Using bokashi in planters and containers

Back to Blog

Using bokashi in planters and containers

Growing in planters and containersBokashi composting makes it possible for people with limited outside space to make high quality homemade compost from their food waste. From talking to our customers, we know that there are a large number of you who use the soil factory methodΒ to bury your pre-compost. Here, we will look at a slight variation on this; burying your bokashi pre-compost directly into a planter or container. This is something that I have been doing in my backyard for a number of years with great success.

By adding bokashi to your planters and containers you are adding great nutrients and organic matter which will help with plant growth and water retention. In my sun trap of a garden I used to lose many plants if I forgot to water for a day. Since adding bokashi pre-compost each year to my containers I have noticed much better water retention. Forgetting to water my containers for a day or two no longer results in parched, dead plants.

Step 1: Choose your container

Any planter will work for this as long as it has drain holes. Personally I think the larger the container the better; larger containers tend to dry out more slowly!

Step 2:Β Add garden soil

Firstly add a layer of good garden soil. Fill the container approx 1/3 full.

Ideally you want soil with lots of life in it; worms, bugs, creepy crawlies etc. If you only have access to potting compost then try to add a few handfuls of good garden soil too (ask a neighbor or local community garden). The more life you have in your soil the quicker the pre-compost will break down.

Step 3: Add the pre-compost

Next, add a layer of bokashi pre-compost. Again, you want to fill your container by approximately a third.

Step 4: Mix

Mix the bokashi pre-compost well with the soil layer below. Make sure to break up any lumps of bokashi pre-compost. The final stage of the bokashi composting process will work faster when mixed thoroughly with the surrounding soil.

Step 5: Cover with more soil

Fill the container with more garden soil. Again, you can use shop-bought compost but expect the pre-compost to take slightly longer to break down as there are significantly fewer biota in bagged compost than garden soil. The pre-compost will sink slightly, therefore mound the final layer of garden soil. Add extra garden worms, if available!

Step 6: Cover (optional)

Cover the container with a large plastic bag or lid to prevent from getting wet. Alternatively, move the container to a dry area. Excessive rain and water may cause the bokashi pre-compost to rot and putrefy.

Step 7: Wait

Leave the container for at least 2 weeks (ideally up to 4 weeks, if possible). You may see white mold on the surface. This is the fungi from the bokashi microbes; the same as you may see on the top of your bokashi bucket.

Step 8: Plant

After 2-4 weeks you are ready to plant. Mix the soil in the container. If you see lumps of bokashi pre-compost then you need to leave it for a few days longer for the soil biota to finish breaking down the pre-compost.

You can now add your plants directly to the container; no need to add further fertilizer. Sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Order now! Find all your bokashi composting supplies in our online shop.

24 responses to “Using bokashi in planters and containers”

  1. Charles says:

    Can I use Bokashi in living no-till soil with a SIP? I use Earthboxes which are 10 gallons of soil on top of 3-gallon sub irrigation. The boxes contain worms, beetles, and lots of fungal growth that must not dry out. I top dress with an organic blend and want to use the Bokashi to speed up the break down of the mix.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. To clarify, so you want to add the bokashi pre-compost to your SIP or the bokashi bran? The bokashi bran can easily be added to your planter as a soil amender, to add the beneficial garden-friendly bokashi microbes. There is a post here about adding bokashi bran directly to your soil:

      If you are looking to add the bokashi pre-compost to your SIP, then we would suggest that you use a soil factory or a compost pile to finish the bokashi compost. You can then add the finished bokashi compost to your planter in the same way as any mulch or compost.

      I hope that helps. Happy composting πŸ™‚

  2. Leonie says:

    Since I only have a balcony, I am trying to compost my bokashi pre-compost in a closed (but see-through) container. It has been 4 weeks but is not yet broken down. The potting mix I added was from Woolworths and probably not super high quality which may make it slower?

    After two weeks, I read that the box should not be airtight, so I’ve left a little gap and put a weight on the lid but still no success and I have some green mold. Can I keep going with this and just need to wait?

    I am also about to have another bokashi pre-compost ready.. I know it’s not ideal, but I’d like to add it as it would otherwise need to go into landfill. Is that a bad idea?


    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the questions. It is important that the soil you use in your soil factory has plenty of life in it; good quality garden compost or top soil. It is the life in the soil that helps to assimilate the bokashi pre-compost. Bagged compost is usually sterilized and therefore devoid of life. But do not despair, you have a couple of options. 1. Be patient, the pre-compost will break down eventually even in soil with very little life in it. 2. Mix a few shovels of high quality living soil, to introduce the organisms needed; this will greatly speed up the process.

      You can keep adding the bokashi pre-compost. Moisture can be a problem in soil factories, especially if you don’t have drainage holes. If the soil factory gets too wet you can either add some dry material and/or leave the lid off for a while to let the soil factory breath.

      Hope that helps. Happy composting

  3. Susanne says:

    Can you top dress with the composted bokashi onto your containers once the plants are planted? After the 2 week breakdown period in a soil factory.

    Thank you

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for the question. Absolutely, you can use the finished compost from your soil factory in the same way as any other high quality compost. Top dressing your containers is a great way to regenerate your soil.

