I originally started drafting this post a week or so ago but encountered some technical difficulties. Resulting in my loosing half the content! I was devastated, I’ve tried to piece together what I originally wrote but it’s never quite the same. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this be it blogging or back in our college or school days. However in a strange turn of events I found out this week that it’s International Compost Awareness Week now between the Sunday 6th and Sunday 12th of May, a perfect time to post my blog entry on my composting adventures. So read on and embrace composting!
I love composting. I’d even stretch to say I’m becoming mildly obsessed with it. We take it very seriously down at 18a. I come from a long line of compost enthusiasts. My brother and I used spend many a happy summers day clambering up our fathers grassy compost heap. I was always the King of the compost castle!
Living in a flat, before we got our allotment my composting instinct had been stifled somewhat. Despite our council, Haringey, collecting garden and kitchen scraps flat blocks are sadly exempt. So when we first got our allotment, composting was one of the first things we did. In total we have 3 Compost bins of various shapes and sizes. One council open bottomed ‘Dalek’ style and two repurposed black refuse bins (with holes drilled in). Out of all three the Dalek worked best. However soon after we really got going our composting efforts began to attract unwanted guests. Rats!!
We were heartbroken. What could we do? Rats unfortunately are a common resident of suburban and urban allotments. We tried everything to keep them out. Lining the base with metal wire, burying the bin slightly, using mint as a deterrent and even flushing out the rats. But nothing worked, they kept coming back. Rats aren’t silly they never forget where they’ve had a good meal.
We were getting desperate. After a bit of research I came across a relatively new method of composting, Bokashi. Developed in Japan Bokashi (Meaning fermentation in Japanese) is the method of composting that involves fermentation. Using a special bin and bran imbedded with good bacteria, a micro-organisms which creates an anaerobic process. Basically it pickles your scraps! In our house we get through a lot of kitchen scraps so we soon fill our bokashi bin. In goes all our fruit and vegetable peelings (often mouldy bread or off cheeses to boot) with a layer of bran between additions. Taking around a fortnight to fill and another fortnight to leave to ferment further. After the two weeks fermentation we turn out our bounty into our Dalek compost bin. The results are a quite pongy, a sort of sickly sweet pickle. On first observation you might think that nothing as happened as the contents look on the whole exactly the same. But that’s the magic! Their whole microbiology has been altered, they’ve been zombified! Depending on the time of year and temperature, when buried or turned out to further compost it can completely decompose in around 2 weeks.
One rat free Bokashi-composting-nirvana year later we turned out our bin to find some lovely earthy smelling compost, we’d struck black gold! Although Bokashi composting can be expensive , you really need two bins to get a rotation going and the bran doesn’t come cheap, it’s really worked wonders for us. Despite the odd visit from a curious rodent, we’ve remained on the whole ratty free. They just don’t seem to find our zombie scraps appealing.
My musings on composting.
- Newspaper seems to absorb too much water so sluggish to compost. Especially those with heavy coloured inks.
- Strawberry crowns never seem to rot. Their invincible! They take an age to compost and may contain soil borne diseases.
- Too many onions should be avoided. They decompose slowly, I once found a whole onion in perfect condition in the bottom of my bin! Worms do not like onions or garlic so go easy on the Allium.
- Egg shells do take a long time to decompose but are an excellent source of carbon.
- Don’t be afraid to put ‘odd’ things in your bokashi bin. I put stale mouldy bread and cheese, stale dried pastas or rice, cooked leftover scraps. If it was once living anything goes! You can even put in meat and bones. Though being a vegetarian household we don’t have much call for these!
- Drain the Bokashi juice regularly. But don’t just pour away. Dilute to use as a plant feed, add to compost bin as an activator or pour it down a sink plughole as a drain unblocker.
- Keep your compost heap moist but not drenched.
- Keep your bokashi bin nice and compacted. Air is bad. When turned out it looks a bit like a vegetable terine!
- Experiment with your ‘Browns’. I’ve used all sorts; egg boxes, cardboard, jute string, paper bags, napkins, shredded paper, toilet roll tubes, hair out my hairbrush (sorry if that sounds gross), Dust from the vacuum cleaner, jute sacks and other natural fibres.
- Comfrey leaves, chicken poop pellets, (ahem) urine and Bokashi bin juice all make excellent activators.
- Love your worms.
A good article of Bokashi Composting by Alys Fowler for the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/27/bokashi-bin-compost-alys-fowler
A rather good post on Fennel & Fern about Bokashi http://www.fennelandfern.co.uk/blog/2012/03/24/bokashi-composting/
100 things to compost. http://greenslist.net/post/19732769272/100-things-to-compost