Bokashi Composting

As you may recall, Enlaces recently purchased land to develop a permacultural home base in Tecuanipan. The site will eventually become our office, volunteer residence, and guest house for the groups that visit, as well as a demonstration project of sustainability. In early July we planted amaranth, a grain that was a staple part of the indigenous diet in Mexico until the Spaniards eliminated it for its association with sacrificial ceremonies. Along with promoting the use of the grain itself, we are attempting to fortify the soil, and consequently have been preparing a type of compost called bokashi to spread on the crop.  When high school students from Brophy in Arizona and Creighton in Nebraska visited in late July, they helped us prepare the compost, which then had to sit for twenty days and is just about ready to apply.

Brophy guys, Ismael and Miguel adding corn and hay to make the compost

Bokashi means “fermented organic matter” in Japanese.  The method of bokashi we are describing is an anaerobic one, which makes it more universally versatile in urban or business settings because it doesn’t give off an odor or attract insects.   Bokashi enriches the soil for any type of crop or plant. It is economical and can be crafted from mostly local materials. Additionally, the process only takes about 15 to 20 days, whereas a cycle of organic compost from food scraps can take about 6 to 8 months to decompose.

Ingredients:

– 2 potato sacks of fresh animal excrement

-2 potato sacks of sifted vegetable soil

-2 potato sacks of wheat hay, grass or fodder

– half a potato sack of coals or particularly small corn cobs (olote?)

– 8 kilos of ground up grain

-1 kilo of sugar or brown sugar

-100 grams of bread yeast or 5 liters of pulque

-water – necessary to humidify all of the ingredients

The fermentation of the sugar and the yeast allow the other matierials like the hay, which would normally take significantly longer, to decompose at a much quicker rate. The process functions at very high temperatures (you can often see steam coming from the middle when you turn the bokashi).

First, mix the fertilizer, the hay, the grain and the soil. Then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients (apart from the yeast and sugar) moving the mixture from one pile to the other. Mix well the yeast and sugar in a bucket of water. When you are ready to mix everything together, begin to pour the moisture over the fertilizer, mixing it again from one pile to another until all of the ingredients are wet and water droplets emerge from the combination (but not much more). The pile should be about half a meter high, at which point you will leave it to ferment for 24 hours and then turn it once a day for the next twenty days. You want the bokashi to be about 120 degrees Farenheit, and if it climbs to 175, begin turning the bokashi once in the morning and once in the evening.

Finished bokashi should be the same temperature as its surrounding environment, have a gray-clear color, and a dry, sandy consistency.

It’s best to put organic fertilizer on at the moment of planting so that as soon as the roots develop they come into contact with the fertilizer. Organic matter isn’t as soluble as chemical fertilizer, which allows the compost to stand its ground (so to speak) against the rain. For that reason, organic fertilizer should be put down at the time of planting so that the roots can dig into the good stuff.

The Enlaces boys, Arturo, Diego, Alexis and Sergio help turn the bokashi while Sergio Senior supervises.

You can plant with bokashi in 2 ways:

-Place a large handful of the bokashi at the base of the hole and cover it with a little bit of dirt. Plant the seeds and cover them as you normally would.

-You can also apply the bokashi to each stalk of corn and be sure that when the plow passes, the bokashi is integrated into soil and not taking in direct sunlight.

Tips:

–          You must only wet the mixture at the moment you begin to mix the bokashi.

–          You have to turn the bokashi very well to regulate the temperature.

–          The bokashi must be protected from the wind, sun and rain.

–          As long as the bokashi is protected, you can save it for a number of months.

Our neighbor, Don Alfredo, explains the art of turning bokashi to the Enlaces crew.

Creighton boys ceremoniously top the compost to begin the fermentation process.

And that’s the story of bokashi. The students helped mix the compost and turn it daily during their time here. We were appreciative of their work in every task, but especially for this experiment as it is a method of composting that we hadn’t tried before, and symbolizes the first steps in providing a good foundation for our new land.

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About Community Links International

Community Links is an environmental, service-learning, immersion, volunteer, and international educational organization.
This entry was posted in Mexico, Organic Farming, Our Ecological Community Center - Tecuanipan, Mexico, Service-Learning Trips. Bookmark the permalink.

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