Reducing food waste day 2 – bokashi bins

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Using a bokashi bin to reduce cooked food waste

Using a bokashi bin to reduce cooked food waste

On Monday we talked about using a wormery to reduce cooked food waste.

I mentioned that they are not ideal if you have a lot of food waste as a wormery can be quite slow. Although they reckon to eat half their body weight in a day, I have rarely seen this happen.

If you don’t have a garden but still want to ‘compost’ then a bokashi bin can help. Here are the most commonly asked FAQs about bokashi bins from our readers:

What is a bokashi bin?

A bokashi bin is a composter you can use in your kitchen. You usually have 2 buckets on the go; one being filled and the other fermenting. You add a layer of food waste (including cooked), followed by a layer of special bokashi bran. You keep layering it until the bin is full and then you leave it to ferment before adding to your compost heap. A bokashi bin will produce bokashi juice too which can be drained off and used.

Does a bokashi bin smell?

A working bokashi bin smells a bit like fermenting pickles and is not offensive. If it smells like rotting food, it is not working properly – you might not be using enough bran or the contents might be too wet.

How long I should leave my full bokashi before emptying it into my compost bin?

2-3 weeks after being filled you can add the contents of your bokashi bin to the compost heap. You can cover it with a fresh layer of soil if you like. To check the contents are ready, they will smell like fermented pickles and will have a white ‘fuzz’ over the surface.

I don’t have a compost heap, can I still use a bokashi bin?

You can still use the contents of your bokashi bin in your garden: Empty the contents of your bokashi bin into a large pot and cover with compost or soil. Plant heavy feeders directly into the pot.

What can I use bokashi juice for?

As well as using it diluted on house plants you can use it to freshen your drains! Bokashi juice is particularly effective on a septic tank because it doesn’t disturb the natural bacterial balance.

To use bokashi juice as a liquid fertiliser (the equivalent of Baby Bio) dilute 1 teaspoon in2 1/2 litres of water and use this water around your plants. To freshen drains, simply pour the neat concentrated bokashi liquid into your drain or down any sink in your home.


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (44)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Bokashi bins are ace for all the food waste from cooking, and eating. I use only 1 bokashi and when emptied simply wash clean all the parts: lid, inner tray, tap and main body. Thorough drying is required before recommencement which makes turnaround just a matter of hours.

    After making old-fashioned home made soup during the winter, there was a collection of ham, and lamb, ribs and a lamb shank. Happily, the bokashi can accommodate even this material, though the after-composting may take years to complete. I have yet to try dealing with dead birds, rodents etc, in similar fashion but feel the bokashi could be useful here as well.

  2. Stu says:

    We used a set of Bokashi bins for over a year in the kitchen to compost our food waste but we have ceased using it for two main reasons; the pickling smell they give off and the amount of space it took up in an already crowded kitchen. Storing the bran was also an issue as we wanted to buy in bulk to reduce costs and then found we had nowhere to store it!!

    Yes it worked but the hastle it caused was too much compared to the output ! as a result of using the bins we managed to reduce our food waste to only the unvoidable stuff and a small amount from a child.

  3. Hazel says:

    I don’t have much food waste that can’t go to the compost bin, dogs or chickens but we do get some that is too spicy for the dogs but too meaty for the chickens and that can’t go straight on the compost bin.

    I baulked at the price of the bran, so I fermented newspaper in yogurt whey (google for instructions, but it was very simple- strain live natural yogurt, add molasses to the watery whey (mix salt and herbs if you like with the thick yogurt and use it as Labneh in your sandwiches!), mix with the newspaper, keep in airtight plastic bag for a while, dry and use. A huge supply of pieces the size of an exercise book cover fit in a plastic ice cream tub.)

    I’m not wild about the smell but DH really can’t bear it, so the bin lives just outside the back door and I only open it outside! Mostly it all goes in the compost heap (at the moment I’m using it to liven up the bin on my allotment which doesn’t get enough green stuff at this time of year), but I do sometimes water plants with the diluted juice, or pour it on my home made dog loo!

    If I want more bokashi or bokashi juice I just put veg peelings etc in there instead of the wormery or compost heaps.

