What is a soil factory?
A soil factory is a place where you produce high quality nutrient rich soil. It’s your go-to place for compost and potting soils. It’s just like your bag of shop-bought compost but it’s home made and you know exactly what has gone into it!
How will a soil factory help in my garden?
A soil factory provides a great place to put your bokashi pre-compost throughout the year but can be especially useful during the winter and summer months. During the winter my ground is often too frozen and hard to dig a trench to bury my pre-compost. My soil factory provides a great place to put my pre-compost and serves as a great source of fantastic compost when spring comes around. During the summer months I like to use every possible space to grow fruits, veggies and flowers and it can be hard to find a spot to bury my pre-compost. So, once again, I turn to my soil factory for my bokashi pre-compost. I then simply go back to my soil factory whenever I need compost. Its really just like a small, portable, low-maintenance compost pile.
How to make a soil factory?
Making a soil factory is easy. There are a number of different methods for making a soil factory. Below are three of the methods we have found to be successful (in no particular order); using a container, using two (or more) compost bays or burying in the ground.
Method 1: Using a container
This method works well if space is fairly limited or you only need a small amount of compost.
Step 1. Find container
Find yourself a large plastic box with a lid. Drill a few holes in the bottom to let liquids escape. If your soil factory will be positioned on impermeable ground (such as a patio, garage or balcony), then do not drill holes in the bottom.
Step 2: Add garden soil
Next, put 3-4 inches of regular garden soil at the bottom of the container. *Tip* Try to use healthy soil with lots of life in it. The more worms and grubs the better!
Step 3: Add your bokashi pre-compost
Then you are ready to add your bokashi pre-compost. Empty the contents of your fermented bokashi kitchen composter to the container, making sure to break up any large lumps of pre-compost. Add another couple of inches of regular garden soil and mix well with a garden shovel.
Step 4: Add more garden soil
Add a few more inches of regular garden soil and place the lid on the container. The final mix of soil : bokashi pre-compost : soil should be about a third, a third, a third. The depth of each will obviously depend on the size and dimensions of your soil factory.
Put a couple of stones on the lid to weigh it down, if needed.
Step 5: Wait
Leave for 2-4 weeks and check your soil factory. It may take slightly longer for your pre-compost to break down in your soil factory than when using the trench method as there are fewer worms and other soil biota in your soil factory. Colder temperatures may also slow down the process too. You can speed the process up by mixing the contents of your soil factory every week or so. Be patient, the pre-compost will break down and you will have a soil factory full of great compost.
Step 6: Use compost or add more pre-compost
Feel free to add more pre-compost to the top of your soil factory. Remember to mix the contents each time after adding. Remove compost as needed. Remember, if you expect to need compost within 2-4 weeks, don’t add any fresh pre-compost to your soil factory. If you want a regular place to put your pre-compost and a place to constantly get compost then we would recommend setting up two soil factories.
Method 2: Using two (or more) compost bays
This is a great method if you have a small unused corner of your garden that you can set aside for your bokashi soil factory.
Step 1: Build a compost bay
This approach looks similar to a more traditional compost set-up. Build two, or three, boxes (similar to the one shown in the photo). The first box will contain garden soil, the second box will be used to layer your bokashi pre-compost and the third box (if using a third) will contain the finished compost.
These boxes should be covered to protect from the rain and should allow good airflow. The size of these boxes will depend on the amount of bokashi pre-compost your household produces and the amount of compost that you hope to create. They don’t need to be as large as a traditional compost pile as they will only be used for adding your bokashi’d food waste. 1 to 1.5 metre cubed boxes should be sufficient for most households.
Step 2: Collect garden soil
Collect some garden soil for the first box. You can add soil to this box whenever you have some old soil that needs a boost. For example, from planters and containers that need replanting.
Step 3: Add your bokashi pre-compost
Add your bokashi pre-compost to the second box. Then add a couple of inches of garden soil from the first box and mix well. Finally, add a couple more inches of garden soil from the first box.
Step 4: Repeat
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until your box is full. If you are using the three box method, you can then start layering the bokashi pre-compost and garden soil in the third box. If you are using the two box method, you should harvest your compost to make space in your box to add more bokashi pre-compost (see step 6).
Step 6: Harvesting your compost
If you are using the three bin method then harvesting your compost is simple. Once your second box is full, simply leave it for 2-4 weeks for the final bokashi pre-compost to break down. You are then ready to collect and use your finished compost as and when you need it.
If you are using the two box method. You will need to collect your finished compost from the bottom of your box. There are various ways that you can do this, but here are a few suggestions to get you started. (1) Design your box to allow access at the bottom of the box so that you can dig and remove the finished compost. (2) Don’t add bokashi pre-compost for a few weeks so that the most recent layer of bokashi pre-compost has time to fully break down. (3) Move the top layers of bokashi pre-compost to one side so that you can access the lower (finished) compost.
Method 3: Burying in the soil
Making a soil factory in the soil is really a combination of the above container soil factory and the regular trench method for burying your pre-compost.
Step 1: Choose an area
Firstly, choose an area in your garden that you don’t need for planting in the coming months.
Step 2: Bury your pre-compost
Next, use the trench method to bury your pre-compost. Rather than planting directly into this area, use this area for collecting compost to be used on the rest of your garden.
Step 3: Make a grid pattern
You can set up a grid pattern if the area is large enough. Add pre-compost in rotation to 3-4 areas in your soil factory area. This gives you a regular place to bury your pre-compost and a constant supply of compost. It also has the added benefit that you don’t need to plan your planting schedule around when your pre-compost will need to be buried.
How does a soil factory help in carbon sequestration
Great question. “…bokashi fermentation does not produce measurable gas emissions in its conversion of organic waste into a nutrient-rich end product that can be used to support plants and crops.” (Green, a pilot study comparing gaseous emissions) And if carbon isn’t being released into the atmosphere this means that more of the goodness from your food scraps is getting into your soil! Its a win-win situation!
It doesn’t matter which method you choose for burying your bokashi pre-compost; trench method, soil factory etc. The benefits of bokashi composting will be the same.
