The products were provided to Eco Parents Australia to review. This is not a paid review. The opinions are those of Eco Parents Australia.
What is the Bokashi One system?
The Bokashi One system is a large sealed bucket with slotted insert to allow liquid to drain and a tap housed at the base. Food scraps are added and a special mix is sprinkled as layers build up. The main difference with the Bokashi One system and a bench top compost bucket is that the contents ferment rather than decompose. Because the special mix is added as the food scraps are layered the fermenting process begins quickly with fermenting occurring right there in the kitchen. The fermenting process creates a rich and nourishing juice which can be used in the garden or in other uses around the home due to the micro-organisms present.
I like to think I have a green heart, but to be honest, my green thumb is still a work in progress. Since moving to our rural property we have had to rethink how we tend to our fresh produce. The altitude here is around 880 metres above sea level and frosts occur throughout winter and continue into spring. A well established veg patch was here when we arrived but it got limited attention in the beginning as we were still living in Brisbane and only coming out every 1-2 weekends. Once we finally got into the garden we realised the soil was pretty poor. Worms were few are far between. The patch needed an injection of life.
There are a number of ways to perk up soil for planting. The first season saw us planting out late and while some things did well, others simply did not have time to take before the frosts set in. Locals say October 1st is the time to start planting a veg patch. Now we are settled in here and have had animals we are in a better position to add life to the soil. The Bokashi is one way to do this. And a good option for those that do not have worms, chickens or pigs. Later in the review I’ll talk through the different ways we worked with our soil.
But let’s get back to setting up the Bokashi One system.
How to set up a Bokashi One system
I’m pretty sure I set up it up in under a minute. You take the bucket out of the box, decide where to put it on the bench and pop in the drainage tray and pop on the lid on. Done.
So where is the best place to put the Bokashi One system? We have a very practical working kitchen and we like to have things on hand. But when I started this review our very large kitchen lacked usable bench space. We ended up using a kitchen helper we modified from an IKEA stool with a piece of bench top off-cut on top as our scrap station. We put the Bokashi One system there along side a regular compost unit and chicken scrap bucket.
If you do not have the bench space for a Bokashi One system it could be placed under the sink, in a kitchen cupboard or in the pantry. Alternatively it could be kept in the garage or laundry. If you are keeping the Bokashi One system somewhere other than the kitchen I would suggest you use a smaller container or bucket to collect the scraps, keep that in the fridge, then once that is full take it to add to the Bokashi One system. Keep in mind you also need to have a spot for the special mix. I think it is helpful to keep the Bokashi One system and the special mix together.
If you are accustomed to using a bench top compost unit you will be pleased to know you can add all that stuff to a Bokashi. When my dog passed away a few years ago I came to realise I needed to dispose of meat scraps in another way. Some chicken owners are happy to give meat scraps to their feathered friends, others avoid it. We have pigs here too but there are actually strict rules in place for what pigs can legally be offered.
For me my favourite aspects of the Bokashi One system are that you can add meat scraps – raw and cooked, and you can add sink gunk. Sink gunk is the stuff remaining in the sink stainer after washing up. We do not have a rubbish service here so anything that cannot be added to our scrap station must be popped in the freezer and taken to the tip when we do a trip out there. We used to keep an empty milk bottle for the sink gunk. Now we can add it to the Bokashi One.
The bucket should not be placed in the sun.
What can you add to the system?
Fruit and vegetable matter, fish and meat, citrus, bread and cereal, egg, cooked food, uncooked food and processed food. Don’t add large bones and limit the amount of liquid.
What is the special sprinkle mix?
The mix is made using a combination of wheat bran and rice husks mixed with a group of micro-organisms. It is these micro-organisms that get the fermenting process going and include lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, photosynthetic bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi. If you have ever brewed beer or made your own sourdough starter you will recognise the familiar yeasty smell.