  4. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Happy to hear you are still getting on well with your bokashi John. You’ve shared so much good advice about using one over the years 🙂

    @Stu: As you’ve pointed out, not all systems work for all people. I admit the bins are quite large in a small kitchen. But it seems you have reduced any food waste to a minimum and that is the ultimate goal 🙂

    @Hazel: THanks for the instructions on making the ‘bran’. I’ve often wondered about this too. I saw one internet site with instructions but it looked so complex. I personally can’t stand the small either; I think some people are just more sensitive to it than others. Seems you have found the perfect solution though and dogs and chickens are a great help!

  5. SherryGreens says:

    I looked at this! It woudl be great for indoor plants, and give stuff a headstart before heading to the compost bin! I just purchased a compost bin yesterday, just need the snow to melt so I can use it! But I think a bokashi bin is a great idea for winter for me, as I can still get some organic fertilizer out of it even though everything is frozen up outside.

  6. John Costigane says:

    @SherryGreens: Sherry, frozen temperatures stop the bokaski process much like with the compost bin, though indoor can be kept much warmer. Last severe winter, the juice stopped until April but this year began much sooner, in mid March.

  7. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Thanks for that, Mrs Green. MyZeroWaste has been such a valuable site for myself, and others.

    As Karen stated, adding other material can give more bokashi juice. My favourite is pineapple skins which still have plenty of liquid even after the fruit is removed. Another aspect is their firmness which helps maintain the required anaerobic (oxygen-free) condition of the bokashi contents, since downward pressure is used to squeeze out air pockets after each addition of food waste/bran..

  8. Mrs Green says:

    @SherryGreens: Great stuff; I look forward to hearing how you get on with a bokashi if you decide to use one. Hope that snow melts soon!

    @John Costigane: THanks for yet more advice on the bokashi John; I have so little experience of it and the pineapple tip is interesting!

  9. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: The latest on bokashi usage was the final removal today of nearly all the frozen food waste stuff in the freezer, Mrs Green. This included thick turkey skin from the crown-cut at the festive season, with more recent food waste. The last remaining item is a frozen collection of various fat pieces which can be added, in heated liquid form, to seeds for a small bird food resource.

    Further to the pineapple comment, I cut the flesh into roughly 1″ squares which can be placed in gaps in the newly placed food waste, and to fit the edges and corners surrounding. This results in a reasonably level surface with the added bokashi bran filling any gaps.

  10. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Today marks the end of 3 years towards an eventual bin emptying in 5. The 4 th quarter, as always the time for an end of year clear-out, gave 5.5 oz (160g) of plastic waste tightly taped-up in the largest used commodity bag. The over-all total is now 2lb 8oz in 2 small blue plastic bags, leaving plenty of space for a third one at the end of the challenge. From thinking at the outset of a difficult 5 year challenge to the present attitude of quiet confidence just shows the progress since then. Zero Waste enthusiasm, good contacts with other enthusiasts, especially through MyZeroWaste, and the welcome contribution of local, and specialist, traders, retailers and other businesses, have all made it a fun experience.

    On the growing front, the heated propagator has been on since last Monday, with trays of Sweet Basil, and MoneyMaker Tomato, seeds. After last year’s over eager watering, this time ‘moist’ is the watchword, with the basil plants beginning to appear. Tomato seeds take 2 weeks.

    The last remaining over-wintered basil plant, itself miniature, and a late developer, due to initial over-watering, has started growing again with 10 new branch buds.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: What a great result, John – well done you. I can relate to the feeling of uncertainty to begin with and then the growing realisation that things are changing and it’s easier than we once thought to create minimal waste. Sounds like your gardening is coming along well too. Our seeds are in, but no shoots yet – I’ve put them in an unheated greenhouse which might not have been the best choice 🙂

  12. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Thanks once again, Mrs Green. Your help has been part of the improvement since good businesses have been highlighted on the site. From being somewhat anti- business initially the trend is now to support good businesses and impact other less useful types.

    Heated propagation is not the exact term since there is simply an addition to the surrounding (ambient) temperature ie cold days are slightly less cold in the unit.but on hot clammy days the extra heat can have quick results. I noticed this latter effect on at least one occasion last high summer and look forward to many more this year, hopefully.

