Category Archives: Gardening

Bokashi Soil Maker Harvest – A Big Surprise!

Bokashi compost consists of two steps: 1. Pickling the kitchen wastes with Bokashi bran, 2. Mix or bury them into native soil to complete the composting process. For the second step, instead of digging a hole and burying them into the hole, I used a hollowed up bucket to build up the compost so I can use them directly to fertilize plants. This was called the “Soil Maker” technique by some experts. Well, I got a big surprise when I open up the Soil Maker bucket at the end of the 2nd stage. Check out the video: Be forewarned that you probably don’t want to watch this while eating.

It was all crawling with some kind of worms, maggots, or larvaes. They are called Black Soldier Fly larvaes, I later found out that they’re beneficial bugs, believe it or not. People actually harvest them to feed the chickens, ducks and birds. Very interesting and gross. I never intended to grow them but they showed up and ate up half of the pickled Bokashi kitchen waste.

I learned that things don’t always turn out to be what you expected. If that happened, you may learn something from it.

Why and How I do Bokashi Compost

As I mentioned before, I practice Bokashi composting at home. The key benefits of Bokashi composting:
1. It doesn’t stink: The traditional compost can easily go stinky and attract gnats and flies if not properly aerated or turned.
2. Almost all kitchen wastes can be composted: Yes, add your fish, meats and other protein-rich materials, which traditional compost won’t do without being taken over by an army of critters.
3. The compost process is relatively fast: takes 2 weeks to “pickle” or for the Kokashi bacterial to propagate and another month for the 2nd phase of breakdown in the soil – about a 1 1/2 month effort. The traditional composting could take as long as a year.
4. You can compost kitchen wastes incrementally in small batches like in a typical urban home. The traditional compost requires a big batch of 3’x3’x3′ critical mass to be effective.
5. It can be used to feed your vermicompost (worm compost). Worms devour them. But it needs to fed in small amount and allows it to sit in the corner of the worm bin for the acidity level to go down a bit before worms would work on them.

Nothing is more exciting for me to see a big chunk of our family garbage not go into the landfill but turn into some kind of vibrant, rich fertilizer for my garden which in turn feed my family. All is done with a little help from the microbes in the Bokashi bran! It’ a win-win for everyone. I encourage you all to give it a try.

Now you’re all pumped up and ready to take some actions! The next question:
How do you do Bokashi compost? Here’s a video how I do it:

To give the proper credit, I learned a lot from other websites and Youtube videos as follows:
1. and his video channel.
2. Bokashi Videos – no new updates.

Where to buy your Prokashi bran?
3. Do It Yourself. See my video.

Digging “Black Gold” from the Community Compost Site in Cupertino

When it comes to organic gardening, nothing beats the good old compost, considered by many gardener to be the “black gold.” After reading the book, “Teaming with Microbes,” I have come to appreciate how critical compost is to growing organic vegetables.

I heard from others a while ago about the “free” compost in Cupertino, California where I live. After spending more than $7 on a 2-cubic-feet bag of organic compost at Home Depot last week and failed attempt to do traditional compost, I decided to check out this Cupertino compost site last week. I videotaped the entire experience. If you live in Cupertino, by all means, check out the place and bring home some compost for your garden. I have even gone back a second time to grab more this week! For those who don’t live in Cupertino, be sure to check if you city offers a similar service, perhaps not free but at a less expensive price tag than you can get from Home Depot.

This compost site is located in the Steven Creek Quarry Factory or 12100 Quarry Road, Cupertino. You would need to bring your ID to show you’re a Cupertino resident and bring lots of buckets and a shovel to start digging!

Making Bokashi Bran with Shredded Newspaper

For the last 6 months or so, I have embarked on a journey to finding that closed “system” that allows me and my family to reduce our garbage volume while enriching/fertilizing my vegetable garden which in turn feeds my family and reduces our grocery bill. Who wouldn’t like that?

I started out with traditional composting – my second attempt with lots of research and efforts. And boy, the compost piles really stunk probably due to neglects and ignorance! Most of the homes in our area simply are not large enough to create enough of a critical mass/pile (3’x3’x3′) or ~1 cubic yard to be successful with the traditional compost. I have yet to find a foolproof way to do traditional compost without creating a big mess and smell.

I stumbled on Bokashi composting as an alternative to the traditional composting, thanks for many video channels on youtube and other reference sites. Initially, I bought a Bokashi compost kit that includes a special bin and a bag of Bokashi bran for me to sprinkle over the kitchen waste. It works really well in composting continuous stream of kitchen waste without the bad smell. This was fine until I found out that each bag of Bokashi bran costs about $10. Each bag lasts about 2 months or so. It might be cheaper to just buy 3 cubic feet of compost!

So I decided to find out how to make my own Bokashi bran and made a how-to video.

Bokashi bran are usually made of wheat bran inoculated with the beneficial bacteria – cultured in “EM”. Wheat bran works well but is hard to find in bulk and relatively expensive compared to shredded old newspaper. Here I show you how to make Bokashi “Bran” with shredded newspaper instead of wheat bran.

The EM can be purchased here. 12oz bottle should be sufficient and good for a couple of years for most families.