More information here: https://bokashiliving.com/reduce-your-carbon-footprint-with-bokashi/
Hope that helps!
Amazing post and so much information.i have started my bokashi bin and my first batch ready to go in soil factory.
Once it’s finished can I use that for my indoor plants pls ?
Thanks for the question. Absolutely, once the bokashi’d food waste has been assimilated into the soil factory, you can use the finished compost in your indoor plants.
I live in Toronto, Canada. We usually have at least a couple of days at, or below -10C degree. My soil factory will be located outside in that kind of environment.
My garden soil is kept inside at 22C from where I’ll bring it to the soil factory. I’ve had the bokashi for seven month and have operated it successfully thru the summer, and so far I like everything about it.
I expect that each cycle of 4“ soil / mixed 4“bokashi pre-compost and soil / 4“soil cover will freeze solid. Thus, it will not be mixed with the next cycle of the same, thru winter.
What should I expect come Springtime??
Thanks for the question. The microbes in your soil factory will go dormant at these temperatures. So very little will happen in your soil factory over the winter as you add your layers of pre-compost and warm garden soil. But there is no need to worry. Once the temperatures and soil warm up in the spring, the bokashi microbes and life in your soil will start up again. Wait 2-4 weeks after the soil has warmed up and your soil factory should be ready to use.
Happy composting 🙂
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could you please clarify what “The final mix of soil : bokashi pre-compost : soil should be about a third, a third, a third.”, means exactly? I cant make sense of it 🙂
what’s the potting mix to bokashi pre-compost ratio please?
thanks very much!
Thanks for the question. The soil factory needs to be two thirds garden soil and one third bokashi pre-compost ie a layer of soil, then a layer of pre-compost and a final layer of soil on top.
Hopefully that helps.
Happy composting 🙂
This way of composting seems pretty amazing. I have started some weeks ago with bokashi buckets and today I have started my first soil factory. I have put some biochar un the bottom of the soilfactory bucket and I have mixed the bokashi precompost with commercial bio substrate. Is this ok or should I add ground soil from my beds instead? Shall I make some holes on the bucket or not fully closing the lid is enough? Thank you so much for the post and the responses.
Great to hear that you are enjoying bokashi composting 🙂 Biochar is a great addition to your soil factory, but you should also add some good quality garden soil. It is the soil that introduces a lot of the life to the soil factory that will help break down the bokashi pre-compost quickly and effectively.
Soil factories can fail if the moisture levels get too high. So it is a good idea to add some drainage holes if you can; it depends what surface it will be sitting on. The holes can also let worms and other beneficial life in to the soil factory.
Happy composting 🙂
Hello: Thank you for your blog: I started a bokashi bin inside with 5 gal buckets.. I made my own bokashi accerlator with EM1 and newspaper, molasses and water. I wait 2 wks for the newspaper to do it’s job. I put scraps etc in my bucket and when full I made a large tote with soil and buried my fermented scraps.. I also make water kefir and had a ton of them.. so I thought why not put them in my tote to help w/nutrition and help break down.. Ever since I buried water grains in the tote I have white mold growing on top. It’s only been a wk with the tote bin, do you think I should turn it? Will it ruin the process of what is happening? I also, put a few worms I found in there. Thanks
This sounds great! The white mold on your larger tote (soil factory) is a sign that the bokashi microbes are thriving. If you mixed the bokashi pre-compost in well when you added it to your larger tote, then there is no need to mix it. However, there is no real harm in mixing the contents of the large tote if you’d like to.
Happy composting 🙂
I’ve been using a bokashi in conjunction with a soil factory container for a year or so now. The only real issue is that I get lots of pumpkin shoots coming to the surface of the soil factory. I’ve just been chopping these as they appear but would prefer to properly fix the problem instead. Any advice?
Thanks for the question. The shells of pumpkin seeds are tough. This is natures way of protecting the seeds, but also makes it harder for the bokashi microbes to access the inside of the seed. Make sure to shop or smash the pumpkin seeds before adding them to your bokashi bucket to break the hard shell so that they can’t survive the bokashi fermentation process and germinate in your soil factory.
Happy composting 🙂
I would like to start the compost bin method in my garden as I have an area behind my shed which would be fine for this but I don’t know whether the compost bins should have a base or whether they should be open ended. Can you give me any advice please?
Thanks for the question. Open ended would work best if you are adding bokashi pre-compost as this will allow the soil organisms to come up from the ground below into your compost bin and significantly speed up the decomposition process. An open ended bin will also allow excess moisture to drain and prevent your compost bin getting too wet.
Happy composting 🙂
Hello! Last week I made my first soil factory, carefully following the instructions you gave here. I used a clear storage bin, because that’s what I had on hand, but it has allowed me to see that there is moisture on the walls. I drilled many holes in the bottom for drainage. It looks like this moisture might be condensation–I live in Florida, where it is hot, humid, and rainy. I opened up the bin today after the first week, and mixed it around well. It really wasn’t too wet inside, but I added shredded paper. As I mixed, I saw some larger bits of compost were a bit moldy, mostly white but some slightly green. Some powdery mold puffing up as I mixed. It had a fairly bad smell, like diapers, but not powerfully putrid. My question is, has this factory failed? If not, what should I do? When would I know if it has failed? Thanks so much for your time! 🙂
Thanks for your questions. Moisture can be a problem in soil factories and cause them to fail. You’ve done the right thing in adding some dry material and mixing it thoroughly. Make sure that the lid is only loosely placed on the top. The purpose of the lid is to stop rain getting in, but should still allow plenty of air flow.
If possible, add another generous few inches of soil to the top of the soil factory and then check back in a few days. Give the soil factory another good mix and add more dry material, if needed.
Please ask if you have any other questions.
Happy composting 🙂
Does the red liquid drained from the bucket need to diluted before applying to plants? If so, by how much?
Yes, the bokashi tea is very acidic and should be diluted at least 1:100 before using.
