Bokashi Vermicomposting

Bokashi 'Compost' Added to Worm Bin

As some of you may know, for the last couple months I have been experimenting with another waste management strategy called ‘bokashi’. I’ve been writing about it over on CompostGuy.com (which unfortunately seems to be experiencing some server issues as I write this).

For those of you unfamiliar, bokashi is a very simple way to deal with common household (organic) wastes. All you need is a bucket (although a specialized bokashi bucket works best), some bokashi mix, and some food waste. You then add your scraps to the bucket and sprinkle some bokashi mix at the same time. When the material reaches the top of the bucket you put on the lid (which should always be on when not adding scraps) and let it sit for a few weeks. The final product can then be dug into your garden or added to your compost bins. The bokashi mix itself is wheat bran impregnated with special microorganisms. You can buy this mix or make it yourself, which can actually be a lot of fun.

Unlike vermicomposting and composting, bokashi is an anaerobic process, but interestingly enough it doesn’t smell bad thanks to the bokashi mix microorganisms. Also unlike regular aerobic composting, you don’t actually end up with a stabilized, humus-rich material. The end materials need to undergo further decomposition in order to become an effective plant fertilizer and soil conditioner. Nevertheless, given the simplicity of the process I think it’s a great option for a lot of people – anyone with a garden or compost bins, that is – I wouldn’t recommend this for apartment dwellers, unless they happened to have a big balcony garden and/or some worm bins.

Part of the reason I was attracted to bokashi (aside from being such a composting fanatic) was because I suspected that the end product would make an excellent ‘worm food’. I commonly recommend that people keep their food scraps in a separate container for a little while so as to allow time for microbial colonization. Well this method does just that, and the final product is absolutely loaded with microbes – and once it is exposed to aerobic conditions it likely becomes an even richer microbial playground.

Two of my bokashi buckets have been brewing for a number of weeks now so I decided it was finally time to try feeding some of this stuff to my worms. As you can see above, I put a decent layer of material at the top of my European Nightcrawler bin. I made sure to add some dry bedding first, just to help separate it from the worms a little should they not feel like moving into it right away. I’ve read that worms go crazy for the stuff, so I’ll be interested to see what happens.

I’ll keep you posted!

[tags]compost, composting, bokashi, em, effective microorganisms, friendly microorganisms, worm bin, worm composting, vermicomposting[/tags]

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Comments

    • NewAlchemyGuy
    • March 26, 2008

    Thank you for your websites and your posts on bokashi and other composting methods.
    I’m very passionate about all this and I’m working to help others better understand the entire process and show that it doesn’t require special, expensive products to compost the bokashi way. It’s all available wild and free.

    : )

    • Bentley
    • March 27, 2008

    Hi NewAlchemyGuy! (great name – I get the feeling you and I would be interested in a lot of the same stuff!)

    Thanks for the positive comments. I try not to be TOO biased when it comes to any one type of composting (such as vermicomposting, which is my favourite). I feel strongly that there is no ONE solution – most of these strategies work very well together.
    8)

    • Steve
    • March 28, 2008

    Bentley,

    Whenever I clean my goldfish bowl, I usually throw out the dirty water. But I was wondering if it was safe to use the water in my worm bin. I am extremely concerned with what I am putting in the bin because I want to use the castings on my homegrown fruits and vegetables that I will also be feeding to my children. Is the fish manure safe/beneficial for my worm bin?

    • Bentley
    • March 28, 2008

    Hi Steve,
    Great question!
    If your worm bin drains well you would probably be ok doing this, but I would definitely do so in small doses and would also test it out in part of the bin first. I’ve read that fish ‘manure’ from aquaculture doesn’t work very well as a worm food (due to the high ammonia levels, I believe), but I bet if you soaked some shredded cardboard in your fish water then feed that to your worms it would work well (again, experiment with it before going gangbusters)

    B

    • Mauricio
    • April 28, 2008

    Bentley,
    Can Vermi and bokashi transform big amounts?What indoor or outdoor area would you need to compost 10 Tons or 50 Tons of Daily organic, mainly raw vegetable and fruit waste maybe mixed with other chunks of matter?

    • Bentley
    • April 28, 2008

    Hi Mauricio,
    While there is technically no limit to the amount of waste these sorts of systems can handle (you simply make larger systems, or many smaller systems), logistically speaking both of these methods can have some limitations. In the case of bokashi, if you make a monstrous system you will end up with a huge amount of fermented waste on your hands – material that will need to be put somewhere to complete the decomposition process. I suppose it could be spread out over fields, but you would like end up creating a pretty foul odour in the area.

