What is Tiny Green Monster Machine?

Have you ever heard of the “tiny green monsters” that can help your garden thrive? No, I’m not talking about little alien creatures! I’m referring to beneficial bacteria—microscopic organisms that play a huge role in soil health and plant growth. When harnessed properly, tiny green monster machines can turn your garden into an absolute powerhouse.

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of beneficial bacteria and how they can transform your garden into a “monster machine” of plant production. I’ll explain what these microbes are, why they’re so vital, and how you can cultivate them through a method called “bokashi.”.

Bokashi is a Japanese term meaning “fermented organic matter.” It’s an ancient soil amendment technique that leverages beneficial bacteria to amplify the power of compost. I stumbled upon bokashi a few years ago and have been amazed by the results it delivers in my garden.

If you want bigger, healthier plants and bountiful harvests from your veggie beds and ornamentals, read on to learn how to build your own “tiny green monster machine”!

An Intro to Beneficial Bacteria

Let’s start with the basics: what are beneficial bacteria, and why do they matter so much?

Beneficial bacteria are microorganisms that have positive effects on soil fertility, plant growth, and the overall health of an ecosystem. The most important types of beneficial bacteria in gardening include:

  • Nitrogen-fixing bacteria: bacteria that convert nitrogen gas from the air into plant-available nitrogen compounds in the soil. Key genera include Rhizobium, Bradyrhizobium, Azotobacter, and Azospirillum.
  • Phosphate solubilizing bacteria: bacteria that help make phosphorus in the soil more soluble and accessible to plant roots. Key genera include Pseudomonas and Bacillus.
  • Mycorrhizal fungi: They are fungi that form symbiotic relationships with plant roots. They extend the reach of roots and aid in nutrient and water absorption. Key genera include Glomus, Gigaspora, and Trichoderma.

In healthy garden soil, beneficial bacteria may account for up to 90% of the total microbial population! They drive critical biochemical processes like nitrogen fixation, nutrient cycling, and the suppression of disease-causing organisms.

Simply put, beneficial bacteria serve as the engine of soil fertility. They unlock nutrients for plant uptake, defend against pathogens, and stimulate healthier root growth. A thriving microbial community is essential for any productive garden!

The Power of Bokashi

The Power of Bokashi

So where does bokashi come into play? Bokashi is a soil amendment strategy centered around beneficial microbes, specifically anaerobic bacteria.

The bokashi process leverages anaerobic fermentation to “pre-digest” organic matter like food scraps. This makes nutrients far more bioavailable to plants. It also proliferates populations of beneficial anaerobes.

Here’s a high-level overview of how bokashi works its magic:

1. Anaerobic Fermentation

Bokashi relies on anaerobic fermentation, facilitated by microbes. Oxygen is limited to foster anaerobic conditions. A specific group of bacteria called “facultative anaerobes” thrive in this environment.

Facultative anaerobes like Lactobacillus can function with or without oxygen. Under anaerobic conditions, they rapidly break down organic matter into nutrients like amino acids, vitamins, and sugars.

2. Inoculation with EM (Effective Microorganisms)

To kickstart anaerobic fermentation, bokashi utilizes “effective microorganisms” (EM). EM is a proprietary blend of microbial species tailored for bokashi.

It contains lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, photosynthetic bacteria, and other synergistic microbes. These rapidly colonize organic matter and produce beneficial byproducts.

3. Fermented Organic Matter

The end result of bokashi is a fermented organic substrate pre-broken down by microbes. It’s loaded with bioavailable nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and beneficial microorganisms like Lactobacillus.

When added to soil, bokashi provides a huge boost of nutrients. The microbes also continue working their magic, suppressing pathogens and liberating even more nutrients.

Now that you’ve got a basic grasp of how bokashi works, let’s dive into how you can apply it in your own garden.

Putting Together Your Bokashi Bucket System

Brewing bokashi is simple and can be done with just a few basic supplies. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need:

Bokashi Bucket and Lid

This is the vessel where you’ll facilitate anaerobic fermentation. A standard 5-gallon bucket with a tight-sealing lid works great. Make sure it hasn’t stored anything toxic!

Bokashi Bran

This is the “magic” inoculant that kickstarts fermentation. Bokashi bran contains the EM microbes, along with wheat bran to feed them. You can find it at most garden stores or online.

Drainage Spigot (optional)

A bucket spigot makes it easier to drain the bokashi “tea” (the liquid byproduct). But you can also just scoop it out.

Weights or Follower

You need some kind of weight to keep your scraps submerged under the bran layer. A simple ceramic plate works well.


Have a small trowel and gloves ready to handle the bran and fermenting scraps.

That’s really all you need in terms of supplies—easy enough, right? Now let’s go over the process of setting up your bucket.

Step 1: Add a drainage layer.

If your bucket doesn’t have built-in drainage, start by adding a 3-4” layer of large wood chips, twigs, or other coarse material. This allows liquid to drain out of the bottom while keeping scraps contained.

