Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Using Bokashi at Home and at the Office

Vancouver bokashi expert explains how he uses it.

By Al Pasternak
Al Pasternak makes and sells bokashi bucket composting systems and can be reached at 604.873.4334.
His website is
Toll Free: 877.412.9895

Bokashi is made from Biosa and bran. When used on kitchen scraps, the friendly microbes in bokashi ferment the waste rather than decompose it, hence the lack of any rotting smell. The fermentation allows you to put fish and meat into the bucket as they will pickle, not putrefy. This is ideal for use in urban settings. When dug into the soil or added to a compost bin, it gives a slow release of nutrients and continues to inoculate the soil and surrounding plants.

I have two 15L bokashi bucket kits in my kitchen. The buckets are nested, the inside bucket has holes in the bottom, so liquid drains into the bottom bucket. This liquid is an excellent plant fertilizer when diluted 100 times with water [20ml to 2L].

For every two or three centimeters of food waste, I add a handful of bokashi - enough to just cover the compostables and compress it with a potato masher. The friendly microbes will do their work as long as they have some food to live on, and every time more bokashi is added, more microbes continue the job and spread throughout the bucket. When full, I leave the bucket in a warm place for a week to ten days, a bit longer in the winter while my second bucket kit is being filled up. Every few days, as the bucket is filling up and while resting, I drain the liquid out of the bottom bucket. After the time has passed, I take it out to my compost bin, wash the bucket and get ready to fill it again.

Sometimes I get fruit flies in my bucket. Usually that happens when I don't add enough bokashi. After adding more bokashi, the food waste becomes more acidic as it pickles and the fruit flies can no longer live in that environment.

I don't cook meat at home but my upstairs neighbour does. When I noticed that they were storing their garbage on the porch during the Vancouver civic labour dispute [in the summer of 2007], I gave them a single bucket [no nesting], a bag of bokashi, and told them how to use it. It was a few more weeks before garbage pickup resumed and the amount of garbage they produced reduced significantly. Their bucket, when full, smells sweet and pickley even when it contained chicken skins, fish heads and small bones.

At the office where I work, I have a 22L / 5 gallon bucket in the kitchen in which people put in coffee grounds and their lunch waste. At the end of every day, I sprinkle a couple handfuls of bokashi over the organic material and press it down. It has taken a long time for people to understand that they can put almost anything compostable into the bucket. In an office of 20 - 30 people, it takes about a week to ten days to fill the bucket. I then bring it home and let it sit until ready for adding to the compost bin.

Bokashi prepared material is not composted in the bucket itself. The food will look the same as what you put in - an onion will look like an onion - but the pickling has changed its structure completely. It has to go into the ground or a compost bin to finish. I can say that worms just love the organic material and breed like crazy. In my compost bins, the bokashi waste breaks down more quickly than normal and I don't worry about green/brown ratios. I dig out some old compost [lots of worms in that] put my bokashi waste in the bin, and cover it with the compost I removed. This, in combination with all the other naturally occurring microbes, speeds up the composting process.

In an ideal world, I would like to see the bokashi compost created by city dwellers used to grow food, and the people who provided the compost receive a portion of the food grown with that compost. Bokashi allows people in urban areas to start the process of composting indoors, results in a better finished product and helps reduce the amount of food waste going into the landfill.

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October 27, 2009

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture