· By Mitchell Sweeting
Sprinkle A Little Kenkashi Magic
I grew up in DC, and was lucky to have a decently sized garden in which my father was able to experiment with growing food and composting. It was pretty unusual in our part of the city to see a compost bin, and while he worked at it diligently, I can’t say we ever really achieved the perfect blend of browns and greens, heat and decomposition that he was aiming for. Part of the issue was space- we weren’t able to have multiple bins as suggested in some compost plans. The other issue was time— he wasn’t able to give the attention to it that the bin needed.
20 years ago we left the city for the Blue Ridge Mountains, the oldest mountain chain in the world, and it was here that we started expanding our understanding of soil health and composting. We discovered the incredibly simple composting method of Bokashi, and we launched Kenkashi Microbes, where we harvest microbes from un-farmed corners of the mountains and brew an organic liquid blend of beneficial microbes. This blend is then bottled for use on soil, as a foliar spray, or as a compost activator; and we inoculate a very absorptive strain of hemp to make our Bokashi mix.
Kenkashi Bokashi composting is the simplest composting imaginable. Bokashi comes from Korea and Japan, and has been practiced for millennia. As you add food scraps to your compost bin in the kitchen, you simply add Kenkashi in small amounts to cover the food scraps; keep the lid on the composter. By doing this, you are adding dormant soil microbes, inoculated into the absorbent hemp base. When the microbes get wet, they wake up and get to work- they start fermenting your food scraps! They begin breaking your organic matter down, and converting the plant nutrients to make them immediately available to plant roots. You are actually able to add meat and cheese to the compost bucket, as long as you keep it covered with microbes, as the microbes exclude putrefying bacteria from causing rot.
After ten days, your compost is ready to bury directly into the soil- no compost bins, no temperature checks, no turning piles or buckets, no years of waiting. If you aren’t ready to bury your compost immediately- a busy week, frozen ground—you can fill a 5 gallon bucket and keep it on your back porch until you are ready to dig it in. Keep the lid on, but not sealed, as while microbes are anaerobic (do not like a lot of oxygen) they do need some air. An added benefit is that the microbes reduce smell! The smell is not eliminated, but it changes the quality of the odor—you are no longer dealing with rot, as the microbes keep the food from rotting.
If you are a gardener, you will be blown away by the health of your soil over a very short period of time. Within two weeks, the food scraps, teeming with microbes, will be mostly broken down- and you are able to start planting directly into that bed. Over the course of years of adding this super-charged microbe rich food into the ground, you will see a significant improvement to the soil- and to the plants growing in it! We revitalized a stretch of ground that had previously been a road, adding our Bokashi fermented compost throughout every summer, and the soil is now black gold- rich, pungent, and so prolific.
This process is especially good for raised beds, as these beds are quickly depleted of their nutrients, and do not have an innate and active microbial community. You can add Bokashi fermented compost to container gardens, rooftop gardens, and even small amounts into houseplants! Your plants will be thrilled: the microbes break down the food scraps and release nutrients for your plant roots to absorb, increasing root health and plant resiliency, helping them combat disease, and increasing yields.
Composting can easily be one of our contributions to the health of our planet and atmosphere. Easily create nutrients and boost your microbial population in your backyard, raised beds, grass lawns, or on the edge of the woods—anywhere will be happy to get such a healthy boost!