    Planting seeds may be left to warmer days but if successful now the season can be longer, giving better tomato yields and seeds from the basil plants, after flowering. I also use warm water from the Hot Tap rather than Cold since this can raise the soil temperature.

    After stating yesterday that the tomato seeds take 2 weeks, there are now 7 shoots today while sweet basil numbers are in the high teens.

  13. Antonio Pachowko says:

    This year for the first time I am growing some Roma (plum)Tomatoes (as we tend to make a lot of tomato sauces) and so far I have 24 plants growing inside my house occupying the kitchen window sill. I am lucky as I live in a house which is elevated (built on a hill) and during the late winter and spring months, we get plenty of sunlight shining through, which is a blessing for growing young plants. i have already transplanted to 9cm pots and the plants are going very well and soon I will been hardening off before planting in growbags outside. The rest I will be giving away. I planted 40 seeds and 43 seedlings sprouted ( for those who wondering if i am wrong- 3 seeds produced twins). When seedlings are young you must not over water them , but use a sprayer or mister when the compost become dry. Remember to transplant to larger containers when the first true leaves have fully opened and plant them to the level of the seedling leaves. I wish you all the luck with your tomatoes

    Just 2.5 weeks I planted 4 Dwarf fruit trees-bare root stock (Victoria plum, Conference pear, Braeburn apple and Morello Cherry). which are ideal for small gardens as they only grow to 5 – 7 ft tall. They are meant to be heavy croppers producing up to 100 pounds of fruit a year after the 3rd year. I may need you help mrs G for recipes to do with Morello cherries. I will keep you posted.

  14. John Costigane says:

    @Antonio Pachowko: Good to see your interest in tomatoes and after some success last year, the aim this year is to improve. My tip, to add to your good points, is to move growing plants to bigger pots as often as practicable before size becomes excessive. This limits plant numbers but suits my situation. Passing on well developed plants to others is another aim, like last year, since good contacts can share their expertise in return.

  15. John Costigane says:

    After planting 15 lavender seeds in a tray 15 days ago, there are 2 shoots, one stands 1cm, upstraight in the sunshine (my thanks to Black and ‘Wonderful Life’) the other just poking above the compost. It has been a long and patient wait, but that is seed germination. Hopefully all 15 will appear and there are a similar amount left in the seed packet, which will all be propagated later.

    There are 2 strategies for lavender growing, to plant out in June/July for flowers this year or to plant out in September for summer 2012. Of course, both will be attempted for comparison. If all else fails, Dobbies can supply a lavender stump but Grow Your Own tastes, and smells, better.

    MoneyMaker Tomato plants are thriving in the recent good spell with repotting essential today or tomorrow. 8 will be moved to pots and 8 kept as spares in case of root blocking. This should be less of a problem this year with moist, not wet, compost. Sweet Basil is also doing fine, the best plant having 2 early rounded leaves. Finally, the leftover, from last year, basil plant is forming flower buds, delayed from last season. It remains to be seen whether this produces seeds.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Have you ever used lavender in cooking John? One of our favourites here at zero waste towers is lavender biscuits 😉 Glad the tomatoes are growing well, mine are SO slow this year and I’m not sure why with all the hot weather we are having. Too hot perhaps…

  17. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: The focus just now is on the lavender growing challenge, a big consideration judging by online experts. Alternative, and varied,spells of propagation and refrigeration seems a bit over the top but may be necessary. I will certainly try to acquire a taste for it on the baking front.

    Strong sunshine does seem to cause leaf collapse in the young tomato plants, with only one, of eight, maintaining its shape all day. This strong individual has probably the best early root development. Happily, the propagator restores all eight to normal form. Comparing those repotted to those still on tray, there is already a big difference in the growing centres, with the repotted broader in leaf in a matter of days.

    Tomato growing here took 13 weeks last year but with the early Spring this could give an August, rather than a September, finish and more fruit than last time. The outlook is therefore positive, but patient.

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: I didn’t realise lavender was so difficult to grow from seed. I’ve always used plants so never tried it. Sounds like a fun project!