    Worm composting can definitely be done on a large scale, but the limitation there is the space required to handle lots of wastes. Unlike ‘hot composting’ where you can simply heap huge amounts of material in one (small) area, wastes need to be spread out very thinly in a worm composting system in order to prevent excess heating and other worm hazards (such as release of ammonia gas etc). In all honesty, I don’t know what size of system would be required for 10 or 50 tons of waste, but it would definitely need to be very large. In well-functioning industrial ‘flow-through’ system, material is often laid down in 1 inch (per day) layers – but this will certainly depend on the type of waste being processed. As you can imagine, a LOT of surface area would be required to spread 50 tons of material out in a layer 1 inch thick! But that’s certainly not to say it can’t be done.
    Last year I posted a video that showed a large scale vermicomposting system used in Hong Kong. I’m not sure of the exact processing capacity but I’m pretty sure it’s tons per day. Here is the link:
    https://www.redwormcomposting.com/large-scale-vermicomposting/large-scale-vermicomposting-in-hong-kong/

    • Jennifer
    • September 3, 2008

    Hi, I’d like to hear how your Bokashi Vermicomposting experiment went. I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing, but was concerned the fermented food might be too vinegary or acidic. How long was it before your worms were ready to move into it?

    Thanks,
    Jennifer

    • Bentley
    • September 5, 2008

    Hi Jennifer,
    I actually ended up adding to much bokashi waste to one of my bins and it went really sour on me. You definitely need to be careful when adding to small indoor systems.

    The bokashi I added to my big outdoor bin on the other hand was consumed quite quickly.

    • not_tried_it_yet
    • October 16, 2008

    One of the vermicomposting forums suggested that garden lime would be a cure for over-acid conditions.

    I am thinking that the people that added too much bokashi ended up with too much of an acidic situation, so garden lime added to the mix might help (or ordinary baking powder?).

    I am looking to try bokashi / vermiculture and have no experience yet but thought I would mention this.

  1. Just add a little bit of bokashi at a time, the worms thrive on itand you won’t have any problems.
    All my bokashi goes to my worm bins.

    http://bokashicomposting.com

    • manoj
    • October 24, 2008

    R/sir
    pl guide me. is it possible to add the earthworm in the fresh vegetable waste? na dhow much quantity and which one species is good for this waste in india ? and if other species are not degrade why ?
    Thanks & regards
    manoj

    • Bentley
    • October 24, 2008

    Manoj – it is definitely better to use wastes that are partially decomposed, since there will be a lot more microorganisms for the worms to feed on. It is also a good idea to have some sort of ‘bedding’ material of you are feeding the worms with water-rich veggie/fruit waste. This helps to keep things balanced and protects the worms from fluctuating conditions in the waste materials.
    In India, a good choice would probably be either the Blue Worm (Perionyx excavatus) or African Nightcrawler (Eudrilus eugneniae) since the are very well adapted for hot climates, and perform extremely well in these conditions. Red Worms (Eisenia fetida) are also very versatile, and are certainly used widely in India already.
    Not sure I understand your last question.

    B

  2. Hi Mate

    You’re going to have to write a book….excellent stuff
    Andrew

    • Ng
    • April 29, 2010

    If you can add the fermented product from the bokashi bin to a wormery, do you still advise against adding meat waste in a bokashi?

    • redRosa
    • April 27, 2011

    Hey Bentley,
    Just giving this a bump as I’m interested in Bokashi. I’ve decided it’s either figure out how to compost meat/bone leftovers or go back to being a Vegetarian. I’d like to know your opinion to the last question about using Boakshi to compost meat and then adding to the worm bin?
    Thanks!
    Rosa

    • Kerri
    • March 16, 2012

    Hi Bentley,
    I know this comment is going to an old post of yours, but hope you could advise on the meat issue as I have a lot of Bokashi ready to go (bags full) and I would imagine that the putrification of meat (which would attract unsavoury critters and make a stink) would be the reason we don’t add meat to the wormbin. Once the meat has gone through it’s initial ferment stage, I’m hoping there should be no further problem. As for onions, citrus which I wouldn’t feed the worms direct, once they are transformed by Bokashi they will, I hope, make short work of.
    As to the issue of acidity, I hear some people mix a handful of sawdust into the Bokashi and sprinkle with dolomite and worms are more than happy with it.
    Would be great to hear what you think and any methods you have come up with since your initial post in 2008.
    Thanks
    Kerri