We have both a worm bag and bokashi from your company. We were feeding the bokashi pre-compost to the worms but we just have too much and the worms have plenty to eat with our green scraps. So we are accumulating lots of bokashi and are ready for the soil factory. However, my boyfriend does not want to buy soil and we really can’t spare any from our small patio garden. We are ready to harvest our worm castings. Can we use worm castings instead of soil for our soil factory? I’m sure there will be some worms among the castings. We have thousands of worms as they reproduce abundantly. Thank you!!
Thanks for the question. Yes, the worm castings should work fine. As long as you can ensure that there is sufficient ‘soil’ to bokashi pre-compost (we typically recommend at least 2/3 soil to 1/3 bokashi pre-compost). If you can spare a shovel full of garden soil then that will give your soil factory a boost by adding plenty of soil life too (in addition the the worms).
Happy composting 🙂
Hi Nicki! I am about to open up my first batch of fermented bokashi. I don;’t have a soil factory set up yet, but do have a bunch of veg grow bags (ranging from 7-20 gallons) that I will be filling to plant in. I am not clear whether I could layer a couple inches of soil, my fermented bokashi, and some more soil and plant directly in the bags. Can I do this without waiting if I think there will be at least 6 inches of soil between the bokashi and the veg?
The bokashi pre-compost is acidic and can burn the roots of plants (especially of young delicate seedlings). We suggest leaving the mixed pre-compost and soil for at least 2 weeks to allow the acidity to neutralise.
Happy composting 🙂
Hi, I’m been doing a lot of research on bokashi pre-composting and I am thinking that this may be the most practical option for me to pursue composting. I currently have a raised planter on my side yard that is full of dirt and weeds. I was thinking that this might be perfect for me to utilize as a soil factory. However, after reading others questions and the responses I am starting to think that it may not work. The current raised planter doesn’t have a lid, and would be exposed to direct sunlight and or the rain. Because it would be exposed to the elements does this make it an unsuitable candidate for a soil factory?
Hi, Thanks for the question. The bokashi pre-compost can be mixed directly in to your planter. Burying the bokashi pre-compost directly in the soil is one of the easiest and most popular methods; often referred to as the ‘trench’ method. There a useful video on our youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om8eA_0cq04
Happy composting 🙂
I have a 9 liters bokashi bucket.
For the first time I have started a soil factory. Now I am curious if the 9 liters will shrink ? I fear I used to dry soil to mix with the fermented stuff but I hope for the best.
My motivation gets stronger if the volume from the bokashi bucket does not shrink a lot after some weeks in the soil factory !
Thanks for all the good advice given here.
Hi, Thanks for the question. No, the volume of the bokashi pre-compost should not change significantly when added to the surrounding soil (or added to a soil factory). Traditional composting can lose up to 50% of its carbon to the atmosphere as the organic waste composts. However, this same loss of volume is not seen when using the quicker process of bokashi composting; much more of the carbon stays in the soil where you want it.
I put my pre-compost in a plastic box with garden soil with lid on as soil factory and turn it once a week or so. A couple of questions:
– I put any creepy crawlies I found in the garden inside the soil factory including snail, slug and wood lice. On inspection few days later, snails seem to have died and slugs tried to escape. I thought they’d enjoy the food inside and helps to further break things down. Should I not put them in there?
– a few pieces of bones are taking longer to break down, 2 weeks now and they still seem pretty solid.is there a way I can hasten them decomposition of bones or should I fish them out and add them to the next batch of pre-compost?
Thanks for the questions. The best life to add to your soil factory is the life that you find in your soil. Try and find a patch of soil with loads of worms etc and add a couple of shovelfuls of that to your soil factory. I’m unsure why the snails and slugs don’t enjoy the soil factory. They typically like and thrive around acidic soils. Maybe the soil factory is too exposed as slugs and snails prefer damp, cold, sheltered areas of the garden?
Bones, and other harder to compost items, will take longer than 2 weeks to break down. The best way to speed up decomposition is to break them down. After a while in the soil, you should be able to break the bones by hand, or try breaking them with a hammer or shovel. Alternatively, you can just keep mixing them in to your soil factory and they will break down eventually.
Happy composting 🙂
I am start filling kitchen waste to Bokashi Bucket.I am planning to dump the pre-compost around my coconut tree and Banana tree soil., Is that advisable? Understand the pre-compost is acidic in nature and cannot use in garden and vegetable plants directly.
Thanks for the question. Yes, you are fine to bury the bokashi pre-compost directly in the soil around your trees. Just be careful that it doesn’t get too close to the trees’ roots. As you say, the bokashi pre-compost is acidic but it neutralizes quickly after being buried.
Happy composting 🙂
Hi, just opened my soil factory after a week or so of not being able check on it bc of the California wildfires (miserable air quality in the Bay Area). There is white mold (which I know is good) but also white/off-white maggots and fruit flies/eggs. The soil mix was pretty dry and it has a different smell than before (not like vinegar). Is it ok/salvageable? Or, has it gone the wrong way? Any advice to move forward would be awesome and appreciated. Thank you!
Thanks for the question. It sounds like there may have been a few pockets of bokashi pre-compost that either hadn’t fully fermented or weren’t mixed in with the surrounding soil sufficiently. We would recommend giving the soil factory a good mix through. Chop up any visible pieces of bokashi pre-compost and finish with a couple of inches of garden soil. Don’t worry about the maggots and fruit flies; they can be pretty disgusting but they don’t cause any harm.
Happy composting 🙂
Thank you for the confirmation that it’s okay! I did mix it up a bit but noticed that maggots congregate (very gross) and the different smell is very strong, where there are bigger pieces of precompost. Should the precompost always be broken up in a soil factory? Another option is that we recently got a bigger bin, for a second factory (we live in a condo, so the bins are on the patio – we are trying to revive old potting soil) would it be okay to dump the contents in the bigger bin, mix it and add more garden dirt (I get this from a nearby relative who has very hard/compact dirt) in there? And, generally how often should it be mixed? I was kind of leaving it alone to do it’s thing but that doesn’t seem to be key here. Thanks again!
