IMAGINE IF YOU NEVER had to buy fertilizer again. How about if you never had to have a compost pile, but could still recycle all of your food scraps at home…including meats and dairy? If you are like most people, you probably have some pretty bad soil around your home. Composting at home can sometimes be difficult, especially in apartments or in inner cities where there is little or no space to do it. Some cities don’t even allow compost piles because they can attract insect pests and wildlife such as skunks and raccoons. By using fermented food wastes to restore the organic life that artificial chemicals have taken away, you can easily restore your soil and starting growing vigorous healthy plants that will bring pleasure, and maybe some food, to your home.
If you want to start growing plants in bad soil, start by fermenting all the food scraps from home. It is fairly easy to do this. All it takes is a starter, a bucket, and an airtight lid. For the starter, you can make your own, or buy some. It is called Bokashi. Bokashi is a bran that is inoculated with a probiotic concentrate called EM-1, or Effective Microorganisms, and fermented with molasses and water. In the bucket, you add food scraps and coat them with the bran. After each time you add food wastes, you seal the container to keep air out. Once you fill the bucket, you let sit for 1 to 2 weeks until it has a sweet to sour smell. It may have a bunch of fuzzy white mold on it…this is a beneficial fungi that is good for plants and soils. At this point, you have fermented food waste that can mixed into soil. Dig a trench in the soil and empty the contents of the bucket into the trench. Mix the fermented food wastes with the soil in the trench and then cover everything with the soil you dug up to make the trench. In about two weeks the food wastes will be broken down. If the soil used to cover the trench is about 12 inches above the food waste, you can immediately plant in it. If not, wait a week or two and then plant in it. You can also dig around established plants and amend the soil with fermented food wastes any time of the year. Just try to keep the fermented food wastes away from bare plant roots.
There are four main benefits from fermented food waste to soils. 1) It provides organic matter to your garden or farmland, making it one of the most simple and economical methods of soil improvement. 2) It contains nutrients including enzymes, minerals and vitamins in the foods. 3) It contains loads of probiotic microbes. 4) It can replace most, if not all, of your fertilizer needs. Most soils are lacking in organic matter and fermented food waste can make up for this shortcoming. Since worms and beneficial nematodes eat bacteria, adding fermented food waste to your soil is like throwing out a buffet for them. Worms drill holes in the soil, creating larger channels for air in the soil and places to hold water. The majority of plant roots make their home in the top six inches of soil, and will thrive once a generous covering of organic matter is added to the ground. The moisture retention of the food waste and the eventual growth of deeper roots will become two of the most important factors in growing healthier plants.
If you want to grower more nutritious foods, don’t want to compost, and want to recycle, try the Bokashi method. It can be used in soils or in planters. Schools around the world do it, so can you.
Eric Lancaster is Executive Vice President of TeraGanix, Inc., the exclusive North America distributor of Effective Microorganisms® and EM® Bokashi products. He is the technical expert on Effective Microorganisms® for the US market. Please visit www.TeraGanix.com for more information.