      Happy composting πŸ™‚

  4. Naveed says:

    Nice article
    I am planning to do a vertical used bottle garden next month, and I have collected allot of Rice Bran which I am thinking to convert it to Bokashi bran.
    Now the question is, can I use 50% (or even more) of this Bokashi Bran in 2.2ltr of a used plastic bottle? these will be vertically established, i.e. bottle over the bottle, and at the top, I will place a bottle with water to enable the auto-water system.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      We don’t have direct experience of setting up a vertical bottle garden. However, we would expect that you would want to use the bokashi bran as a soil amendment, not as a growing medium. To use as a soil amendment, you will want to mix about 1 cup of bokashi bran with a cubic foot of soil or soil-less mix. Hope that helps and happy growing πŸ™‚

  5. I really like this idea but won’t the soil be too heavy? Most often perlite is added to potting soil for 5-gallon bucket gardening to make it drain better. I like the idea of using some garden soil and then the bokashi compost but does this drain well enough? Thanks.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. If you make sure you have good drainage in the bottom of your containers, then excessive moisture retention should not be a problem.
      Happy growing πŸ™‚

  6. […] When selecting a location to trench, keep in mind that some dogs are attracted to the smell of the fermented matter and may try to dig it up. If you don’t have yard space, trenching can also be done on your patio or balcony using a large container and soil or potting mix; view step-by-step instructions here.  […]

  7. Sandy says:

    My Bokashi pre- compost is in an air tight box, but must have been contaminated at some point. It now has a white mould on it. Is it still OK to use it? I only have a balcony, not a garden. Thanks

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Sandy,
      Thanks for the question. White mold is absolutely fine and a sign that the bokashi microbes are thriving. The white mold suggests that there is some air getting in to your bucket, but not enough to cause a problem. You will typically see no mold in a completely airtight bokashi bucket. Lots more information in this blog post:

      Happy composting πŸ™‚

  8. Magda says:

    Do you have to use the tea as is, or mix with water?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. The bokashi tea is acidic and should not be applied to plants as is. Instead, it should be diluted by at least 1:100. Happy composting πŸ™‚

  9. Sravanthi Anumalla says:

    Hi!, Thank you for the good information. I have a question. I started bokashi composting with diy method using 2 buckets. And I put food scraps in there once every 2 days. After a month it’s only 3/4th full. I do check the liquid in the bottom bucket evetyime I put the food in there and the bokashi tea is very little. Am I doing something wrong. I also see white molds in the compost snd also in the tea. Am I suppose to empty the liquid/tea often? Thanks a lot

    • Nicki Casley says:

      The timing and amount of tea will vary depending on what you put in to the bokashi bucket. No tea (or very little tea) does not mean that the bucket has failed. Try pressing down hard on the food waste and you may be able to squeeze out any liquid from the food waste. The white mold is a good sign; these are the healthy bokashi microbes πŸ™‚

  10. Jenna says:

    Hi I’m looking to try the Bokashi composting method + soil factory for the first time. I’ve a few questions and concerns, any help and advice would be greatly appreciated!
    1. [Soil Factory] Living in Southeast Asia in an apartment with a tiny balcony space: Is it okay if I’m using the plastic bin with the two clip on clasps for my soil factory?
    2. [Soil factory] Can I use store-bought garden soil (with no creepy crawlies) I’m scared of the possible mess/lack of space that will add to the mess.
    3. [Bokashi] Can I place a slightly smaller size bin (with the drilled holes) into a flatter, larger bucket – slightly elevated by something so it drips out into the (bucket) ‘dish’ underneath? Is this normal or is it not recommended at all?
    4. [Soil factory] Close to the final step if and when the bokashi and soil is decomposed successfully, can I just keep everything in that one bin and add some of that compost onto my smaller, existing indoor plants + as well as use them to pot and grow new small plants and herbs?

    Thank you so much in advance!

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Jenna,

      Thanks for your questions. In answer:
      1. You do not need to have an airtight lid on the soil factory. In fact, it needs to be aerobic and so air needs to get to the soil factory. A loose fitting lid can be used to keep out rain, if needed.
      2. Yes, you can use store bought soil but as it is sterilised (with no life in it) the bokashi pre-compost will take longer to break down.
      3. I’m not exactly sure which part of the process you are referring to here. If you are suggesting to drill holes in the bottom of your soil factory and allow it to drip into a larger container, then this sounds like a good idea. Too much moisture can be a problem for soil factories, so allowing it to drain can alleviate this problem.
      4. Yes, you can add the finished compost to existing pots or plant directly into it.

      Happy composting πŸ™‚

  11. Since Bokashi is a fermentation process, the microbes in the brew would be microbes that live in acidic conditions. That is not the condition found in soil. so when these microbes are later placed on the soil, they will die because the environment in the soil is so different from the Bokashi pail. Not always true, and in some cases such as mine this is the exact idea. The pickling process kills most of the air breathing microbes, nematodes, etc which are pathogenic on my land. The faster composting of material after Bokashi is a huge improvement that should be noted, and does work. Instead of years, natural composting with the pickled material mixed with soil and carbon rich items can be managed in a couple of months. Obviously organic matter continues to decay, but this makes it usable much faster.

  12. LinaB says:

    Can bokashi compost be used in large grow bags?

  13. Lin says:

    I explored Bokashi for a short period and left the bin with my father to collect food waste but must have done something wrong – it wreaked something horrible. I buried a few bucketfuls and quit. Fast forward till today and I find myself gardening and growing vegetables and herbs more than ever. I’d like to try Bokashi again! I’d like to do it right this time. I’m trying to find the perfect space for it. I need clarification on how much sun the bins can tolerate. Also, can the bins be located in nearly complete shade?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi, Thanks for the questions and great to hear that you are interested in starting bokashi again. The bokashi bucket should be stored at room temperature and out of direct sun. Most people choose to keep the bokashi bucket in their kitchen, close to where the food waste is produced. The buckets are airtight and will give off no odors so can be comfortably stored inside.

      The bokashi compost should have a sweet pickly smell. A foul putrid smell, as you describe, shows that the bucket had gone bad. Often times it can be from not using enough bran, letting too much air into the bin, or the bokashi bran being old and inactive.

      Happy composting πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *