Bocashi – one version of it.

Bocashi is a compost amendment for your soil. It’s like compost on speed or anabolics. I tried to follow the recipe on the book “El ABC de la agricultura orgánica, fosfitos y panes de piedra” by Jairo Restrepo Rivera and Julius Hensel. I say “I tried” because I did not manage to get hold of all the ingredients and because I am a bit chaotic and find it hard to follow recipes, always. I did follow it the first time though so I felt like I could tweak it a bit this time (I’m an expert now right?)

The recipe calls for:

  • Sifted soil (2 bags)
  • Manure (chicken, cow, and other options – not cat, dog, nor human though). I used chicken. (2 bags)
  • Rice husk (almost 2 bags)
  • Charcoal, finely crushed. I made it myself from bamboo, acacia and salix leftovers (almost 1 bag)
  • Rice meal/rice powder (the discarded powder after the cleaning process). I didn’t have any. I used wheat bran instead (not at all the same I guess – aprox. 1 bucket)
  • Sifted ashes (aprox. 5 handfulls)
  • Sifted Rock powder (aprox. 1 bucket)
  • Forest top soil/bocashi from a previous batch as an inoculant to get the mixture going (almost 1 bucket – I used homemade commercial Bokashi – see further down)
  • Fresh Yeast (100grs)
  • Molasses (1 liter)
  • Water – chlorine free (aprox. 20 liters). You need to press the mixture in your hand and it has to stay together after relasing it and it should not drip any water. The book calls it “fist test humidity”

The buckets room 20 liters. The bags are grain bags used when harvesting grains or for fertilizers. Same as the ones used for malt for example.

I’m afraid I cannot give the exact amounts since the kids helped me and it all got out of control plus i had to improvise due to the soil being so wet. I will do a better job next time.

The ingredients. The buckets are 20 liters in capacity. I used almost all of what you see here. Clockwise from the top: Coal, water, wheat bran with a bag of yeast, ash, rock powder, wheat bokash as inculanti, one of the bags of rice husks, and half a bucket of extra, drier soil. All of this plus two bags of chicken manure from a friend, and two bags of sifted soil

I had one main difficulty and that was that my 2 bags of sifted soil which I had prepared in advance got wet so it was heavy and got clumpy very easily. I decided to use our cement mixer so I had to mix the whole thing in batches and the proportions were therefore not perfect every time. To counteract this, i did one shoveling of the whole pile after it was ready. Also the chicken manure had a lot of dried grass in it so the mixture was a bit too “strawy” in the end.
My own tweaks to the recipe were:

  • I used both ash (from the sauna stove, mainly acacia and salix) and rock powder even though the original recipe only calls for one of those two. The rock powder is probably a bad translation. What it is is very fine ground rock from a quarry 3 kms away and is clearly very rich in minerals.
  • I used another thing that is also called Bokashi as inoculant. I made it myself copying the one commercially available for home composting. The commercial kit is a setup that consists of a special bucket where one ads food scraps which are then layered with bokashi and therefore supposed to compost kitchen scraps faster. This bokashi is made mixing wheat bran, yeast, molasses, ashes, rock powder, water and salt and left to ferment for a month or so. I have been using it as a compost accelerator in my outside compost bin and in my previous bocashi and it has at least not harmed any of them. I guess you can leave it out if you don’t have it/don’t want to make it. For me it is one of the easy things to make because I can get cheap wheat bran at the mill in carmelo.

Once finished the Bocashi pile is supposed to be shoveled back and forth twice a day. I made a small pile but I still didn’t want to do all that shoveling. I’d rather use the time and energy on something else (at least try and see if it still works without all that shoveling). So I monitored the temperature all the time and shoveled it for the first time after one day. And then basically continued to shovel it once a day every other day. Yes. Much less than the required but it works for me. Also this batch was a bit on the dry side because I was too careful adding water given that the soil was so wet.

Day 1 in the afternoon

The temperature in the pile was

Days 1-2: 49° C

Day 3: 69°C – shoveled once

Day 3. Looked really good. All the greyish area are funghi and other microorganisms doing their job

Day 4: 20-25° C
Day 5: no temp record. Shoveled

Day 6 to Day 17: From 44° C to 19° C. Shoveled aprox every other day for 30 days. I got sick in between and was a bit away so I could not spoil it too much but the mixture seems to have composted. I have used it now as seedling soil after sifting it. We’ll see how it goes.

Final shoveling. 30 days later. You can still see a lot of grass from the manure. It did not all compost, but I guess it will be ok anyhow.

I owe you a good picture of the final product. I could not manage to get one yet. I might opt for a picture of very happy seedlings when they come up.

Another use I have given to this amendment is to put a few shovels of it when transplanting fruit trees. I did it some 6 months ago with my kiwis, grapefruit, apple, apricot and plum trees. They seemed happy until the ants ate them. This is not hard science obviously and very subjective but when I really saw an excellent result of this thing was with last years seedlings. I usually had a lot of trouble getting seeds to sprout even though I used expensive imported peat and all kinds of stuff. But with sifted Bocashi it was like magic. The tomatoes, aubergines, bell peppers, kale, broccoli and cabbage loved it! Magnus’ chillies did too.

2 Comments

  1. The end result looks really good! I am far behind from even a rookie in this subject, but if I were a plant I’m pretty sure I’d love having a “taste” of that bocashi.
    The gang and me haven’t yet tried it (to be honest I didn’t know such composting method existed before reading your article!) but we’ll give it a go for sure in the future.
    So far our composting technique is basically throwing all organics to a pile and cover it with dirt hehe. We do try following “the basics” of composting though such as adding dry elements to it to balance the wet ones (ash, paper, cardboard) and do the occasional shoveling every now and then. We haven’t yet used the compost (or paid that much attention to it really…) so I’ve no idea if it’s right, but we’ll find out soon enough!
    We’re building two small greenhouses in the next few weeks and we’ll use some of the compost to mix it with the dirt so we will see if it is good or not.
    Anyway, I liked your article and love what you guys are doing in general! You’re an inspiration and a role model to us so keep doing what you do! Wish you all the best with those seeds!
    Cheers from Artilleros, Colonia.

    • Andres!!! Hola! Good. Compost will become compost sooner or later and it sounds like you are doing it right. We can get together in the future and do a Bocashi if you want to. I will make more in the spring, now its too cold and it does not make sense. And yes, it is working like hell. Super power.

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