Jun 06

Bokashi Composting for the Backyard Gardener

The Bokashi system is an intriguing and fascinating technology which the more I use the more I want to continue utilizing the system. It is modular, it produces very little odour, it is airtight so pests and children can’t get into it and it is a microbial rich soil activator. I add Bokashi ferments to my compost systems and in conjunction with the ‘Hot Composting’ method am getting compost in 25-30 days. This used to take me 3-6 months! I am currently setting up a business scaled Bokashi system for the legends at Food Connect where their organic waste will be stored in the DIY Bokashi Buckets ready for me to take back to the market garden and put through our compost and worm farm systems. I am that impressed and confident with the system in conjunction with aerobic composting and worm farming that I want to take other businesses waste!

Now that we know how to make our own cost effective Bokashi Buckets, the Bokashi Composting world has become our oyster! So let’s have a look at how a Bokashi system works, why you should be implementing one in your household and how to use one! But first, let’s have a look at the benefits.

To learn more about Backyard Composting and some DIY projects to get your home compost system up and running check out:

  1. DIY Composting for the Backyard Gardener
  2. DIY Bokashi Bucket
  3. Building a Re-purposed/Upcycled Compost Pit
  4. DIY Worm Farm Bin
  5. DIY Bug Hotel


  • You are reducing waste entering landfill (~4 million tonnes of food waste ends up in landfill each year, costing our economy an estimated $20 billion each year)(5)
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions emitted by landfills (as food waste breaks down it emits Carbon Dioxide and Methane, a gas ~25x more potent the Carbon Dioxide. 1kg of food waste generates ~1.9kg of CO2) (6)
  • Utilizing waste to create a recycling loop where waste is converted into a useable nutrient rich by-product in the form of Bokashi Tea and Bokashi Fermented Organic Matter
  • Nitrogen is not lost to the air so is available in high quantities for plant growth (7)

What is Bokashi?

Bokashi originated in Asia and is Japanese for ‘Shading off’ or ‘Gradation’, for us it means ‘an Organic Waste Fermentation Process’ (1). There is some debate over when and where the practice actually originated as both Korea and Japan have heavily utilized fermented food scraps as part of their soil building techniques for centuries. We currently use practices developed by Master Han-Kyu Cho from South Korea who is seen as the modern day pioneer of the ‘Natural Farming’ movement, which relies heavily on the culturing of ‘Indigenous Microorganisms’ and fermenting plant juice to naturally remediate and sustain the soil micro biome (2). The Bokashi practice is currently referenced to Dr. Teruo Higa from Japan who pioneered the micro-culture known as EM1 or Essential/Effective Microorganism Culture 1. Which funnily enough he discovered by accident, when it is said he felt it a waste to be pouring costly Microorganisms down the drain and mixed a series of non-harmful microorganisms together and poured it on a green area in the University campus in which he worked, after spending many years researching the effects of individual microorganisms in Agricultural production (3).

So Bokashi is many things, it is a series of living organisms, it is a technology, but most of all it is able to be utilized by everyone at a cost effective price to reduce and reuse organic matter.

How to use Bokashi

To use a Bokashi system is quite straight forward, we don’t need to worry about the science or the technology as that is quite robustly covered by the main Research and Development Company of EM1, EMRO Japan (3). All we need to do is make our own Bokashi Bucket (see the DIY)/buy a commercial Bokashi bucket and buy some of the EM1 Activated Bran or Liquid Concentrate. Once those items have been ticked off the ‘bucket list’ all you need is to be a person who eats food and place all your food waste into the bucket.

  1. Place a 5cm layer of organic waste in the Top bucket then spray 3-5 squirts of the Effective Microorganism (EM) Spray. Add extra EM spray with high protein foods such as meat, fish, cheese and eggs.
  2. Press down to remove air after every application. Tip: Push down using a plate or old saucepan lid, if you are feeling crafty you can even add a broom handle to the end so you don’t have to bend over.
  3. Ensure that the lid is closed tightly. Why: The fermentation process will not work properly if oxygen is allowed to flow through the system.
  4. Drain the Fermented Juice that has accumulated in the bottom of the bucket. Tip: use diluted as a liquid fertilizer on plants
  5. Keep layering food scraps and spraying EM until the bucket is full.
  6. Once full, leave sealed and out of the sun to ferment for 4-6 weeks
  7. Add into your worm farm, compost bay or dig a 30cm-50cm deep hole around the base of trees and place inside

Helpful Hints on using a Bokashi System

  • It is much better to have too much EM than too little in ensuring complete fermentation and good smelling compost.
  • Only add fresh food waste to the bucket, never rotten or moldy wastes.
  • Break or chop large waste into smaller pieces to facilitate fermentation.
  • Remember to compact the waste to remove the air.
  • Always close the lid tightly and drain the Fermented Juice that accumulates at the bottom frequently.
  • Do not add water or excessive amounts of fluids.
  • While small amounts of meats and fish do not affect the composting process, these should be kept to a minimum (such as plate scrapings)
  • Keep the bucket in the shade.

What to put in your Bokashi System

Accepted Waste

Not Accepted Waste

Fruit and Vegetables Plastics – All types including glad/cling wrap, cutlery
Plate scrapings including meat, fish and leftovers Aluminum foil
Rice and Pasta Straws
Breads and Cakes Food Handler Gloves
Coffee Grounds Glass
Flowers Cooking Oil
Egg Shells and Eggs Metals
Chux Cloths
Paper Towels/Serviettes
Large amounts of meat waste
Liquids – Milk, Juice, Water etc.
Rotten or Moldy Foods

Remember to check out:

    1. DIY Composting for the Backyard Gardener
    2. DIY Bokashi Bucket
    3. Building a Re-purposed/Upcycled Compost Pit
    4. DIY Worm Farm Bin
    5. DIY Bug Hotel


  1. En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Bokashi. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokashi [Accessed 6 Jun. 2018].
  2. Rohini Reddy, k. (2018). Cho Global Natural Farming, SARRA India. [online] Cgnfindia.com. Available at: http://www.cgnfindia.com/index.html [Accessed 6 Jun. 2018].
  3. EM Research Organization. (2018). Learn how to live sustainably using EM microbial technology on agriculture and environment. [online] Available at: https://www.emrojapan.com/dr-higa/ [Accessed 6 Jun. 2018].
  4. OzHarvest. (2018). Food Waste Facts – OzHarvest. [online] OzHarvest. Available at: https://www.ozharvest.org/what-we-do/environment-facts/ [Accessed 6 Jun. 2018].
  5. (2018). Food Waste Greenhouse Gas Calculator » Watch My Waste. [online] Watchmywaste.com.au. Available at: https://watchmywaste.com.au/food-waste-greenhouse-gas-calculator/ [Accessed 6 Jun. 2018].
  6. Pavlis, R. (2018). Bokashi vs Composting – Garden Myths. [online] Garden Myths. Available at: https://www.gardenmyths.com/bokashi-vs-composting/ [Accessed 6 Jun. 2018].

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