My Favorite Gardening Youtube Channels – And You’ll Learn A Lot Too

After catching the gardening bug, I’ve been busy reading AND watching lots of Youtube gardening help videos. Here are my favorite YouTube gardening channels:

1. Grow You Green by John Koeler: Growyourgreen. John Koeler is passionate about growing your green at home. He goes on field trips to visit stores, gardens, conferences and bring back lots of new, interesting things to the self-made gardeners/audiences. His videos are often long with good entertainment value if you don’t mind the occasional “preaching.”

2. MphGardener Mr. MphGardener taught me so much about hydroponic gardening and somewhat fact-based tricks behind it. Very informative and down to earth if you don’t mind the religious lean.

3. Gary Pilarchik’s Rusted Garden and his Rusted Garden blog. Gary gives very concise tips and instructions on gardening. You can learn a lot within a short time.

4. Praxxus55712: Ray fashioned an easy-going, happy gardening method. He raised turkeys, chickens and a wonderful co-host, Rascal, the dog. It’s so relaxing to watch him and learn from him.

5. LDSpepper: LDSpepper also gives lots of good gardening tips and setting up the garden. He promotes the Mittleider Gardening Method, which seems a bit dogmatic to me. Informative but corny at times.

6. Grow Organic Peaceful Valley or their website: Professionally-done videos hosted by ??. Excellent videos to teach organic gardening. Some of the videos are designed to promote things they sell – informative, nevertheless.

I hope to seen share some of gardening experience on this site. Stay tuned…

Book Review: Container Gardening for Dummies by Bill Marken, Suzzane DeJohn

Decided to read this book after reading the “Gardening Basics for Dummies” as I have been getting hot and heavy into raised-bed container gardening.

There are pros and cons of gardening in containers. I like the portability and the modular nature of containers (less prone to normal soil diseases) but dislike the time consuming, manual watering. For lots of people living in high rise, this may be the only choice. Like most for-dummies books, it’s a good basic book that cover the basic but I think it’s probably good enough for most people who live in the city and small gardening space. The unique challenges of the container gardening are highlighted to be overcome.

Part 1 is about getting ready for potting. Pros and Cons are discussed in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 covers the climate. I learned that pots are exposed to more temperature extremes due to its small mass. How to pick the pots is considered in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 gets the soil right. The author recommends 1/2 cubic yard of sphagnum peat moss, 1/2 cubic yard of vermiculite, plus 10 lbs bone meal, 5 lbs, dolomitic limestone, 5 lbs, blood meal. Then Chapter 5 gives you all you need to plant it into the pot.

Part 2 covers the annuals, plants, vegetables, herbs, and bulbs.

Part 3 covers the perennials and indoor gardening.

Part 4 helps you maintain the plants’ health on watering, fertilizing, repotting, pests and diseases.

Part 5 goes into the designing and decoration with the container plants.

Part 6 contains the part of ten or the top 10 ways to make gardening more accessible, 10+ categories of plants for easy annual flowers, easy vegetables and herbs, to start from seeds, attractive & edible plants, fragrant plants, deer-resistant plants, gift plants. There are more plants you can’t go wrong with for full sun, and part shade, and shade, and annual flowers by shape (tall, shrubby, and trailing).

Book Review: “Gardening Basics for Dummies” by Steven A. Frowine

Borrowed this book from the library and pave the foundation for my newly acquired hobby: gardening. I learned a few things. Most of them are general enough and give you a broad view of the gardening discipline. Gardening is hard work. No doubt about it and yet there are so much science and myths around them. This is a good reference book who enjoys a little gardening. It’s not detailed enough for you to know anything in great depth but most flower gardener will find this book useful.

Part 1 familiarizes you with anatomy of plants. Defines the basic terms: annuals vs. perennials, bulbs, shrubs, trees and etc. So many different kinds of flower can be overwhelming. Would be good to have a picture for each of the flower. There is a chapter on planting your garden to suit your purpose. Now I come to appreciate the landscape architect. They have to know all the different plants and when each plant bloom and how they co-exist with others and their projected mature look. Takes a lot of experience. That’s why they call him/her “Master Gardener.” One must account for the climate and how each plant adapt to the local climate. Chapter 4 covers what the plants need: soil, compost, mulch, watering system, and drainage. Chapter 5 goes into the gardening tools/gears. I learned about hoe, dibbles, lopper, and others.

Part 2 goes into great lengths in flowers and foliage. I believe this is the strength of the book. The author seems to be specialized in flowers, which most people are interested in. Chapter 6 covers the annuals and Chapter 7 perennials, Chapter 8 bulbs (informative as I wasn’t familiar with bulbs especially there are true bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers, and tuberous roots). Chapter 9 has lots of information about roses. There are so many different kinds of roses.

Part 3 entails the “permanent landscape.” All about lawn in Chapter 10. And then Chapter 11 is all about trees and shrubs. A bit skimpy in details but trees are a wide topic. Chapter 12 covers the climbers and crawlers.

Part 4 touches on vegetables and produces, herbs, fruits, berries, and nuts. There are general tips and avoiding pests for each kind of plant. Very general.

Part 5 touches on container gardening, which is just a special case of gardening. There is another for-dummies book on container gardening that’s better. Chapter 17 mentions gardening with ponds and fish.

Part 6 is called “Part of Ten” – the bonus section: top 10 common questions are answered, ten quick projects, and ten gardening projects for kids.