Step 2: Add the first layer of Bokashi Bran.

Spread 2-3 inches of bokashi bran across the bottom of the bucket. This is the starter inoculant that will facilitate fermentation.

Step 3: Add food scraps.

Toss in your food scraps! Pretty much any vegetable or fruit scrap can be bokashified. Meat, fish, and oily foods don’t work as well. Bury the scraps under…

Step 4: Cover with more Bokashi Bran.

Add another thin layer of bran, fully covering the scraps. This removes oxygen and brings the EM inoculant into direct contact with the waste.

Step 5: Weight it down.

Place your follower or weight on top to keep the scraps submerged. This maintains the all-important anaerobic conditions.

Step 6: Seal the lid tight!

Finally, seal up the bucket with an airtight lid. This completes the oxygen-limited environment for your bokashi brew.

That’s it—a bucket prepped and ready for fermentation! Now just add more food waste as you generate it, repeating steps 3-6.

Maintaining Your Bokashi Bucket

Maintaining Your Bokashi Bucket

To keep your bokashi brew happily fermenting, follow these simple maintenance practices:

  • Add waste in thin layers. Don’t overload the bucket all at once. Add thin layers (1-2” max) every few days.
  • Always cover it with bran. Make sure scraps are fully coated to inoculate and submerge.
  • Use weight/follower. Keep the waste pressed down underneath the bran layer.
  • Check the spigot. If you have a spigot, drain any accumulated liquid each time before adding fresh waste.
  • Leave the lid sealed. Maintain anaerobic conditions by keeping the lid tightly closed between additions.
  • Store indoors or in the shade. Avoid temperature extremes to keep microbes happy.

Follow those simple guidelines, and your bokashi bucket will churn out the “black gold” in no time!

Harvesting Your Fermented Bokashi Goodness

After 2-4 weeks, your bucket will be filled with dark, pickled, fermented organic matter. At this point, it’s ready for harvesting.

Bokashi is rich in nutrients but has not yet stabilized into true compost. There are two main ways to utilize it:

Option 1: Bury in the garden

Dig bokashi directly into the soil or compost piles. The fermented material will break down fully into rich humus after 2-4 weeks.

Option 2: Dilute “bokashi tea.”

Drain off the acidic “bokashi tea” liquid. Dilute this nutritious elixir 10:1 with water for a potent foliar spray or soil drench.

However you choose to use it, bokashi adds a huge nutrient infusion along with populations of beneficial microbes. It’s a secret weapon for supercharging your garden soil!

Now let’s explore some of the many benefits bokashi can offer your plants and soil.

Unleashing the Benefits of Bokashi in Your Garden

Bokashi is like a probiotic energizer for your garden’s microbiome. Those “tiny green monsters” get a major boost!

Here are some of the key benefits bokashi delivers:

Nutrient infusion: Bokashi provides a jolt of immediate plant-available nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Fermentation unlocks these nutrients from organic waste.

Microbial inoculant: The EM in bokashi populates your soil with diverse beneficial bacteria and fungi. These microbes continue to enhance soil function over the long term.

Pathogen suppression: Beneficial anaerobes produce compounds that inhibit problematic fungi and bacteria. Bokashi helps clean up diseased soil.

Better structure: The microbes and organic matter in bokashi improve soil aggregation, porosity, and water retention.

Faster composting: Bokashi adds an energizing kickstart to compost piles and digests woody wastes faster.

Drought tolerance: improved soil health promotes stronger, healthier root systems that are better able to withstand drought stress.

Bigger, healthier plants: With bokashi, plants have an easier time accessing water and nutrients. Growth and yields often increase noticeably.

It’s pretty incredible what those tiny microbes can do! Bokashi is like a cheat code to amplify the natural mechanisms that make soil so alive and productive.

Bokashi vs. regular composting

At this point, you might be wondering: How is bokashi different from regular composting?

While both rely on microbes to break down organic waste, there are a few key differences:

  • Oxygen levels: Bokashi is anaerobic; composting is aerobic. Bokashi microbes work in the absence of oxygen.
  • Speed: The anaerobic process in bokashi is much faster, taking just 2-4 weeks versus months for compost.
  • Range of inputs: Bokashi can break down a wider variety of scraps, including meat, citrus, and greens.
  • Nutrient levels: Fermentation preserves more nutrients, like nitrogen, that would otherwise off-gas during composting.
  • Byproducts: Bokashi produces a nutrient-rich tea, while composting creates a stabilized humus end product.

The two methods are very complementary. Bokashi can even be added to speed up the composting process!

But for harvesting beneficial microbes and the widest range of nutrients in the shortest amount of time, bokashi has a clear advantage. It puts the power of fermentation to work, amplifying your garden’s microbial engine.

Applying Bokashi to Your Garden

Applying Bokashi to Your Garden

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to apply bokashi to your garden beds and containers.

