Bokashi Gardening – Fermented Food Waste, Pet Poop, and Yard Waste make a Great Garden

Dragon Flies in my Garden?

We had a cold and long wet winter in the Pacific Northwest and summer was a long time coming.  It seemed as if everyone with a garden noted plants were slow to grow, failing to thrive, and stunted due to the cold wet early summer.

I’ve been fermenting all kinds of waste material and putting it back to the soil recovering nutrients that would have otherwise ended up in a dumpster or landfill.  It’s been so easy and I no longer ever think of putting anything organic into the garbage can.   I have literally turned my garbage can off.  No more trips with smelly garbage to mess with.

I don’t add any fertilizers to my soil and I avoid pesticides in general.  My plants are doing well……had a bumper crop of peas this year and corn looks good too.  What I really like about the garden is the rich texture and colors so evident this time of year.

I’ve noticed another critter coming each year and it is spending a lot of time in my garden.  Dragon flies seem to love flitting about adding even more color and interest and I believe they are far more numerous now than in years past.

Although I’ve never seen anyone talk about the dragon fly as a sign of good health, I believe they likely signal all is well.  Their larvae feed on a lot of bugs and larvae in ponds and the adults are great hunters feeding on midges and flies.  I like to think they are protecting my plants….soldiers attacking predators that might have otherwise gone after my vibrant plants.

In Japan the dragon fly is apparently admired and a symbol of courage, strength and happiness.  So it seems kind of fitting that the dragon flies are doing well in my Bokashi fed garden.  Bokashi for those who don’t already know is the Japanese word which in translation means fermented organic material.

One of the points we’ve made frequently is that you can Bokashi ferment literally anything organic.

Bokashi – Dig it! 10 Reasons to get started

Previously we spoke about food waste and pet poop fermenting.  You can also ferment yard waste including grass clippings and weeds.

Bokashi Fermenting Food Waste:

It is so easy to ferment your food scraps.  And it’s a good feeling to know that in the process you save money on your garbage bill, get rich soil in return, and feed your plants natural nutrients.  No more smelly garbage, fruit flies, rats or vermin to contend with.  But you’ve got to put the fermented material back in the ground.

Bokashi fermenting involves mixing the food scraps with a microbial culture mix in a specialized fermenter that excludes oxygen.  The microbes are active when the oxygen levels are brought to very low levels where other microbes perish.  The microbes release enzymes (chemicals) that breakdown food waste to a form that is then easily metabolized by soil microbes.  It is a two step process.

Fermenting is a pickling process. The food scraps are first pickled in a specialized fermenter, and then the fermented product is put it in the ground.  It is 10 times faster than composting and much easier.  Greenhouse gases are eliminated.  You end up with virtually 100% of the waste material going back to the soil where it is broken down even further.

There are many advantages to this method of disposing of food scraps.  Nutrients are put right back into the soil and the population of soil microbes expands in numbers and diversity.  Plants do very well in this kind of soil and you no longer need to use fertilizers and pesticides to get vibrant healthy plants.

You don’t have to take the garbage out in the cold and rainy weather and won’t have to empty your fermenter for weeks with a proper fermenting device……………but eventually, depending on how much waste you generate you are going to make that trip to the garden (or planter box) to bury the fermented product to feed your hungry soil microbes.

If the weather is cold, and the ground is frozen, most people just dump the batch of fermented food scraps into a large container outside with a lid.  It is perfectly okay to let it freeze too.  You can fill a container or two all winter if you like and await the spring thaw.

When the ground is once again soft, work the fermented product into the soil and you will observe the soil microbes rapidly metabolize all of the wasted material in short order.  All of the nutrients go right to the soil.  Your vegetable garden will be great……..and nothing was lost in waiting out the winter.  If you have properly fermented the food waste you will have no smelly garbage in the outside container.  Animals will not bother it.

Bokashi fermenting dog and cat poop?

Pet waste is generally alkaline and carries with it a number of potential parasites and pathogens that can get into the water supply.  It is an important point; how to safely dispose of pet waste without contaminating the ground water.

We have constructed a special fermenter with an accelerant to handle pet waste (Bokashi PetCycle Waste Disposal System) and use the same microbial culture mix in the fermenters to eliminate odors and convert waste into nutrients for the soil.

If you are collecting the waste in plastic bags and putting it in the garbage cans, it will end up in a landfill where it will with the plastic cause a lot of problems.  Methane gas will be produced and the potential for ground water contamination persists.  Those plastic bags will stay around for thousands of years.

If you put it in the PetCycle™ disposal system to ferment, the smell will be eliminated and the waste material will be converted to a high nitrogen rich “pickled” waste that can then be put safely into the soil where you want to grow ornamental plants.  Even though it looks awful…like gravy………it is not smelly and is taken up by the soil microbes quickly leaving rich nutrient soil for your plants.  You mix it in the soil in a hole in the same way you process bokashi fermented food scraps after the fermenting is complete.

Build your own Yard Waste Fermenter:

Grass clippings and yard waste take up a lot of room and do not rapidly compost.  If you don’t mix enough carbon material with the cut grass it will soon turn dark and foul in your compost pile.  The slimy black matted grass clippings are then hard to deal with because they don’t mix well in the soil or do it any good.

With an anaerobic conversion kit and Bokashi culture mix you can make your own fermenter and then easily deal with those grass clippings.

As with the food waste fermenting you will need to layer the clippings into the fermenter.  Yard waste requires an accelerant in addition to the culture mix to get it started in fermenting because yard waste chemistry, unlike food waste chemistry, won’t start the fermenting process without assistance.

Begin by wetting waste down as it goes into the fermenter.  With each layer of waste (grass clippings or weeds) you add powder culture mix and then spritz the layer with a dilute solution of accelerant (

If you have an air tight fermenter, you will find all of the yard waste is broken down in approximately 7 – 10 days and ready to be mixed with soil.

You will then mix it well with soil covering it with about 3 inches of soil to finish off the cycle…back to soil.  Fermented grass has a fresh sweat vinegar smell and quickly disappears after mixing with the soil.

If you want to add twigs and small branches to the fermenter, shred them first and wet them completely before mixing with the other yard waste.  In the images below you can see how weeds and waste were packed into the fermenter with a sprinkle of culture mix.  The anaerobic toter was then sealed for 7 days.

The contents of the container collapsed and darkened considerably after 7 days and on the surface white filamentous fungi were evident( see fermented yard waste image below).  This is an easy way to get away from the flies and smelly compost pile and it is a lot less work.

If you use a lot of fertilizers or pesticides or other chemicals on your lawn, then it would be wise not to bury the fermented yard waste where you plan to raise vegetables or food crops.

You can use Bokashi culture mix to convert virtually any kind of waste material that is of plant or animal origin into something great for your garden.  It is rapid, easy and efficient.  Greenhouse gases are eliminated in this process.  Vermin and insects and smelly piles are gone. No more tedious composting. Plants love it.  And if you are near ponds or lakes, I’m certain you will find dragon flies visiting your garden too.

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