with 8-12 inches of soil, where it will break down into rich soil for your garden.
  • Feed your worms: This compost is full of live bacteria, which is also great for adding to a worm farm to feed worms.
  • Feed your livestock: Bokashi food waste is filled with microbes, vitamins, and amino acids that are incredibly nutritious for livestock.
If you have very bad soil, after only a few additions of food waste, you’ll be able to start growing plants. If you have established beds, just dig small holes around the plants and add a shovel or two of fermented food waste and cover with soil. You can keep amending your soil year round and eliminate the need for having to purchase fertilizers.