November 25, 2010

Waste not want not

My first Bokashi compost is ready! So in typical science-geek fashion I started a small experiment on our balcony this spring. One citrus tree (affectionately known as Lily the Lemon) and 3 of my tomato plants are feeding on a smorgasbord of potting mix and Bokashi compost. The lime tree (Lenny) and the other tomatoes are my control group: they get regular potting mix but no compost goodness.

Balcony ‘kitchen gardens’ are a great way to have a ready supply of fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables packed with nutrients and flavour. On my balcony in Sydney I find basil, parsley, rosemary as well as tomatoes and citrus fruit grow really well. To be more environmentally-friendly I wanted to compost our food scraps but living in an apartment this is difficult. I was thinking of setting up a worm farm but was worried that the red wigglers would pass out in the heat on our balcony in summer so I thought I'd give Bokashi a go.

So, a few months ago the Canuck fashioned some home-made composting buckets and we started our apartment Bokashi composting. Bokashi is a composting system developed in Japan for people to use in apartments. It works by adding some Bokashi mix (wheat bran with rice husks and microorganisms) each time you add food scraps to your indoor compost bucket. The microbes do their thing and ferment the food so it smells kind of vinegary but not nasty (important when it’s kept inside your apartment). After a few weeks the Bokashi and food mixture can be buried in soil. After 6 weeks in the soil all the food has broken down and it just looks like regular soil. You now have nutrient-rich soil that can be added to your potted plants.

Back to my experiment….
It’s been a month since I started my experiment and I have to say that the plants that had the compost added to their soil are jumping out of their skins. Lily the Lemon is sprouting a load of flowers and the tomato plants are twice the size of the ones that didn’t have any compost (pictured above). In the meantime we’ve reduced our rubbish by about half and I don’t have to buy fertilizer. I’m taking that as a success!

If you have a kitchen garden on your balcony I’d love to hear your handy tips on growing herbs, fruit and veg in small spaces, just leave a message below.

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