Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bokashi compost and apartment gardening

We had a big day here in our little household today. It was time to empty our bokashi bucket! To backtrack quite a mother's people grow things. Her grandparents retired to a tiny farm in Colorado they deemed the Pea Patch, and hosted giant celebrations in their barn. My grandmother still lives there, and up til a couple years ago, she and my grandfather were still filling a freezer each winter with veggies from the garden. When my mom was in high school, she and her dad experimented growing chrysanthemums under fluorescent lights in the winter, and when my mother moved to Peru, she brought zinnia seeds. I can't not grow things- it's just in my blood somehow. Unfortunately, graduate school doesn't lend itself well to acquiring plots of land, and I'm limited to what I can fit on a porch. In addition to the gardening and tea drinking bugs I've inherited from my grandparents, I also can't stand to throw things out, particularly when I know they could be useful. For years, I've been longing for an affordable house to rent that will let me have a flower bed, a vegetable garden, a clothes line, and a compost pile. This year, I learned about bokashi composting, and I don't have to wait for my compost pile. Being the odd creature that I am, I asked for a bokashi compost system for Christmas. My sweet husband complied, (though he also got me something small and sparkly- dear man!). The system was fairly simple to master...chop food into small pieces, sprinkle the bokashi mix (special wheat bran treated with microbes that promote fermentation) over the food, close up the bin, and drain off the "tea" every couple days. Our bin has mostly been vegetable scraps,tea bags,and leftovers that have started smelling funky, although a few other things have been added also (a compostable takeout counter,the round pieces of cardboard that come with frozen pizzas, and Scotchbrite scrub sponges). The bokashi system pretty much eliminated the smelliness and drippiness of our garbage. It also reduced the amount of garbage we threw out (and after emptying that bucket, I'm tremendously impressed at how much stuff was compacted into it!). The kale, lettuce, and mint on the porch seem to thrive off of diluted bokashi "tea." While some people rave about bokashi "tea" as a drain cleaner, I didn't notice much difference in drain function, though drains definitely smell better (our apartment is old enough that there's still lead paint in the building, so this might just be an issue with our plumbing). 012

 We filled our bokashi bin almost two weeks ago. Since filling the bin, I've been draining off MUCH more liquid. Seriously, at the beginning, I could drain off the "tea" once a week and only get a few teaspoons of liquid. I've probably drained off at least half a cup each day the past week.This is the bokashi bin contents today, when I opened it up to empty them. They were not terribly smelly. "Fermented" or "pickled" sure, but not the smell of death that rotten food waste develops. A prior tenant at my previous apartment had left a 5 gallon cat litter bucket in the outdoor closet. I kept it when I moved, because buckets come in handy. I put potting soil in the bottom of the bucket, then attempted to tip in the bin's contents. This was rather messy, wet, crumbly and sloppy, but I managed. The kitchen definitely needs mopping. Then I threw the bin in the bathtub and ran hot water over it . Added a bit more potting soil to the top, and then closed up the lid. 013
 I imagine that this will need some more dry stuff added to it the next couple weeks (we've got several more frozen pizza cardboard bases sitting around), and I anticipate opening it up in a week or so to be sure the soil and the food scraps are well mixed. And hopefully, about the time the tomato seedlings are ready to go outside, the bokashi mix will have turned into beautiful soil for them.

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