  19. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: It is a case of ‘have seeds will propagate’ and lavender is worth investigating to check the actuality of plant growth. Just 2 seeds developed, from 15, and yesterday were sun-hardened. The younger flattened before overnight restoration. A further number will be started soon with a more shallow placement in sieved compost. 3 tomato plants are best performers and stalk formation is nearly started while all the Sweet Basil plants are showing leaf growth. April has been a superb month so far and is set to finish in similar fashion.

  20. John Costigane says:

    While waiting patiently for the Gulfstream to reassert its essential wet influence on our climate, the sun continues unabated. One example from today is in the compost bin which has been filling to the brim for 6 months but now has the contents height sunk by about 8 inches, a welcome return to activity. This can run for another week before emptying the composted fraction, 3/4 at best.

    On the Grow Your Own front, the best tomato is developing the 4th radiating branch, while the rest have 3 at most. Sweet basil has even bigger leaves in all plants. Lavender has a new tray of 20 odd seeds, all on sieved compost, while the sole plant from the first tray has been repotted. Tomato and Lavender plants share a long germination but there the similarity ends. While the tomatoes are shooting up, and out, the lavender has hardly changed in the same period, in fact there is nothing yet visible between the 2 initial leaves in the latter. While tomato is fascinating to follow, lavender requires a more determined approach.

  21. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: I got woken up the other night by torrential rain, but it didn’t seem to penetrate the ground much or fill the water barrels. Amazing how the compost bin activity picks up isn’t it? Sounds like your plants are doing really well. At last my tomatoes are getting somewhere. The potatoes are shooting up and have been earthed up twice and this week I’ll be planting out beans which are climbing out of the greenhouse!

  22. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Great to see your own growing effort well under way. There is a new stage in my tomatoes as well. This is seen in the overall height and width increase. The best plant has 5 branches with the chasing pack on 4. Lavender seeds have begun to germinate and doing much better than the 2 from 15 in the first attempt.

    Heated propagation is the sole focus and the Tomatoes and Sweet Basil will remain in the unit until their height fills all the available space. Lavender seems much different and may not grow tall until much later. When space allows other plants will be started.

  23. John Costigane says:

    The tomatoes are showing further good progress. The best, by far, has its 6th branch already and has leaves double the size of the nearest challenger. Sweet basil plants are good as well and the full grown over-wintered plant is in full flower.

    Lavender is an education to follow and so different from the other plant types. The sole survivor from the first tray has not increased in height, nor, more to the point, in stalk thickness. This later fact may be the reason for the ‘hard to grow’ tag since the stalk is still only a hair’s-width. To support this delicate structure, I add fresh compost regularly, watering slightly just after. One positive, make that 2 positives, is the appearance of a pair of pinhead-sized bumps on the stalk-tip. The second tray has 10+ plants, from about 25 seeds. These require the same careful attention as their predecessor.

  24. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: great news John; we’ve just been away and were pleased to see a lot taking place while we went away and left everything – perhaps there is something to learn in that !

  25. John Costigane says:

    True enough, Mrs Green, nature does a fine job in ideal conditions. The local weather situation has been less favourable recently but growth is continuing. A latest effort has been overnight lighting of the propagator. This has helped the 2 best growing tomato plants and the new lavender plants, which now have pairs of tiny elongated leaves. The earlier plant has not reached this stage yet but will given every chance to continue.

    Sweet basil has been ticking over, waiting for the hot summer sunshine. The flowered plant will be checked for seeds later, though no pollinators have been around.

  26. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Our weather has been amazing; it’s like summer with regards to sun hours, with a cool breeze. Apart from my tomatoes, everything is now planted out – beans went in yesterday, complete with my home made slug collars. I’ve never experimented with lighting; is the weather bad where you are then?

  27. John Costigane says:

    The weather has been much poorer than the exceptional April but that is the normal North British condition. Making the most of good weather is therefore essential here and the heated propagator adds to this by protecting young plants until the summer weather arrives.

