Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Wild Fermented Composting


Inspiration: Bokashi, Wild Life Gardeners, Tomatoville,  Sandor Katz

Concept: Make a cheap, and beneficial compost system that utilizes my knowledge of composting, decomposition, fermentation, and ecology. Support local microfauna. This method should save hundreds of dollars (depending on quantity you make) compared to buying the finished product from someone.

So this is something that I will be starting in the next week or so, so it's a work in progress. Here's the concept: in the 1970s someone created a mixture of microorganisms that excel at fermenting food waste to quicken the composting process. This process is called Bokashi, translated as fermented organic waste. I like this process in all ways, except that the initial slurry of microorganisms is a trademark product and there seems to be general assumption that this is the only mixture of organisms that would work.

What I know:

  • There are more organisms that can efficiently ferment organic matter than we can count.
  • Ecology teaches of the benefits of increased biodiversity, increased complex, and robust ecosystems, and of mutualism.
  • Decomposition occurs by specific organisms using specific enzymes that break things down. Some species are more specific about their enzymes than others.
  • Wild fermentation utilizes a multitude of organisms to 'predigest' organic matter, making it easier for it to be broken down later.
  • Simple probiotics found in common day ferments have been shown do dramatically benefit plant growth when used as a mixture in watering/soil amendment strategies.
  • Soil is composed of minerals/rocks, air, water, and living organisms.
  • Microorganisms are crucial for healthy soil, and help in countless ways.
  1. Gather all the different fermenting friends around my house. At this moment, the ones i can easily find are yogurt, sourdough starter, ginger bug (ginger ale starter), fruit drink starters, sauerkraut, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, wild yeasted mead, partially decomposed compost, and humus (finished compost).
    1. These organisms are quite varied because they are mainly wild fermented, but mainly contain lactobacilli, wild yeasts other than simple saccharomyces, actinomycetes, acetic acid bacteria, and maybe some others...
  2. Mix these all together in my small carboy. Mix with water and molasses. Put a air lock on top, and let sit for 1-2 weeks. This allows these populations to increase in size and coexist if they can.
  3. Soak shredded newspaper, or sawdust, in the liquid. This is a substrate for you to use later to ferment your food waste. Let this ferment in an environment without oxygen for 1-2 weeks, ie. a bucket with a lid, or ziplock bags. 
  4. Dehydrate the newspaper or sawdust. This doesn't kill the organisms, but puts them in a dormant stage so you can use the newspaper as an inoculant for months afterwards.

After this follow regular steps to bokashi.  I might write these out as well. 

I'm going to update this over time. Adding pictures and amounts.


  • The end product of Bokashi still needs to decompose further, but because it's fermented, complex organic compounds are now in simpler forms, ie. easier to digest. So, I'm going to be using the end product as food for my worms because it will be easier for them to eat. Normally they need the help of bacteria and fungi to break a lot of the food down anyway.

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