Yes, mixing it in to the larger container and adding more garden dirt would work well. Soil factories typically take slightly longer for the pre-compost to break down than the trench method. When you add the bokashi pre-compost to the soil factory, you need to chop and mix the pre-compost thoroughly to make sure there are no large lumps and that it is well mixed with the surrounding soil. If its mixed well at the start, there shouldn’t be any need to mix it again.
I’ve been using bokashi for the last few months and love how much it cuts down on food waste going to landfill and nourishes the garden and house plants. All fine and dandy during the summer months but I live in Iceland and wonder how this is all going to work when the ground is frozen solid during the winter. We’re not as cold as Canada for instance and will have days/possibly even a week or two when we’re above freezing. Would you expect method 2 (the compost bays) to work in a hard frost/snow, i.e. should the bays be covered (if so, with what?) and is it likely that the first box containing garden soil will remain loose enough to shovel into box 2 if regularly turned over?
Glad to hear things are going well for you with bokashi. If your winters aren’t too cold, you may be able to cover your garden soil bay to insulate it and keep it workable during the winter; old carpet, straw or blankets.. something like that. If it becomes completely frozen for a period of time, you can store your bokashi pre-compost in a sealed container until you are able to bury it. Alternatively, you could keep a large container or bag of soil in a warmer place to use to bury the bokashi pre-compost during the coldest months.
Happy composting 🙂
HI, after the first week inside the bin, it looked like it was doing great. White mold, things were composting. Today, I looked 2.5 weeks and most have been converted into soil but the stuff that isn’t is full of maggots. Is this a bad batch. Should I throw it out?
It sounds like there were a couple of larger pieces of bokashi that didn’t get mixed and chopped in to the soil fully. No need to throw the whole soil factory away. Give it a good chop through, add a bit of extra bokashi bran to the stuff that hasn’t converted in to soil. Add another layer of fresh soil, if needed. And leave for another week or two and the last bits of food waste should have broken down nicely.
Let me know how you get on.
Happy composting 🙂
Hello there!I burried my bokashi in a trench, and plans to make it as a soil factory.is it okay that it is wet by the rain?Since it is an open area garden?Also can I cover my bokashi with carbonized rice hull upon pouring my bokashi waste down the trench?thanks
Yes, if your bokashi is buried in the ground then it is fine to leave it open to rain. If you are using an enclosed container for the soil factory we recommend covering it to keep the rain out. And, yes, you can add carbonized rice hull in the trench. The bokashi microbes will help to transform the nutrients and minerals in the rice hull in to a form readily available to your plants.
Happy composting 🙂
I have a container like this https://www.target.com/p/behrens-20gal-galvanized-steel-composter-can-with-lid/-/A-79773318
1. Can this be used even though it has holes in the side?
I live in a humid area (Alabama). 2. Does this mean I should do anything different to keep the soil from getting too moist? Like the others, I plan on using potting soil as I have just started gardening this year. I also plan on leaving the soil in the bucket until the bucket is filled then donating it to a community garden. 3. Do these seem like good approaches?
4. Finally, how often do you have to dump a bokashi bucket? Like how long can I leave it in my kitchen and keep filling it before dumping? And how often to drain it?
Thanks for your questions. Let me answer them in order.
1. If you mean to use this for your soil factory, then yes, that should work fine. The holes in the side will help drain and keep moisture levels lower.
2. No, you don’t need to do anything different. Moisture can be a problem for soil factories. If you notice the soil looking pretty wet, then you can mix in some dry leaves, shredded newspaper, or similar to reduce the moisture levels.
3. These seem like perfect approaches. The finished bokashi compost will be fantastic for the community garden 🙂
4. You can leave the food waste in the bokashi bucket as long as you need. Most families take around 2 weeks to fill up a bokashi bucket but no problem if it takes longer. We recommend draining the tea every day or two. If you leave it too long it can go bad and start to smell.
Happy composting 🙂
Hi, This is helpful. My soil factories seem pretty wet, and the pre-compost material isn’t very broken up. (I do *not* want to chop stuff up in my kitchen first.) Do I just need more soil mixed in? What else can make it drier?
Thanks for your question. Moisture can be a common problem with soil factories. Too much moisture can cause the soil factory to fail and start to smell putrid and rotten. If possible, drill holes in the bottom of the soil factory to allow excess water to drain. Also, try covering with a loose lid to stop rain getting in to your soil factory. The lid should not be tight fitting as you want air to be able to get to the soil and your soil factory to be able to ‘breath’.
Make sure that you chop up and mix the bokashi pre-compost well with the soil when adding it to your soil factory. This will help break up any larger pieces of food waste and make it much easier for the life in the soil to get to the bokashi pre-compost. You can also mix in some drier items when you are burying the bokashi pre-compost. Dry leaves or shredded newspaper can be beneficial to control moisture levels.
If you are concerned that your existing soil factory is too wet, then give the whole thing a thorough mix and chop. Add some dry leaves and/or shredded newspaper if needed. And then cover with a generous few inches of good quality garden soil. And then leave for a few weeks.
Hope that helps. Happy composting 🙂
Good evening –
I just ordered the 2 bin kit and plan to use the pre-compost product in my container garden and my raised beds. I have purchased 2-44 gal Rubbermaid Recycle containers to make soil boxes with the goal of using the finished product in my garden containers and beds. If I layer as one would a smaller container, am I expecting that’s too much volume for my soil boxes? I can drill holes in the bottom to allow drainage and entrance and exit of worms from the ground below. I am also not opposed to purchasing more such containers as needed.
Thanks for your question. The volume you need for your soil factories will depend on the amount of food waste (and bokashi pre-compost) that you produce, the time of year (bokashi pre-compost breaks down faster in the summer) and the quality of the soil in your soil factories. Saying that, these two containers should give you plenty of space to get going.
And, yes, we would recommend drilling holes in the bottom of the containers to let the soil life in and to help the soil factory drain. A common reason for a soil factory failing is when they get too wet.
Happy composting 🙂
1. If I have a 3 bin compost system that I use for LOTS of leaves and other waste can I just use the Bokashi as the nitrogen source to help it move faster or do I need to add soil. I do not like using soil in my pots but potting mix with compost.