As a guide it is suggested that you use approximately 1 tablespoon of mix for every cup of waste. You should use more mix when adding high protein foods such as meat, cheese, fish and eggs.
It’s full – what now?
We started using our Bokashi One system in winter and it took around 2 months to fill one bucket. It will depend on how large your family is, how many scraps you create and what other systems (compost, worms, dog, cat, chickens etc) you have in place as to how quickly the bucket will reach full capacity.
Once the Bokashi One system is full you have a couple of options. You can pick up the bucket, it has a handle to make this easier, and take it to a garage or shed to continue to ferment. You can then drain off juice as you need it while it continues fermenting. If you decide to do this you will either need a second system or you’ll revert to your usual composting routine during that period.
If you only have a single Bokashi One system and you want to use it continually you can drain the juice off then empty the contents to your compost unit (it can be used as a compost starter) or dig it directly into your garden beds where it will continue to ferment. The micro-organisms accelerate the break-down of the waste once buried. Rinse out the bucket and start again.
The juice should be diluted when using in the garden. Maree O’Malley from Bokashi suggested I dilute it to 1 part juice to 100 parts water. I used the juice as a liquid fertiliser and given it was planting time I watered my new seedlings with the juice. It is best to use the juice as you drain it and it is not recommended to store it for more than 24 hours. I assume this is because the liquid is fermented juice and contains bubbles. If sealed in a bottle or jar it could explode under the pressure. It also contains living micro-organisms which degrade over time.
The juice can also be used around the home. Pour the juice directly (it does not need to be diluted) into the kitchen and bathroom drains, toilet and septic systems. It helps prevent algae and control odours.
Back to the garden
Given we have a number of garden beds and a number of methods of adding life to the soil I decided to try something different in each bed. Here are a few notes on each method we will or have used.
- Liquid fertiliser. You can buy this in a number of shops. Apply according to the directions. Usually by diluting in water and adding to a water can or applying with a hose connection. This would be one of the easiest ways to fertilise a garden.
- Bokashi One. The expense in this system is the initial outlay for the product then buying additional Bokashi mix. The juice is drained and used immediately as needed. There are only a few things that cannot be added to the Bokashi One system.
- Worm farm. There are restrictions on what can be added to a warm farm. There are also live creatures so it needs to be kept under check in extreme heat and cold. Juice can be drained off and castings can be used to make worm tea.
- Compost. Like a worm farm there are some things that should not be added to a compost unit. Many bench top compost units are not airtight and fruit flies can be a problem.
- Chickens. Chickens do convert food scraps into garden fertiliser, however there are some things that chickens should not consume and they usually need a seed/grain food mix to supplement their diet. Chicken poo can be diluted in water to create a liquid fertiliser. Chicken poo should not be used directly on a garden without allowing it to sit for quite a while as it is far too potent and can burn plants.
- Pigs. Obviously you need a bit of room to accommodate pigs. Pigs are not smelly and they always go to the toilet outside their house. You can use their manure immediately.
Of all these options the Bokashi One is a pretty good method of getting rich, live fertiliser while keeping a wide range of food waste out of landfill. The Bokashi One is also easy to maintain in comparison.
Using the juice in the garden
I drained off the liquid then took the whole bucket to the garden to bury the waste. We have a large veg patch with multiple beds and I selected an empty bed I wanted to improve. I dug a hole and emptied some of the waste in. I filled it with soil and pressed down the earth with my gumboots. I wasn’t sure how deep to bury the waste or if I should bury it all in one spot. I ended up burying about a third in the hole and thought I’d distribute the rest through the bed. I grabbed the garden fork and started turning over the rest of the bed. After an hour I had a rethink. How would I actually distribute the remaining waste through the bed without attracting rodents or pests? I decided to add it to one of the compost tumblers instead. The following day I used a watering can to dilute the juice and water the prepared bed. I then covered it with some weed matting I found in the shed (the previous owners left all sorts of stuff in the shed).
