An easy way to compost all year... and why you should

I’m a late bloomer.

I was in my mid-50s when I realized I’d inherited my father’s green thumb. Growing up as a certified city girl, no one who knew me was more surprised than I was to discover just how much I enjoy playing in the dirt.

Long before Retirement Divas was born, growing my own vegetables as a way to save money made sense. Not to mention the fact that they taste MUCH better than the more expensive ones I buy. Subsequently being diagnosed with multiple food and chemical sensitivities, the need to eat organic food as much as possible has pushed DIY organic gardening from a hobby to a necessity.

Isn’t it interesting how we sometimes end up on the right path even before we knew where we were headed?

I decided early on that square foot gardening was the best option for me. I read a lot about it, but found a book called All New Square Foot Gardening II: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space to be the best resource, covering everything from planning a garden to building garden boxes and blending ingredients to make a special “secret sauce” soil.

Next was discovering the benefits of composting. I found that not only could I save money by recycling my kitchen, yard, and garden waste, but compost is a great fertilizer for my garden too. But it didn’t take long to learn that composting the old-school way just wasn’t going to work for me. So I that's when I discovered, Bokashi.

I’ll be posting a lot more about gardening, including Bokashi composting, since it’s a very cool solution in the Retirement Divas toolkit, but since I’m planting my spring garden now, it seemed like a good time to share the basics.

In a nutshell, Bokashi is a process of composting that starts indoors and can be done year-round. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. It doesn’t require a lot of space, it doesn’t make your house smell bad, you can use lots of kitchen waste that you can’t use in traditional outdoor composting (nearly all of it, in fact), it doesn’t attract wildlife or rodents, and it produces beautiful brown gold for your garden.

A Bokashi kit, a small space to keep in indoors, and a place outdoors to store your compost are the only things you need to get started. I've been using this one for years. In fact, I use it so much that I have two so that I can start another batch while the first batch is fermenting. As I was writing this post I realized that the Bokashi that I've been using in grain-form is now available in liquid form, which seems like it would be much easier to use, and around the same price. I just ordered it.

The smaller the food waste that you start with, the faster composting can occur, so I have a habit of dicing my food waste before adding it to my compost bin. When I'm chopping a lot of food, I use a vegetable dicer to make the process easier and faster. An an important tip I learned the hard way... unless you're an experienced chef, DO NOT use a mandarin slicer!

I also save time by storing chopped/diced food items in a small compost bin that fits perfectly on my refrigerator door. It’s small, dishwasher-safe, and holds the right amout of kitchen waste to layer in the Bokashi bin. When it’s full, I dump it into the Bokashi bin and add bokashi. When the Bokashi bin is full, I let it sit undisturbed for about 2 weeks, and then move it outside.

While the food is fermenting, you may also want a small plastic jar with a lid to empty the compost juice from the bottom of the Bokashi bin every few days. When heavily diluted, it makes a great compost tea, an organic fertilizer that can be used water your plants and veggies.

There are a lot of options for final outdoor processing and storing your compost, depending on how much space you have, how much you want to spend on a compost storage solution, how handy you are, and your tolerance for critters. I've tried several methods, but my hands-down favorite is a 3-bin system, which I'll discuss in another post.

One more thing... recently when clearing brush from my yard, I had a composting epiphany. There’s another source of free compost material that I’ve been overlooking… overgrown branches and vines, dead plants, and fallen leaves that I’ve either been cutting and piling up for our annual neighborhood clean-up roving dumpsters or bagging and including with my weekly trash pick-up. What a waste, but not any more!

Living our best lives,