Here are some simple techniques to put this nutritious ferment to work:

Bokashi composting: Mix bokashi in with your compost pile or bin. It will speed decomposition and incinerate the fresh waste.

Whole soil inoculant: Bury bokashi directly in beds 2–6 inches down. Allow 2-4 weeks to finish breaking down before planting.

Spot soil inoculant; dig bokashi into just the planting hole when transplanting vegetables and flowers.

Potting mix booster: Mix a few tablespoons into each pot when potting up plants. It’s a microbe energizer!

Seed starter: Add a pinch of bokashi to the seed starter mix for stronger seedlings.

Tree and shrub holes: When planting trees, shrubs, and vines, add some bokashi to the bottom of the hole.

Topdressing: Scatter dried bokashi lightly around established plants as a nutritious surface mulch.

Compost tea catalyst: Add a handful to aerated compost tea to amplify microbial populations.

Foliar feeds: dilute bokashi tea with 10 parts water and 1 part tea for a healthy foliar spray.

Start small as you get the hang of using bokashi in your garden. A little goes a long way in nourishing your plants and soil ecology.

Troubleshooting Common Bokashi Problems

Bokashi is a fairly foolproof system, but occasionally issues can pop up. Here are some quick troubleshooting tips:

Smelly ferment: A rancid smell means something went anaerobic. Toss the batch and start fresh with more bran.

Mold growth: This happens if oxygen is getting in. Press the waste down tighter, and check the lid seal.

Slow breakdown: Colder temperatures can slow fermentation. Move the bucket to a warmer area if needed.

Pesty flies: Flies can get into small gaps. Make sure the lid has a tight seal, and drain any liquid.

Pet or pest disturbance: If critters somehow get in, transfer the batch to a new, sealed bucket.

Leaky bucket: Any cracks or holes will impede anaerobic conditions. Repair or replace the bucket.

As long as you maintain that all-important anaerobic environment, your bokashi bucket should hum along smoothly!

Unleash the tiny green monsters in your garden!

Unleash the tiny green monsters in your garden!

Hopefully, you’re now fired up to unleash the power of bokashi in your own garden! Harnessing the microbial might of beneficial bacteria can transform the way your plants grow and thrive.

With just a simple 5-gallon bucket system, you can:

  • Digest tons of kitchen scraps into a nutritious garden booster.
  • Quickly amplify populations of beneficial microbes
  • Unlock more nutrients from organic amendments.
  • Grow healthier, more robust plants.
  • Improve your soil structure and fertility for the long haul.

The world of soil bacteria is intricate, but leveraging bokashi makes it simple and accessible. All it takes is providing the right conditions for the “tiny green monsters” to thrive!

So give bokashi a try this season if you’re looking to supercharge your garden. Join the growing movement of gardeners unleashing the microbes through fermentation. Let us know how it works for your veggie beds, flower patches, and container plants!


Bokashi is an ingenious method of harnessing beneficial bacteria to amplify the power of organic waste. Through anaerobic fermentation, bokashi rapidly converts scraps into a nutritious microbial cocktail. When applied in the garden, bokashi catalyzes soil health and plant growth.

By unleashing tiny green monster machines, gardeners can build fertile, living soil. Crops thrive with stronger roots, better access to nutrients, and protection from disease. Bokashi is one of the most accessible and impactful tools we have for cultivating a thriving garden microbiome.

With just a simple DIY bucket system, anyone can tap into the regenerative power of beneficial bacteria through bokashi. If you want to take your garden’s productivity to the next level, give this fermented elixir a try! Bokashi just might become your garden’s best friend.

Happy brewing!

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I put in my bokashi bucket?

Most vegetable and fruit scraps work well, along with coffee grounds, eggshells, and nutshells. Avoid large amounts of fat, oil, meat, and citrus.

How long does bokashi take to ferment?

The fermentation process usually takes 2–4 weeks. After that time period, the bokashi is ready to harvest and use.

Can I bury bokashi directly in my garden?

Yes, you can bury bokashi to decompose in place. Dig it into the soil and wait 2-4 weeks before planting in that spot.

What’s the difference between bokashi and compost?

Bokashi ferments waste anaerobically and more quickly than traditional aerobic composting. Bokashi also preserves more nutrients, like nitrogen.

How long does bokashi last once fermented?

Bokashi can be kept for a few months once fermented, but it’s best to use it within 3-6 weeks to harness the highest microbial activity.

Do I need to sterilize my bucket before starting?

No sterilization is needed. The bokashi bran will inoculate the bucket with the effective microorganisms once you begin.

Bruce Curtis

Leave a Reply

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

Next Post

How to Grow White Eggplant

Sun Jan 21 , 2024
Growing white eggplants in your garden can be a delightful experience both visually and gastronomically. White eggplants, also known as Italian eggplants, are an excellent source of nutrition and offer a unique and milder flavor compared to traditional purple eggplants. These creamy white fruits feature a smoother texture that is […]
How to Grow White Eggplant

You May Like