2. How do you get soil life in a tumbler if my carbon is leaves and my nitrogen is Bokashi?
Trying to decide on one method or both because I really have more leaves than anybody could ever use.
Ordered the 2 buckets system so can not wait to get started.
Thanks for the questions.
1. Yes, you can add the bokashi pre-compost to your leaves. Bokashi pre-compost is a great addition to compost piles and can really help speed up the composting rate, especially of slow compost piles. If the compost pile is just dry leaves and bokashi compost, we would recommend also adding a few shovels of good quality garden soil. That will introduce the soil life to start breaking down the bokashi pre-compost. If you don’t want to add the soil, the soil life will come. It may just take a little longer for the bokashi pre-compost to break down.
Adding the bokashi pre-compost to pots also works great. Just bury it in the same way as you would using the trench method. This blog post has lots more information about using bokashi in pots: https://bokashiliving.com/using-bokashi-in-planters-and-containers/
2. Again, if the tumbler currently only contains leaves, we would recommend adding a few shovels of good quality garden soil or finished compost with the bokashi pre-compost. This will introduce the soil life to your tumbler. This video has more information about adding your bokashi to a compost pile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh7odkZep_k
Hope that helps get you started with bokashi. Your garden will thank you.
Happy composting 🙂
Hi, I just started my composting adventure and would like to know if adding bokashi pre-compost to a flower garden with weed problems would help reduce the weeds or will it actually cause more weeds (Inclusive of onions weed, crabgrass, Carolina geranium, and others that I can’t identify), by inadvertently “feeding” the weeds? Would using soil from this “weed infested” soil in creating a soil factory affect the quality of the final compost product? There is actually a lot of worms and critters in this soil so I’m thinking it would be a good place to get soil for my soil factory. Thanks in advance for any insights you may have.
Thanks for the question and welcome to composting! It really depends on what weeds you have and why they are there. Some weeds are an indication of deficiencies in your soil. Horsetail, for example, can be an indication of poor drainage and low pH. Therefore, improving the drainage by adding good quality soil and adding lots of life to the soil may improve the drainage and reduce the abundance of horsetail.
Adding compost and improving your soil health is always beneficial in the long run. While weeds may benefit from adding compost, so will your other desired plants. The plants you want to grow will grow stronger and be less likely to be swamped and overcrowded by weed. Plus weeds are easier to pull out of healthier soil.
Your ‘weed infested’ soil sounds perfect for your soil factory. Soil with lots of life will help the bokashi pre-compost break down quickly. Plus it will encourage you to dig over and disturb your weedy area which will damage the weeds.
Enjoy your composting journey. Your plants and your garden will thank you 🙂
I for got to mention that my soil is already mixed with unseasoned goat manure. Will it harm composting process in soil factory. If yes, I will organise new soil from Agriculture fields.
The bokashi process is very flexible and will not be harmed by the addition of manure. This combination of soil, manure and bokashi will make a fantastic addition to your garden 🙂
Thank you very much. I will go ahead & start my soil factory. Summer at Bangalore, India has already set in with temp up to 35°c & night temp are at 22°C.
I have few question i would like to ask: 1) can i use tub ( sort like bathing tub) made from cement/concrete instead of plastic containter for soil factory . 2) what is its nutritional value compared to traditional aerobic compost . 3)Can compost from bokash method and traditional method be stored in same container for future use .
In answer to your questions:
1. Absolutely. You can use anything to mix the bokashi pre-compost with soil. The bathtub should work really well as I’m assuming there is a large drain hole in one end. You may want to cover it (with a large sheet of wood, or similar) if you are leaving your bathing tub soil factory outside. Just something to stop too much rain getting in to the soil factory.
2. The nutritional value will depend on what food waste you put in to your bokashi bucket. The real value in bokashi pre-compost are the microbes. These microbes are essential in your soil for releasing the nutrients and minerals which are already there. The microbes can access minerals and nutrients from the soil that are otherwise inaccessible to your plant roots.
3. Yes, you can store the finished bokashi compost for future use in the same container as traditional compost. You can also store the bokashi pre-compost for future use. The bokashi pre-compost needs to be stored in an airtight container, out of direct sunlight and around room temperature.
Hope that helps. Feel free to ask any more questions 🙂
Thank you for the detailed tutorial.
I have read every comment and answer thanks for all of them.
I think this is the way i going to do my composting… We have just moved to our new home and the soil here is super alkaline…. Even under the old cypress tree (The ph that i am starting with is 8+, and under the cypresses is 7).
I couldn’t find any information about how much the bokashi can help with acidifying my garden… do you have any information about that? Do you think i should something like sulfur on top of the bukashi (i actually prefer not to add anything…. I believe that easy solution are not always the best) ….
I digged around the garden and found really few worms but a lot of slugs (which i really hate, I don’t like the worms either but they are good for the garden so… sorry i am a strange gardener) do you think the bukashi will invite the worms and the slugs will be less, i am a bit scared that the composting will just make my slug problem worse, this is the reason i haven’t started yet….
Bokashi pre-compost and bokashi tea are both acidic. The pH of the bokashi pre-compost and bokashi tea can be around 3-4; fairly acidic. In the short term after adding bokashi pre-compost and bokashi tea, the acidity of the soil adjacent to the bokashi pre-compost will rise slightly. However, the soil web will quickly work to neutralize the bokashi. Tests show that within a week or two of burying the bokashi, the soil pH neutralizes completely creating an ideal environment for your plants to thrive.
Generally, you can achieve a well balanced soil by adding quality compost, like bokashi pre-compost. If you need to quickly lower the pH level, you can mix in peat based compost. Building a healthy soil by adding plenty of bokashi compost will be a sure way to attract a larger population of beneficial earthworms. Adding compost won’t impact on the slug population, but it will help grow healthy, strong plants that are more able to tolerate pests.