    Tomato plants are growing close to the unit’s roof, and all show the tree-canopy shape which precedes the main stalk(s) growth. Lighting has added to the sun’s effect but will not be very effective alone. Lavender plants are already showing the jagged leaf shape of the mint family though some smaller plants have wilted without leaves. Hopefully, the new leaves will further strengthen the remaining plants.

  28. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Well the colder weather of May has slowed everything right down! I think the plants got carried away during April and have suddenly though ‘hang on a minute, it’s a bit cold, I think I’ll have another sleep’ 😀 Well, I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking…

  29. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Despite the poorish weather, plant growth is still well ahead of last year. Lavender plants have now well-formed pairs of leaves arcing away either side of a central ridge from which I assume a stalk will emerge. I am more hopeful now of further good progress since the plants seem to be in the main growing phase at last. There are still tests ahead since the 10 or so left will need separating and repotting from the tray. Tomato and Sweet Basil plants are growing fine. Sunny periods will keep the positive trend for all 3 types of plant.

  30. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, well I’ve just scattered the remaining seeds in bare patches of soil and we’ll see what comes up! All of our radishes have been eaten and enjoyed and I think it will be potatoes next. Good to hear everything is turning out well for you 🙂

  31. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Hi Mrs Green, Great to see your own success with the outdoor planting. I may go ‘outdoor’ as well later on but heated propagation remains central to tomato, sweet basil and particularly lavender growing.

    There are so many don’t do’s regarding lavender growing from seed with repotting and direct sun exposure the latest. These 2 are key activities for my own interest which will not be discarded easily. In repotting, a whole 1/8th section of the tray compost, containing 4 plants, was removed and placed on a pot with fresh compost. There has been a slight loss of growth rate compared to the remaining plants but that is not unusual. The best plants, 5 in total, have seen some full sun and grown apace such that leaves now look more like minute fronds. Repottting the remainder is essential in the growing phase but will be done with extreme care.

  32. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: well I’m learning a lot from you John. I’m inspired to grow a lavender plant from seed myself next year – I love a challenge!

  33. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: My pleasure, Mrs Green. The whole point of ‘grow your own’ is to spread the good word and to learn from other’s experiences. Great to see your interest in lavender growing for next year. Hopefully, there are more insights to glean from my own observations.

    Initially, I despaired of the ‘easy-wilting’ tag which seemed to apply to lavender stems. The truth is that it is more likely that dry compost is not a suitable medium for the growing plant, since light watering, and night-lighting, usually restore the correct form. The question therefore is: Does lavender prefer damp conditions at all times? The smallest pots I use have the problem of compost not-drying out properly which hampered both tomato and basil plants last year. Repotting will allow this to be tested.

    The lyric ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again, nobody’s gonna keep me down’ seems to be a good description for lavender, casting doubt on the ‘effeminate’ notion some have.

    Winter growing has been suggested as an alternative approach. The season’s Indoor lighting requirements may be a positive aspect as well as the extended growing period which could provide full-grown plants in time for summer planting outdoors. This could be one option for your own growing effort. Winter is a bleak time for ‘grow your own’ but lavender may break that mindset. All I require is a new pack of seeds to keep ready for the cold spell, hopefully after a good summer and autumn.

  34. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: well that’s strange. My lavender flourishes in dry conditions. We have clay soil, so have to grow it in pots otherwise it dies. My guess is it likes alkaline soil too, as ours is acidic…

  35. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Dry conditions can be set using a raised bed with a compost/sand base for outdoor planting. The only water used so far is to keep the young stalks vertical in damp compost, or when compost has completely dried out.

    Repotting the 10 tomato plants in 6 inch pots and placing the lavender plants individually in the emptied pots has almost been completed. The 2 best tomato ones are ready for 8 inch pots to spur on growth. Sweet basil is benefiting from night lighting as well and repotting can be done later.

    The biggest recent problem has been lavender where stalks are either entwined or still hair-like in width. Flattening is the standard outcome. Restoring to the vertical involves holding the delicate stalk upright while building a compost mound around. A minimal amount of water can be applied, using a syringe for example, to bind it all together. Night lighting has proved very effective in sustaining such plants but you can see why the ‘hard to grow’ tag is applied to lavender, from seed. Losses have been minimal which shows that last year’s failures have been a good education.

