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Bokashi Exploits

Anerobic Microbial Composting - Indoors

Our Bokashi journey was a successful but ultimately short-lived one. Whilst living in an apartment, we needed a way to compost the copious amounts of citrus, tomato and coffee waste we produce. Having seen now an in-ground worm bin can eventually handle process such acidic cast-offs, we knew that there was no way such a small worm operation could handle the challenge.

Thus, Bokashi! We followed the instructions to the letter and had good success with it except for the fact that, being apartment-dwellers at the time, we had no soil in which to complete the final Bokashi composting process. Nevertheless, we still produced some good product and minimised our kitchen waste even further!

Our first step was to procure the Bokashi bran. We did this through My Green Chapter here in Dubai. They were extremely efficient though Bokashi bran can be costly. If anything, this is our main disappointment with this composting method: we can handle the maintenance, 'smells' and curing but the ongoing cost of procuring the microbial starter is of-putting. We believe that composting should be accessible to all, regardless of access to terrain, space and financial barriers. A one-time fixed cost could be absorbed, but an ongoing expense to continue composting can be a barrier to success for some. Not to mention the recent COVID global supply chain 'stress test' has made it painfully obvious that, especially in our efforts to lower our carbon footprints, we should be more self-contained and self-reliant in our endeavours and less so on miscellaneous imports.

Next, we began our layering. Into our Bokashi heap went everything the worms couldn't or 'shouldn't' eat: copious amounts of coffee grounds, onion peelings, garlic skins, ginger off-cuts, tomato or pineapple leavings, occasionally kiwi peels- anything that could become too acidic for our expat earthworms.

Daily deposits of scraps and layers of Bokashi bran soon built up and within about 2 weeks, we had a full compost bucket. (These were just small plastic paint buckets from Ace Hardware. Nothing fancy. Again it's important to us to keep costs down.)

Once the bucket was full, it was time to weigh it down to compress out as much air as possible. Since the Bokashi bacteria is anaerobic, it really needs the contents of the compost to be as oxygen-free as possible. You could buy fancy weights; my solution was a nice flat rock. It works a treat! As you can see, I labelled the lid for better family compliance and marriage harmony. Since this bin was located in the kitchen, we kept the lid on to minimise smells but because of the citrus in there, it always smelled 'fresh-ish'.

We would leave it at least 2 weeks for the curing period. The lid did expand with compressed gas, which was actually a helpful indicator of continued healthy bacterial communities. Upon opening, it was truly transformed. Ours always smelled completely pickled, like we were opening up a new jar of particularly potent sauerkraut. What's more, it was no longer bits and bobs but already an impressively homogenised slop.

What's more, once it was stirred you could immediately smell the change in the microbial community. The transition from anaerobic to aerobic is startlingly fast and noticeably transitions from pickled and sharp to fermented and decomposing. The longer you continue to aerate it, the more it transitions to a cow-poop (methane) smell. It's impressive.

Since we didn't have access to ground in which to finish the process, we filled a garden trough with some soil, added some worm compost as a microbial starter (though we don't think this would be strictly necessary) and added our Bokashi compost to finish up its composting process. We also added some volcanic rock dust for trace mineral content. A couple of months later, we scattered some passionfruit seeds in the trough and they were extremely happy with their soil!

There you have it! That's our Bokashi balcony-composting journey! Now what we have access to some soil and a garden, we can't wait to start it up again and see what other fantastic outcomes we can achieve.

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