Ok I started my first soil factory with my first fermented bokashi bucket???. It has been in a covered black tote since August 9th. The food scrapes are just about gone and the soil is nice and black but I have all these worms??. Do they leave the bin when the food scrapes are gone? Or, do I have to sift the soil? Not sure if I can get use to all those worms???LOL!!!
These look like black soldier fly larvae (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermetia_illucens). They are great for breaking down the bokashi pre-compost and the flies are not a pest to people; so these are really not a problem. You could sift the compost if you want to get rid of them. Or, better yet, add them to your next soil factory. Remember, soil that is teeming with life is healthy and great for your plants.
Great instructions and knowledge here.
If I understand correctly, you fill hte container with 1/3 soil, 1/3 Bokashi and 1/3 soil to top it of.
Once it is ready, you have very enriched good soilmix.
I have a balcony and am growing vegetables in big containers.
Can I plant the vegetables straight in this soil-bokashi mix, or do I use the mix as as organic fertilizer, to mix with more soil. And if so, how much can I apply?
Since bokashi is quite strong, I imagine overfeeding could be a problmen.
On another bokashi website I read that the suggested amount of straight bokashi to apply in your garden is about 1 kg of Bokashi per square meter, per year! And on very poor sandy soil,maximum 2 kg per square meter.
That translates roughly to 2,2 pounds of Bokashi to 10,6 square feet, or 4,4 pounds to 10,6 suare feet per year!
But these rations are recommended in a garden, not in a smaller planting pot.
So, what would be a safe amount, not to overfeed the soil and plants?
Kind regards, Edwin
Yes, you can plant directly into the soil/bokashi mix. This post may be useful about adding bokashi pre-compsot to planters and containers; essentially very similar to making a soil factory.
No need to worry about over fertilizing. The bokashi pre-compost is fairly acidic, but neutralize within a couple of weeks of adding to the soil. The more organic matter and microbial life you add to your soil, the better.
Hello I am first time doing the bokashi bucket composting method and I had no problem first time and I emptied into the black big round traditional pot just like a soil factory method. I see ok soil but definitely a lot of super tiny grey color almost dusty bugs around the edges of the soil rim and millions of them ( it’s looks like a super fine dust but i looked closer they all jumping constantly) and I was freaked out. I wonder what are those, besides I have few tomato plants coming in that pot and I didn’t plant them. Can I water them? Now I have a 2nd bucket and don’t know what to do. Please advise. I live in Tucson Arizona.
Thanks for your question. These sound like they could be springtails or mites. Springtails and mites can turn up in compost bins and soil factories. They may be a sign that the soil is a bit too wet but they are not a problem and are a natural part of the decomposition process. Your plants will love all of this new life in the soil 🙂
The tomato plants are likely from tomatoes thrown in to the bokashi compost. Tomato seeds are notoriously tough! Yes, go ahead and water then and take advantage of your volunteer tomato plants.
We’re into a hard prolonged drought. No significant rain for a long, long time. Soil is really dry (on the verge of being hydrophobic), no vegetable garden, earthworms have gone really deep. In short, the soil in in a bad way. I have decided to turn each of my raised garden beds into soil factories.I’d appreciate your feedback an my plans, which are: in each bed, bury a single large black plastic 50 litre garbage bucket (holes drilled in base and about half way up the sides, with another row of holes at the top so there is access to air). Each bucket has a clip down lid.
Into each buried bin I’m adding the following: existing garden soil (moistened because it’s so dry), composted garden waste to which bokashi has already been added as part of the composting process, bokashi from a now-resting fermenting bucket. These components will all be mixed up. As the levels drop I’ll add more soil, compost and bokashi. I’m hoping that this will become a continuous system as earhworms gradually bring life back to each garden bed.
On the right track? I’d really appreciate suggestions
This approach should work really well, and your garden will love it. An alternative (possibly easier) approach would be to layer all of this compost and goodness directly into your raised beds using the trench method. Pretty much any way of getting more compost and beneficial microbes into your soil will benefit your garden greatly and will help your soil retain water.
I collected kitchen scraps for 2 weeks now without bokashi bran. I ran out and forgot to order. Can i still use the scraps sitting in the bucket for bokashi bin?
Thanks for the question. It is likely that after 2 weeks these food scraps have started to rot and putrefy. Adding too much rotten or moldy food to your bokashi bucket can cause the bin to fail. We would recommend getting rid of this food waste and starting with new waste. In the future, if you want to store food waste for a longer period of time, we would suggest you store it in the freezer to prevent it from rotting. When you are ready to add it to you bin, make sure to defrost the food waste and add it as normal to your bokashi bucket.
Happy composting 🙂
[…] https://bokashiliving.com/make-simple-soil-factory/ […]
Hi. I’m getting ready to dump my first bucket of pre-compost. I live in an apartment with a deck, so keeping vermin away is a MUST.
1) To that end, I am confused about whether to use a plastic bin, a compost maker or tumbler, or a worm bin. Please advise which is best. I can’t have any drainage, so holes in the bottom are a no-go. How does one keep the soil from getting too wet if it can’t be drained (like it can in the bokashi bucket)?
2) You say to mix the pre-compost into/with soil that has “allot of life in it”, but as an apartment dweller, the closest I can get to this is using packaged organic soil from my nursery. I can add some old leaves from the fall clean-up that has a bit of soil on it. Is that good enough…or do I have to go out and buy worms?
3) If I need to add worms to my soil factory, will the worms stay alive in it…or do I need to use a wormey and place the pre-compost through it? If I am using a plastic container with no drainage, how many worms would be optimal to have in the container (eg, what is the ratio of worms to volume of soil)?
4) I read on another bokashi blog that in order to help the breakdown of the pre-compost and hasten the transition to useable soil that it is advantageous to add hydrated lime to the mix in order to neutralize the bokashi acid, allowing for more effective decomposition. What is your take on that, and could I use hydrated lime with worms in a plastic bin? Please advise.
Thanks for your questions.