  36. Antonio Pachowko says:

    The best soil for growing lavender is gritty or sandy loam (they do not like clay soil) with a pH value between 6.0 and 8.0 and so you can grow it in slightly alkaline and acidic soil. You should always test you soil to see what it is (too acidic add lime, too alkaline add ammonium sulphate).

    I cheated and bought some young lavender plants (6) from B and Q 4 weeks ago, They seems to be doing well and grow slightly (Planted them with Multipurpose Compost and bonemeal).

    John I am surprised that you are going through so many stages to get you tomatoes growing, I planted 21 plants in the final stages in the beginning of May (in Halifax, we have had no frost since them). 13 plants directly in the garden using the following technique. Once your tomato plant is 25cm (10 inches tall), you can bury a 15cm plastic pot with the bottom cut around the plant so it protrudes from the soil by about 10cm. remove the bottom leaves and add 2.5cm multipurpose compost arounf the stem of the plant in the pot. Feed with a liquid tomato feed and repeat the process every 2 weeks until the compost level reaches the top of the pot, feeding and watering as normal in between. the existing and new top roots will absorb far more nutrients than would normally be the case and hopefully you would get a bigger crop. This works as tomato roots vary; the top roots, which can develop along the stems, absorb nutrients while the lower ones are more concerned with water absorption. The plant are around 40cm tall now and producing fruit.

    6 plants were put in a grow bag and are around 60cm tall and producing a lot of trusses. As an additional experiment 2 plant were planted in 10 inches pots and one has shot up to be 71cm tall. As my plants are Determinate then there is no sucker pinching for me and less work for me.

  37. John Costigane says:

    @Antonio Pachowko: Antonio, A neighbour tried a system like yours, on a small scale, but the tomato plants did not last a week outdoors. Wind and rain did the damage. Pots, in my choice of a small number, can be moved indoors, making them more versatile. Repeated planting outdoors has the disadvantage of potential plant disease. Repotting stimulates growth and the more pots you use the better. Contacts have their own approach and my aim is to provide plants for them which only need 1 final repotting. Of course, I will offer to help with the last move. Last year plants I gave to a neighbour were drowned within days. That will be avoided this year.

    As for lavender, the challenge is to grow from seed, which is my main interest. The idea for this ‘hard to grow’ plant is to show it can be done and to describe the whole process so others can be as successful. Bone meal is worth checking out though, as well as the sand, which will be the main choice. I plan to grow several plants outdoors, as well as give some to contacts, with suitable advice.

  38. Antonio Pachowko says:

    @John Costigane: John my tomato plants outside have survived a gale and very strong winds, heavy rain and is flourishing. It seem to me that the plant were not harden of before planting or it was neglected. In fact if the plant are staked, the wind would produce stronger stems. Repotting is not necessary as once the plant has set its first fruit then it is time to use a liquid tomato fertiliser which will provide the necessary feed .

  39. John Costigane says:

    @Antonio Pachowko: Antonio, the hardening was missing from his plant preparation, even though there was some fruit. Repotting is my personal favourite since there is a noticeable improvement within a couple of days every time. Maybe I will eventually try planting outdoors but perfecting my own approach comes first. I also start using tomato fertiliser when the first fruit appears and stake both fruit bearing branches. The early Spring this year, in the UK, should provide extra fruit, hopefully starting in August, a full month earlier than last year.

  40. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Lavender plants continue their slow growth with a third set of branch buds appearing on most. The biggest change has been a widening of single pairs of fronds which now exceed plant height, ie more wide than tall. Your recent comments on correct soil condition are relevant to my latest ideas. These include using ground bone-meal, once only to avoid over-fertilisation, on each plant. Of course, a few will be tried first. Other options include adding sand to compost, via repotting, and mixing in a suitable powder to raise the pH slightly.

    Tomato plants are doing fine but awaiting more sunny days. After some sweet basil plants faded repotting was hurriedly carried out on the rest with positive outcomes. They have joined lavender in both propagators, also sharing the night-light boost, though much faster growing than lavender. Tomato plants are long gone from the roofed unit apart from one later started which will be located there when floor space permits.