When I added the waste to the compost tumbler I wondered if I’d made a mistake. After all the waste was still fairly intact, albeit squished up. I was essentially introducing a heap of items that one does not usually add to a compost bin – meat (I could see bacon rind), cheese, cooked foods and so on. Given I’d now added it to my compost unit it would it now be subject to regular composting processes. I’d have to keep an eye on it. My tumblers are rodent proof though…
What did I learn?
While I have a knack for estimating the correct number of pegs needed for a basket of laundry I am not great at figuring out how much Bokashi mix to use when layering food waste. I think what I will try in future is keep a small container in the fridge to collect scraps and sink gunk. Then once it is full I can transfer this to the Bokashi One bucket by the cup. I can keep a measuring spoon with the mix too. While I appreciate it is not an exact science I know I need a little help with this bit.
There were a few things I did not do so well.
- Quantity of mix to waste. As mentioned above.
- Not squashing waste down when adding layers.
- The first time I drained off the liquid I stored it for weeks. I should have used it immediately.
If I was asked how I think the product could be improved I would offer these ideas.
Develop a flip section within lid to allow easier adding of waste. The height of the bucket on bench is fairly high and it can be a bit tricky scraping food from a plate into the unit if you only lift open one corner. The lid is made to be a tight seal so it can be an effort to remove the lid completely for a small amount of waste.
Perhaps it might be helpful to pop a sticker on the lid with items that can be added and those that can’t. Although I will admit it is pretty easy to remember. This would be good in a share house or a workplace. I think it would be a good system for a workplace as it’s unlikely anyone would be adding large bones or excess liquid. Worm farms or compost units in a shared space can be a challenge as people don’t often know what can and can’t be added.
I dropped the sink gunk stainer into the bucket numerous times. This was because I was trying to just pry open a corner of the lid and then tap the stainer on the inside edge to release the gunk. I should have just opened the lid properly. My issue really.
What’s that smell?
The first unit did not smell. The second unit did. What changed? Between changing over the units we installed bench tops in our kitchen. This meant a reshuffle and I put the second unit near a window. While we tend to close the blind to block the afternoon sun perhaps it got too much sunlight through the window during the day. It may have also been because the first scraps I added to the second unit were cooked chicken pieces whereas I had already had a good layer of waste in the first unit before I remembered I could actually add meat.
While I think the system is fairly easy there are a few things that will make using it more successful. Here are some additional tips from the Bokashi One brochure:
- Minimise the amount of rotten or mouldy food waste added to the bucket.
- Break or chop large waste into smaller pieces.
- Close the lid tightly and drain the juice regularly.
- Press down every layer of food waste to reduce the amount of air present. A potato masher or a pot lid is a nifty way of doing this.
- Wash the bucket after each use.
The Bokashi One system is available in black, white and tan.
- The buckets are guaranteed and spare parts are also available.
- The Bokashi One mix is made in Australia.
- Bokashi also have a pet poo composting system called the EnsoPet.
To win a complete Bokashi One starter pack (which includes TWO buckets and two bags of mix) simply tell us in 50 words or less what feature about the system most appeals to you and why. To enter email us here with subject line Bokashi. Please include your full name. Closes midnight 12 November 2016.
Terms and conditions
The giveaway is arranged by Eco Parents Australia and requires entrants to provide an answer to the question via email. Entrants will be subscribed to the Eco Parents Australia newsletter but may unsubscribe anytime after the giveaway (stick around if you like us). There is one prize valued at $179. The winner will be selected based on skill and will be contacted by Eco Parents Australia. If a winner fails to respond within 48 hours another entry may be selected. Prizes will be shipped to an Australian address only. If you have questions regarding this giveaway please contact Eco Parents Australia. The winner’s name will be published unless the winner specifically requests otherwise. General competition terms and conditions are here.
I found the Bokashi team friendly and helpful. They have plenty of information on their website and offer a customer service phone number to assist further.
Phone 1300 902 880