1. In terms of the container to choose, the more soil you can mix in with the bokashi pre-compost the better (particularly if you are unable to add drainage holes). So choose a large container. There is no need to start a worm bin. Many people simply use a large plastic container, but a tumbler is a good option (if you have space) as it allows for easy mixing and is well sealed. Whichever you choose to use, make sure to mix the bokashi pre-compost really well and break up any large pieces. Feel free to dig around every week or so, to keep chopping and breaking up the bokashi.
2. If bagged organic soil is all you have access to, that it will work. Try to choose soil that has not been sterilised. And if you have a family or friend with a healthy compost pile, then ask for a shovel full or two of that too. Or a handful of rotting leaves from the local park or woodland will have a few bugs and worms to get you started! If you only have bagged soil, then just be patient. It will take a bit of time for the life to get to your soil factory and start breaking things down.
3. No need to buy and add worms. They will come.
4. I have not heard of this suggestion before. The bokashi pre-compost will neutralize itself within a few weeks and adding lime is not necessary.
I have read nearly all the FAQ now have several of my own. I would like to set up a soil factory in my sunroom (can keep it out of direct light) using old potting soil. I also understand this will take longer but am ok with that as long as it eventually works.
Question 1: Would adding the tea to the soil factory help or hinder?
Question 2: Once it has broken down into nice compost, how much would you mix into other potting soil for potted plants.
Question 3: Last year I tired to grow tomatoes, squash, cucumbers in planters as I have no room for a traditional garden and no good soil. The tomatoes all grew but had rot on the bottoms of them making them unusable. Would it be recommended to plant these plants on top of my soil factories or do you have to keep the lid on tight? Or what would you recommend.
Could bokashi be added to a worm composter
Thanks for your questions. Hope these answers are helpful:
1. There would be no real benefit to adding the tea to the soil factory. There are already plenty of bokashi microbes in the pre-compost and the soil factory. In fact, adding the tea may make the soil factory too wet and cause it to fail. Use the tea on other plants or simply pour it down the drain to keep sinks and pipes unblocked.
2. Once the pre-compost has broken down it can be used as regular compost and planted directly in to.
3. You might want to consider burying the pre-compost in containers. Essentially very similar to a soil factory, but you just plant directly on top. I do this for pots and containers in my garden and it works brilliantly. Useful post here.
4. Yes, bokashi can be added to a worm composter. Again, another blog post with lots of info here.
Feel free to ask any other questions you may have. Bokashi composting is still new to most people here in North America and there are lots of questions as you start out. Rest assured, you’ll quickly find a method that works for you 🙂
Hi I just wanted to comment on the rot at the base of your tomatoes – this is called blossom end rot and is a sign of calcium deficiency, not caused by a microbe. If you live in an area with hard water you can fix it by watering more regularly as calcium is in the water. Alternatively you can add a bit of CalMag when you water.
I’ve put my first round of bokashi in a soil factory – in hindsight I might not have added enough soil on top of the bokashi content.
I haven’t touched it in about 6 weeks, but yesterday I went to have a look and it seems to be slightly rotten?
I mixed it a bit and saw that most of the bokashi content is sort of green.
It’s rather cold here – around 5 degrees C.
What have I done wrong?
Can I still use the soil?
Things do slow down a bit when its cold, and a soil factory typically takes longer to break down; so you do need to be patient. And you do need to add enough soil; that’s where the life is that will break down the bokashi pre-compost. But don’t worry, all is not lost. I would suggest putting in a couple of handfuls of bokashi bran and giving the whole soil factory a really good mix. Its important to break up any lumps of the bokashi pre-compost (which can be harder to do in a soil factory than in the open soil). Then add a few inches of garden soil and leave for another couple of weeks.
Hopefully that will get your soil factory back on track.
I have a question regarding the second step i.e. after fermentation is complete. I can use either the soil factory method or trench method to treat my precompost. In soil factory method it is mentioned that good airflow is necessary for good result. But in trench method there is no airflow. Then how come both the methods give similar results. I am using soil factory method because of the space problem and it is giving me wonderful results. I dont have space to try the trench method. That’s why i am curious.
Thanks for your question. Too much moisture in the second stage can cause the soil factory to go bad and the pre-compost to rot causing foul, putrid odors. The air flow through the soil factory is to encourage good drainage and to prevent the soil factory from getting too wet. For the trench method, the surrounding soil already has plenty of air pockets and good drainage so their is less risk of getting too much moisture as the pre-compost breaks down.
the Bokashi Living team
Our dog keeps digging up our bokashi burials and I keep putting my shovel through our watering system pipes. If I put garden soil and bokashi bucket mix (keeping it in the bokashi bucket for a month) into an old plastic rubbish bin will this eventually turn into soil ready to spread in the garden? How long should it take?
Thanks for your question. Absolutely, you can add garden soil and bokashi pre-compost to a plastic bin; this is known as a ‘soil factory’. The bokashi pre-compost will take slightly longer to break down than if you bury it directly in your garden soil; typically 4 to 6 weeks. The length of time will depend on the quality of the garden soil; the more life in the soil, the quicker it will break down.
To make a soil factory in your plastic rubbish bin:
– Start with a thick layer (at least 3-4″) of good garden soil.
– Add your bokashi pre-compost and mix well.
– Add another 3-4″ of garden soil.
– Check back after a couple of weeks and chop up any visible pieces of bokashi pre-compost.
Hope that helps. Feel free to ask any other questions.
The Bokashi Living team
Hi! Do I just harvest the compost I need or should I remove the compost and start a new batch each time? If I harvest more than I need, how should this be stored…covered or exposed? Should it remain moist or should it be kept dry? Thanks!
Either; whichever works for you. Sometimes I will just harvest what I need and keep adding bokashi pre-compost to the soil factory. Other times I will empty out the entire soil factory into my garden or containers and start the soil factory again. No need to store the finished compost in any special way. In a large container or large bag will be fine. Don’t let it get overly wet or dry and just use it whenever you want. Alternatively, just leave it in the soil factory until you need it and start a new soil factory if you run out of space.
the Bokashi Living team
I’d like to use up some of the soil left in my plant pots last year in my soil factory, as well as a pile of soil we’ve had in the corner of the yard for many years. I haven’t poked through them yet to see what life is going on there already. Would it be okay to use this dirt in my soil factory if I add some mycorrhizal fungi to the mix as well as the Bokashi?