    All 3 related plants suffer when over-watered, lavender having a preference for the most extreme dry conditions. The other two enjoy largely dry soils/compost, tomato plants eventually able to absorb pints of water while soil/compost dries in an instant. I look forward to this, possibly in August.

  41. John Costigane says:

    Summer sunshine has finally arrived here with the earliest flowering bush in bloom, though not full bloom yet. Insect activity has happily returned in small numbers. Best instant count so far is 5 bumble bees, 1 solitary-living honey bee and 1 hoverfly, much like last year.

    Potted plants have also been given a boost. The best 2 tomatoes are close to their first flower appearing and will be handed over to contacts at a suitable time. The other 8 are in smaller pots but developing well. Sweet basil is enjoying the heat with minimal work. Lavender plants are now showing buds for what looks like a fourth set of fronds. The biggest change has been in stalk thickness for nearly all 14 remaining, giving the plants a stronger stance. Repotting some in sand/compost mixture will be the first change in medium when the weather breaks, in Tuesday probably according to this morning’s BBC News forecast.

    Heated propagation, and night lighting, continues and the impact of warmer, possibly humid, evenings will be assessed for any significant growth in lavender or sweet basil, both still placed in the units.

  42. John Costigane says:

    A round-up of the unfinished season has positives and negatives. Tomatoes have again proved a good challenge though the poorish weather wiped out the early advantage in April. I am likely to have much the same as last year. A family contact has also done well from my seed grown plants, using a clear polythene frame to good effect. His tomatoes are slightly ahead of mine which is a big positive. I only hope he can reuse the plastic next year as well! Other plants for contacts are slower growing which suggests that Dobbies plants should be used in addition next year.

    Lavender is still going, though extremely slowly, under lights mainly. The target for the 6 remaining is planting out next year, as suggested by an alternative approach,over-wintering under lights only. Sand/compost mixture has seen the better growth and repotting to larger pots has been a positive.

    Other plants, Sweet Basil, rocket and kale have done reasonably well though more sunshine would have helped.

    Bees are still active and the spearmint bush has flowered recently extending the time available, now 6-7 weeks, for nectar/pollen collection. You can drink only so much spearmint tea but the benefit to bees has saved the invasive plant from the chop.

  43. Antonio Pachowko says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, as the tomato growing season is coming to an end I am wondering how you faired. I have now removed all 21 plants and had such a bumper crop that I have had red tomatoes from July to now. I think in total I have produced around 15 to 20 kg (around 40-50 tomatoes per plant for the plums and around 60-80 per plant for the Cherries). On saturday I picked the remaining green tomatoes (around 4 kg) and having been making green tomato jams and chutneys from it). I still got around 3 kg in my garage waiting to turn red and I hope these will be ready before november.

    Next year I am growing everything in a greenhouse ( to be installed this wednesday and would you believe it is forecast to rain) and will be growing tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes ( mY mum loves eating the flowers stuffed) and peppers. Elsewhere in my garden I have vacated a grass area (around 1m by 7m ) and am going to use the suare foot planting technique to grow garlic, onions, cabbage, spinach, swiss chard, calabrese, carrots and radish. Lets hope it goes well and I not need to go shopping as much.

    Ps How long does it take for lavender to produce flowers from seed, I heard that it can be much as 550 days.

  44. John Costigane says:

    @Antonio Pachowko: Hi Antonio. kudos for your local success and scale, the latter beyond the reach of most people. Local weather here has been very poor with a non-existent ‘Indian Summer’ halting growth abruptly.

    Heated propagation has been the best of a bad lot and will continue over-winter, and beyond, for the 6 lavender plants remaining and a few Sweet Basil plants. 18 weeks was described as the growing period for lavender from seed, 13 for tomatoes. 18 months seems a more realistic figure from my perspective which echoes your sources. I plan therefore to provide the biggest practical pot for the best growing lavender plant and expect a ‘die-off’ as with outdoor locations of bushes etc. Winter plants will also be considered.

    A big positive has been a brother’s first, though limited, success in tomato growing, using a reusable plastic cage for his single plant. Spreading the interest to others is worthwhile and will be part of my ‘grow your own’ efforts in the future.

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