Well, it wouldn’t quite be summer without a few curveballs, so instead of doing a traditional summer recipe with sweet corn, peaches, or tomatoes, today we’re going to learn all about composting, and not just any kind of composting, we’re going to learn about Bokashi composting which is great for people with small living/cooking areas that can’t have a large compost tumbler outside or may not even have any greenspace of their own where they live. The kit is also a little more involved and requires at least 3-4 weeks of setup, but given that it is summer, this could be a great way to keep your kids engaged with a project during the summer.
This recipe was originally developed as part of our Kids Kits 2021 program, with financial support from Community Foundation of East Central Illinois and Office of the Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs.
- Bokashi Bran
- 3-5 Gallon Bucket with Drain and Lid
- Large Plastic Bag
- Plate (that fits inside bucket)
- Additional Container for Scraps
INSTRUCTIONS - GETTING STARTED
- Lightly sprinkle the Bokashi bran onto the bottom of the bucket; a light dusting is all that is needed (i.e. do not fully cover the bottom with the bran).
- Add your first layer of food scraps/waste to the bucket (on top of the light dusting of bran). The first layer should be about 1-inch thick, so if you need to collect scraps for a couple of days, do that before starting. Smaller scraps or pieces of food waste break down faster, so cut larger pieces, like banana peels or pieces of bread, into 1-inch pieces or smaller before putting them into the bucket.
- Lightly sprinkle the first layer with Bokashi bran - just a light dusting, not a solid layer. If your first layer of scraps contains any meat, dairy, fats or oil-heavy foods, sprinkle some extra bran over those scraps.
- Lightly stir up the contents to distribute the Bokashi bran (and the microbes that are on it) throughout your layer of scraps.
- Open a plastic bag, like a large ziplock or trash bag, and put it in the bucket on top of the scraps like it was a trashcan. Cover the food scraps and bran mixture with the plastic bag and then using a plate, a frisbee, or anything else laying around that is relatively flat, fits in the bucket, and won’t break if you push on it a little bit, push down on the waste scraps with your hands using the plastic bag as a barrier and the flat object for uniform compression. After pressing down, you can place something heavy in or on top of the plastic bag to create consistant weighted compression, but that is not necessary. NOTE: Compressing the contents ensures adequate contact between the food scraps and the microbes on the Bokashi bran. It also helps to remove any air spaces between the materials and forces any extra liquid in the system to drain lower.
- After compressing the waste scraps and bran mixture, put the lid on the bucket and put it somewhere dark and cool, like under your sink, in the back of your pantry, or even in your basement.
INSTRUCTIONS - “DAILY” ROUTINE
- Add more food scraps and bran over the next few weeks, repeating steps 2-6 from above each time you add another layer of waste. You’ll want to open the bucket as little as possible so try collecting your food in a different container that lives on your counter or in your refrigerator and add scraps to the bucket once a day or every other day. If your bucket starts to smell bad you need to add more bran to your next layer.
- Drain the liquid from the bucket every day. You can pour the liquid down the drain or use it to fertilize any house plants or herbs you may be growing.
- Once you’ve filled the bucket with composting food scraps and waste, seal the lid, label and date the bucket, and let the bucket sit for two weeks. Place the bucket in a location where it can be left alone and untouched for the entire two weeks.
INSTRUCTIONS - WRAPPING IT UP
- After your two weeks have past, create a trench in the soil in your blue tub. Drain most of the liquid from your bucket. Pour the remaining contents of the bucket into the trench and cover with soil. The soil should create a ‘donut’ around the bucket contents. Press lightly on the top of the soil to remove any large air gaps. Put the lid on your blue bin and let it sit for 4 weeks or until the last week of class. Ideally you should mix some of the soil in with the bucket contents but you need a third container to do this properly. Do your best to incorporate a little soil with the bucket contents. But all of this should still be fully incased in plain soil.
If you want to take your composting to the next level, keep a Daily Composting Journal. Keep records of the food scraps that you are adding to the bucket every day or every other day. When you are writing your entry for the day think about anything that was different today than in previous days. You’ll also want to consider what is the same. If you start to have any problems, record those too. Here are some questions to help guide your journal entries:
- Did you collect the scraps in a separate container?
- When did you open the bucket to add the new scraps?
- Did you add bran at this time?
- Did you compress the contents?
- Did you drain the liquid?
- Did you look anything up online to assess a problem or get a better understanding about what you were seeing?
- What did you do to solve the problem?
You’ll also want to: mark/note the date you fill the bucket and seal it, the date you transfer the composting contents out of your bucket, as well as your recorded observations from the final stage of the process. You can use the very basic form below for each entry or create one of your own.
Daily Composting Journal [TEMPLATE] EXAMPLE DATE: 09/02/21 Sprinkled bran on bottom of bucket, food scraps collected in bowl on counter. [coffee grounds, tea leaves, tomato pieces, carrot ends, apple cores]. Added to bucket before bed. FOOD ADDED: Yes BRAN ADDED: Yes CONTENTS COMPRESSED: Yes DRAINED LIQUID: N/A