I just don’t want to waste any of the dirt I have but I’m not confident that it’s the most ideal garden soil. Thank you for this great post and for the others who have posted questions, it’s so informative!
Thanks for the kind words. I agree, I never want to waste any dirt in my garden and with some good bokashi compost you can turn this dirt in productive, fertile soil. The left over dirt can be used for the soil factory, just be patient as it may take longer to break down if there isn’t much life in the dirt. No need to add any extra mycorrhizal fungi as there is already plenty of beneficial microbes and fungi in the bokashi pre-compost. If your soil in your soil factory is lacking in life, then I would recommend adding extra (ie more than 2/3 soil) and make sure that you mix the first two layers really well to break up any larger pieces of bokashi pre-compost.
Alternatively, you could use the bokashi pre-compost in your planters. Make as you would a soil factory. Wait a few weeks and then plant directly in them. I like to do this at the beginning of the year as it is a great (and easy) way to get lots of compost into planters and containers.
Hope that helps, feel free to keep asking any other questions.
the Bokashi Living team
Hi, I use the container method on my balcony. The second batch was infested with black soldier fly larvae when I checked it after 2 weeks. I freaked out put the lid back on and ignored it for 2 weeks. After that most of the larvae was dead but still a few wiggling around.
From comments above I shouldn’t be getting any bugs? I also had ants which isn’t such a issue.
The container I use has 4 clips to hold the lid on. No holes. It’s not air tight but it’s a pretty secure cover. What am I doing wrong?
Thanks for your questions. Black soldier fly larvae are actually beneficial to the breakdown of the organic material. The adult flies do not eat and therefore do not cause a nuisance at all. If you can learn to live with them, then they will help your bokashi soil factory; though I understand if you don’t want them setting up home on your balcony.
As you say, you shouldn’t get large numbers of flies and bugs attracted to your soil factory. Make sure you are letting your food waste ferment completely before adding it to your soil factory. A few things to do to encourage full fermentation; 1. Leave the bin for longer than the 2 weeks minimum, 2. Add extra bran, and 3. chop up your food waste before adding to the bin (ideally 1-2″, or smaller).
Finally make sure to add a good couple of inches of garden soil on top. This makes sure that the bokashi pre-compost is thoroughly buried and should not attract insects.
The lid you are using sounds perfect. It does not need to be airtight, just something to keep the rainwater out.
Hope that helps,
[…] food waste (or bokashi pre-compost) is then transferred to your garden soil, compost pile or soil factory. Here the soil biota (bugs, worms, microbes etc) can break down the pre-compost in just 2 weeks. […]
If I don’t have access to garden soil? Would using Coco coir and/or recycled potting soil also work?
It will work, but it will take longer for the pre-compost to break down. It is the life (bugs, worms, microbes, fungi etc) in the soil of the soil factory that breaks down the pre-compost. So the less life your soil in your soil factory has, the longer it will take to break down the bokashi pre-compost. Recycled potting soil is probably the best of your two options as there will be some biota in it.
To help the pre-compost break down as quickly as possible we would recommend chopping your food waste into 1″ or smaller pieces, adding plenty of bokashi bran and leaving your kitchen composter for a little longer to finish the fermentation stage.
Happy composting 🙂
Should the container for soil factory be air tight. I have balcony space , no ground space. Need to ensure no flies , pests etc .
The container doesn’t need to be completely airtight; although a good fitting lid will help keep rain out and any bokashi odors in. As you are keeping your soil factory on your balcony, you won’t want to drill holes in the bottom to let liquids drain. We would therefore recommend adding extra garden soil to ensure that the soil factory doesn’t get too wet.
Hope that helps. Please let us know if you have any other bokashi questions.
If I keep the precompost in a container as soil factory, how long should I leave it for? My first time when I did it, I left it for 3-4 weeks and the food scraps seemed to be still there while there was a pretty horrendous smell… does the soil factory have bad smell? I’m hesitant to start again my soil factory because of the smell.. did I do something wrong?
Hi, thanks for the question. Soil factories do take longer than other methods of burying the trench. The exact length of time will depend on various factors including the amount of life in the soil, temperature and how small the pieces of food waste are in the pre-compost. A common problem with soil factories is too much moisture, which can cause them to smell. If possible, drill holes in the bottom of the soil factory to allow excess moisture to drain. If you notice your soil factory is too wet then try adding some drier material to it such as shredded newspaper or dry leave and give the whole soil factory a thorough mix.
Another possible problem is that the pre-compost was not mixed in properly. Make sure to mix the pre-compost thoroughly with the soil in the soil factory. This allows the life in the soil to get to the bokashi pre-compost and also ensures that any larger pieces of food waste are broken up. And make sure to add plenty of good quality soil. We recommend at least 2/3 soil to 1/3 bokashi pre-compost.
Hope that helps 🙂
Thank you so much for this! My soil factory had too many flies – the instructions said that it should be kept open with a sheet of paper to cover it. I’m guessing that your method with a container will not have a fly problem? If so I will try it. Please let me know about flies and insects as I live in an apartment and don’t get any direct sunlight. Thanks.
You really shouldn’t have a fly or insect problem with a soil factory. I’ve never heard of anyone recommending to just cover it with a sheet of paper before! Definitely try the large container described in this blog piece. The pre-compost tends to take a little bit longer to break down in soil factories than when it is buried in the ground or in a compost pile. If possible, make sure you start with some good healthy soil (with lots of worms). We would love to hear how you get on 🙂
If the soil factory container was clear and left on a balcony, would that matter? Or does it need to be opaque?
Interesting question! Keeping the soil factory on your balcony should be fine as long as you can keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent it overheating and killing the life inside the soil. Ideally the container should be opaque to create an environment favored by soil biota (ie dark). You could simply place the container in a large black garbage bag or wrap it in newspaper, old carpet etc.
I hope that helps. Feel free to ask any other questions here 🙂
Nicki and the Bokashi Living team