    • Bentley
    • March 17, 2012

    Hi Kerri,
    Don’t hesitate to email me any time with questions – I’m not super fast with responses most of the time, but definitely more reliable than with blog comment responses these days {SIGH} – lol

    Bokashi waste is definitely a bit tricky in my experience, and I am actually no longer using it at all. When I DID use it there was meat waste in there for sure, and it didn’t seem to be any different than the rest of the anaerobic slop (lol) so I don’t really think the pest issue will be a concern (unless they are attracted to the stench of fermented wastes). The mixing with lime is a good idea (just make sure it IS ag lime or dolomitic lime – NOT builders lime) but I’ve never tried that. Makes me think I should test this out with rock dust and anaerobic food wastes. Hmmmm…

    Anyway – sorry I don’t have any additional insights! I would like to get back into bokashi at some point, but just have too many things on the go at the moment!

    B

    • Kerri
    • March 17, 2012

    Thanks for replying so quickly Bentley, I wasn’t sure where of your many exciting adventures to find you! I think leaving a note here was good for your silent following, ta. I had a look at Compost Guy after this site (but you haven’t been there either for a while…LOL)

    This is just for the record:
    I started a trial of Bokashi straight to wormfarm yesterday. My Bokashi has meat, bones, cheese, citrus, pineapple skins, egg shell, avocado and other hard fruit shells, along with the normal scraps and paper. I have recently put a new tier on my wormfarm so thought, ‘what the hey, they’ve got somewhere to run if they don’t like it’.

    I put four version in as a single layer. 1) Straight from the bucket 2) Straight from the bucket with a sprinkle of dolomite on top 3) Stirred through with my version of bedding mix (fibrous mulch, sand, soil, gravel) in a bucket before adding 4) Same as 3) but with dolomite included. I made sure each version included chicken bone, pineapple and citrus skin and egg shell (I couldn’t identify the cheese to divide it in four parts, but some went in the wormfarm).

    Today, there are a few worms visible in all the mixes, though mostly the plain old 1) and the more bother 3) and there is activity below all (so they haven’t all run for the hills, at least). Without disturbing the trial too much, I couldn’t get specific details. However, there were quite grown worms visible just below and in the Bokashi. Maybe the rebellious teenagers? I also saw adults.

    There are still quite a few worms in my lower bin and I regularly lift to see whether they’d like to move on up. When I lift today there are not more than before, but I did notice more huge purple ones. Maybe the fishing worms might not like Bokashi at this stage? Not sure, but will keep an eye on this.

    Anyway, I’m excited that my hopes of feeding Bokashi to worms is alive and well, and I’m having fun checking this out. Just as if I bury Bokashi I would end up with some bones in the soil that have given value but not broken down completely, I imagine I’ll need to pull the bones out eventually. I’m hoping I don’t have to play around with ferment too much as I like throwing everything in. I’m lazy and it should be easy!

    Take care Bentley and all the best.
    Kerri

    • NewAlchemyGuy
    • March 17, 2012

    I’m a big fan of coupling bokashi with worm composting.
    Worms can take much more acidity then some folks think.
    I learned a long time ago that low temperature composting is the way to compost when maximum available nutrients are the goal.
    I got started with vermiculture a long time ago, vermiculture ALWAYS produces compost far superior to high heat methods.
    Bokashi compliments vermiculture.
    I noticed at a neighbors farm a few years ago that compost worms were thriving in corn silage that had spilled down around the outside of the silo, I had always read that acidity was bad for worms and that they wouldn’t do well in low PH, turns out that was a lie, not only were they thriving they were converting the fermented silage into castings at a rapid rate (the silage was acidic enough so that I could feel a slight burning sensation on the scratches on my hand).
    It wasn’t long after that that I stumbled upon the bokashi thing while searching composting videos on youtube.
    I immediately said to myself, all this is is ensiling, it was then that I started experimenting.
    So, not only is the bokashi broken down fairly rapidly by the worms, the waste is also stabilized for long periods of time so I can ration it out to the worms. I wouldn’t attempt to adjust the ph of the bokashi unless it’s extremely acid, but I’m not sure that even that is a necessity.

    I only wish I had more worms to work with.

    • Kerri
    • March 17, 2012

    Hi NewAlchemyGuy,
    We were obviously typing at the same time.
    You’re experience has matched my preliminary observations.

