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A Way to Speed Up Composting Process


This image provided by Bokashi Living shows kitchen scraps being added to a bokashi composting bucket. (bokashiliving.com via AP)
A Way to Speed Up Composting Process
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

The key to healthy plants is healthy soil. And the best way to improve soil is by using compost.

Compost is decayed, or broken down, organic matter used as fertilizer. It helps heavy clay soil drain water. And it helps loose sandy soil keep water. Compost gives off nutrients and microbes to feed plants and increase their energy. It also decreases the need for traditional fertilizer.

But homemade compost takes time and effort. You must turn it around often to give it oxygen. And you must keep it wet -- but not too wet. Also, compost can take up to a year to make.

Now there is an easier and faster way to compost.

Bokashi is a composting method that uses microorganisms to break down organic matter. Made in Japan in the 1980s, bokashi replaces the oxygen-fueled decay process with fermentation. In other words, an enzyme breaks down the organic matter.

With this method, you can have compost ready to use in as little as 10 days. Plus, the process creates a product that has more nutrients than traditional compost.

Traditional composting is usually done outdoors. But Bokashi composting can be done in a small, indoor space.

The only equipment needed is a 19-liter container with a spout and tight-fitting top. To start the fermentation process, you need a bag of inoculant or microbes. Bokashi inoculants usually contain wheat bran, wheat germ, or sawdust. To get started, you can buy a kit with supplies or research how to do it yourself.

Add kitchen waste, such as vegetables skins and eggshells, to the container in five-centimeter layers. Put a small handful of inoculant over each layer as you go. Put the lid on tightly between additions. You might cover the layers with a plate or plastic wrap before closing the container to reduce oxygen.

For bokahi composting, food waste is covered with microorganisms, June 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
For bokahi composting, food waste is covered with microorganisms, June 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

When the container is full, take the liquid from the spout every couple of days. Put about five milliliters of that “compost tea” into about one liter of water.

Then put the highly nutritious liquid on garden or houseplant soil. Be sure to not put it directly on leaves or flowers. And use the liquid within a day or so of collecting it.

Meat and dairy food leftovers are not put into traditional compost. It does not get hot enough to kill harmful bacteria and parasites. However, these types of food waste can be added to the bokashi container. The microorganisms in the bokashi container will destroy any germs in the animal products.

Ingredients should be added and the top put back on quickly. You want to avoid too much oxygen getting into the container.

The tightly closed container should not give off any smells into the room. But you may notice a sweet-and-sour smell when the lid is opened. This is normal.

This image shows layers of kitchen scraps covered with bran inoculant in a specialized composting bucket. (bokashiliving.com via AP)
This image shows layers of kitchen scraps covered with bran inoculant in a specialized composting bucket. (bokashiliving.com via AP)

A bad smell, however, means that something has gone wrong.

If you smell a rotting-egg odor or if dark-colored mold is seen within the container, try adding more inoculant. If the situation is not better within a couple of days, throw away the material. Clean the container well and start over.

When the fermentation process is complete — in as little as 10 days — the resulting organic matter will still look like the original material. But it will decompose quickly. It can be buried in holes in a new garden bed at least two weeks before planting. Be sure to cover the compost completely with soil.

You can also add the material to the center of a traditional or worm composting bin or pile. Mix well with the contents and everything will break down more.

The idea of creating “pre-compost” only to add it to a traditional compost pile might seem strange. However, consider this: adding bokashi-decomposed ingredients will save you many months. It offers you a fast track to finished compost.

If you do not have a traditional compost pile, you can finish your bokashi compost by digging a hole and burying the material in one place in your garden. After two weeks, you can dig up what you need and use it as you would regular compost.

But be careful that the bokashi material is safely away from plants. Take care to avoid direct contact with roots. The fermented product is very acidic and will burn the plants.

For the same reason, this fermented compost should not be used as mulch unless it has been additionally composted using traditional methods.

And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report.

I’m Anna Matteo. And I’m Dan Friedell.

Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for The Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted this story for the VOA Learning English.

Quiz - A Way to Speed Up The Composting Process

Quiz - A Way to Speed Up The Composting Process

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Words in This Story

compost – n. a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land

decay – v. to go through or cause to go through decomposition

fermentation – n. chemical breaking down of a substance (as in the souring of milk or the formation of alcohol from sugar) produced by an enzyme and often accompanied by the formation of a gas

enzyme – n. any of various complex proteins produced by living cells that bring about or speed up reactions (as in the digestion of food) without being permanently altered

spout – n. a projecting tube or lip from which a liquid (such as water) issues

inoculant – n. material used for inoculation

kit – n. a set of tools

bin – n. a box, frame, crib, or enclosed place used for storage

fast track – n. a course leading to rapid advancement or success

mulch – n. a covering (as of straw or sawdust) spread over the ground to protect the roots of plants from heat, cold, or evaporation, prevent soil loss, control weeds, enrich the soil, or keep fruit (as strawberries) clean

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