    I’m a long way from making conclusions either way, but am feeling confident that my idea that Bokashi is just the first natural action on the journey to making excellent and sustainable soils is well intact.

    The captivity we keep the soil making elements under is the problem as in nature things work, are dormant, build up and diminish and maintain equilibriums. That is, in terms of worms, they worms will move into food sources when they feel good and ready. However, in depleted soils (such as my garden at the moment) I want to give nature a nudge so am getting involved.

    The aim is the soil, but the Bokashi, worms, composting and mulching are definitely the way to get there faster and hopefully better.

    • Adam
    • June 11, 2012

    I’m going to try mixing small amounts of bokashi into an equal amount of coco coir. Then I’ll add my Azomite, crushed egg shell mixture and see how the PH does. I want to mix it up to aerate the mix in the coir. I’ll keep you all posted on how that all does. I’m also trying to get my school’s microbiology club to take a look at my bokashi, castings, and “teas” to tell me exactly what’s in there and maybe even get some pictures of the samples. That should be interesting.

    • Ish
    • June 20, 2012

    How come it matters how much Bokashi mix you add? I thought bacteria double (on average) every 20 minutes;therefore it wouldn’t really matter how much you add because it will double until it quickly reaches the carrying capacity depending on how much waste is in the bin?

    It’s the same reason it doesn’t matter how much yeast you add when brewing beers, because the reaches it’s carrying capacity whether you add 1 yeast or 1 billion.

    I understand the need to layer it, because if it is only at the top, it will be difficult for it to makes it’s way all the way to the bottom since it is not in a liquid.

    • Yeti
    • December 17, 2012

    Hello all,

    Thank you for all of the wonderful things you’ve got here. I have come up with a plan that I have yet to experiment with, but in two weeks I will be giving it a shot.

    Basicly my thoughts were to mix my full 3wk sealed bokashi bucket with an equal part shredded grocery bags, egg cartons, and peat/coir and an amount of a mineral rock dust I use for all of my soil amendments and oyster shell. I would let this breathe for about one week or perhaps longer in my worm factory trays and then add them to the worm factory stack.

    My theory is that the oyster shell will balance the pH. (The amount needed still pending a bit of experimentation) The bokashi scraps will inoculate the entirity of the paper and bedding with beneficial microbes, and I will be left with a super EWC when the worms finish with each tray.

    In the future I would love to include IMO’s in this mix, but for now I think there will be ample super food around for my compost teas and top dressings.

  3. Hello! I’m excited to read that plenty of other folks have teamed bokashi and vermicomposting. Like Kerri, I’m lazy and just throw everything in there. So far the worms love it! I did find that adding some leaves to absorb some moisture in the bokashi’s “drainage” bin significantly reduced odor when I opened the lid and kept critters from growing. I’m not sure why this helped, but now I always add leaves to my bokashi bins.

    I look forward to everyone’s continued adventures!

    –Michelle

    • Kerri
    • January 24, 2013

    Hi everyone,
    I thought I should check in and let everyone know how my trials went, etc. The result of my trial was that there is no need to fuss at all, just feed Bokashi straight from the bucket to the wormfarm.

    My totally unscientific approach is that if worms are big and healthy (not fat lay abouts) and breeding lots, they are probably just fine. I used to put a bit of dolomite in the trays anyway, so purists and pH checkers will obviously get more complicated than I.

    I use bag bokashi (I line a lidded bucket with a compostible bag, fill as you would a bucket, close the bag up tightly and store the filled bags in a closed drum until ready to use).
    I hope it’s alright to leave the link to Jenny’s Bokashi Blog here, Bentley? Delete it if I have imposed, people just need to Google “bio bags dead easy and a great way to do bokashi” to find it. http://bokashiworld.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/bio-bags-dead-easy-and-a-great-way-to-do-bokashi/

    Anyway, I have a can-of-worms wormfarm and I have enough room in a layer for a couple of centimetres of bedding at the bottom of the tray followed by a whole bag of Bokashi, topped with a good layer of soil (the layer doesn’t need to be more than about 2 centimetres but it can’t be disturbed for quite a while. I just close the lid and leave. Worms are fed and happy for a month or more. After a few weeks, I might poke around because I’m a busy-body and can’t help but check on everything, but there will be a definite odour if it isn’t time to start fiddling. “seal” the soil back over and, vala! the smell disappears.

    I did this for a while, but noticed that the wormfarm was getting full of all sorts of critters and I decided to give it a miss. After some months, I suddenly realised that what I had was a healthy, happy, environment for my worms. I started harvesting soldier fly larvae to put in my dog poo disposal unit (bottomless pipe in ornamental garden). I have come full circle in my thinking and am back to Bokashi and worms go great together.

    However, if one was farming worms for sale, I would say it would be easier not to bother as you will want a clearer wormfarm – just worms and castings.

    I have also built a wicking garden (self watering) using Permaculture layers (no-dig or lasagne garden) and included a bokashi layer. I broke open some bags and left others in their compostible bags to act sort of slow release microbe populations. The garden has two “bottomless” worm feeding stations and I feed these alternately to keep the worms migrating through the soil. It is just a huge happy wormfarm now (I only added a handful of worms from the wormfarm originally).
    Happy Wormfarming and all types of adventures in great soil and food production, everyone.
    Kerri

    • Bentley
    • January 29, 2013

    Hi Kerri!
    Thanks for stopping by with your update.
    Sorry if I missed some key info in your description, but are you referring to the bokashi bran mix itself (being added to the worm bin), or the fermented food wastes from an active bokashi bucket?

    B.

    • Adam
    • January 29, 2013

    I have added bokashi compost to all of my systems. They really enjoy it in small quantities. If you add too much, it will probably heat up the bin. I add crushed egg shells/oyster shell flour with each feeding to stabilize the PH.

    • Kerri
    • January 31, 2013

    Hi Bentley and fellow worm lovers,

    I was referring to fermented food wastes.

    I used bags for fermenting food scraps. (same as the bucket method but with lots of microbe inoculated absorbent materials as liquid remains in the bag instead of being tapped off as in a Bokashi bucket)

    Kerri

  4. great post, I got a lot of useful info here; from the op and comments alike.
    I have a question for anyone who may have some insight… I’m looking into
    building a small aquaponics system plus a potato bed and worms on top to
    keep the dirt out of my irrigation… it would be very convenient to feed both
    the planter/worm bin and some omnivorous fish like tilapia with my bokashi
    scraps… I looked it up and giving em1 directly to fish is beneficial.. but does
    anyone think the fermentation process will harm the fish? bokashi bran
    is good for Em.. scraps can feed Em… seems like it may work.

  5. dirt and worms on top of cloth to keep it out
    of the irrigation*

  6. Hello all,
    I would like to address #3 and #4. The posts about fish water in the worm bin. I would like to say that I have quite a bit of experience with keeping aquariums. nH3 is only present in tanks that have not been cycled. I mean to say in the water column. Once ‘cycled’ the bacteria in the tank quickly turn the ammonia into nitrites, and then into nitrates. Nitrates are naturally found everywhere, soil included. They are released from decaying matter so they will be found all the time in your worm bin already, regardless of adding tank water or not.
    One thing that should be noted is that there are salts in water condition, so if a person is maintaining there Nitrate levels with a water conditioner, increasing the salinity of the tank water. This is the only thing that I would warn a person about in this case. However, it sounds to me that Steve is doing regular water changes and shouldnt have to worry about anything like that at all.
    Kind regards
    John

    • Christine
    • March 4, 2014

    Hi. I am just starting a vermi composting system, and was told at a local store that I could just add Bokashi from the bag directly to the worm bin as though I was adding soil or sand. I have not read here or elsewhere that this is OK for the worms.

    Please advise.

    • Adam
    • March 4, 2014

    Christine…bokashi is used by many to help heat up their “Hot” compost pile as an activator. Adding a small amount should be ok as long as it doesn’t affect the bin in that way. I’ve made bokashi before. It included red wheat bran, rice water (cloudy liquid from rinsing rice), and milk basically. I’ve also added small amounts to worm bins with no problem (bokashi and bokashi compost). Adding the grains can help fatten the worms up.

    Adam

    Hamilton Organics, LLC

    • Mae
    • July 8, 2015

    Late to the party here…I had to start a new worm bucket since I moved. I have 2 -5 gallon buckets going. I put in about 1/3 of my bokashi 5 gallon bucket in each as the first layer, newer scraps, worms, newspaper. Did I put in too much Bokashi??? The bokashi had been fermenting in the bucket for a good 2.5 months (all liquid drained out) so I’m not sure if that helps or makes it worse?
    Do I need to add some garden line? If so, how much? I just really don’t want those guys to die in their new home…
    Any help appreciated!

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