Making Organic Fertilizer

Here is an abbreviated outline of some of the fertilizer we make in Honduras. All of this is in addition to the green manure we grow and the chicken and sheep manure we use.

  1. Good rock dust often costs $1 per pound from organic fertilizer suppliers. I get a commercial rock crushing business that normally makes gravel for concrete to crush volcanic rock for us. I pay $1 for a 100 pound sack when buying buying 20 sacks. We sift the material and use the finest dust when making bokashi and the other fermented fertilizer products we make. We typically add 1 gal of it to a 55 gal barrel of bokashi and a similar amount to our other fermented products. The coarse material we apply directly to the soil near the plants.

  2. We have found the raw material used in making dog food and chicken food are low cost choices for making our organic fertilizer. For example, when buying bone meal from organic fertilizer suppliers, $1 per pound is a typical price. But, when I buy it from the supplier to commercial chicken feed manufactures, it is only $12 per 100 lb sack. It could be less if I was buying more than 30 sacks at a time.

  3. Beef slaughter houses have lots of waste material that can’t be sold to supermarkets. For example blood, guts, bones, feet, head, sick animals, etc. That material is dried and ground into a fine powder and sold to dog food manufactures. It is very high in NPK. I pay $27 per 100 lb sack when buying 20 sacks or more.

  4. Fourthly, we have converted from using sawdust to rice hulls as bedding for our sheep and chickens. With the urine soaked bedding, we use 55 gal barrels to make 3 barrels of bokashi each week. Rice hulls have nearly as much NPK as does manure while sawdust has none. They are both about the same price when buying the rice hulls in bulk. We pay about $1.50 per sack for rice hulls when buying 300 at a time. That includes deliver. When buying sawdust, I had to drive and haul from the saw mill.

  5. The fifth thing we do is there are big farms that need their fence areas cleaned. They normally pay workers to clean those areas annually. We do it for free in exchange for the material we cut. Three of our students can normally cut 2000 lbs of that material in 6 hours. That includes hauling it to our fields. We use this material to cover the bokashi when the bokashi is placed in the field near the plants. The “straw” keeps the bokashi covered and moist. The bokashi decompose together in a symbiotic way.

  6. When buying minor minerals for fertilizer, they can be VERY VERY expensive but because minerals for cattle are produced and used in large quantities, that is a low cost alternative. We use them when making all of our liquid fertilizers.

I share this info in part because I have found it difficult to find good info on this topic. Most who write and talk about organic farming are doing it small scale and so their techniques don’t apply very well to those of us doing larger scale organic farming. None of the above discoveries were made on the internet but instead by doing investigative networking and calling a lot of businesses. In addition to the above products, we make a lot of liquid organic fermented fertilizers. Some of those liquid fermented fertilizers make use of the products listed above. Those liquid fertilizers are delivered to the field with the irrigation system as a way to reduce labor needs. They are made in large tanks and injected into the irrigation water.

Hopefully this is helpful to some of this group.


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Thanks that’s interesting and helpful. Can you share your bokashi making method? Thanks again.

Martin, hopefully this is what you are asking for. I tried to be as brief as possible but yet explain the important details. Glen

We make an assortment of different bokashi but the one we make the most of is with sheep bedding that uses rice hulls as the bedding material. We also make it with sawdust and also with chicken manure and also with ashes. What I mean is that about 90% of the material in our bokashi is one of those items. In other words, if we come across a large load of wood ashes, then wood ashes will be the basic ingredient in the bokashi. Ditto for chicken manure, etc. But, every few days we have sheep bedding so that is the one we make most often.

Even apart from the variety of basic ingredients, there is also some variation of the minor ingredients used because we want to have as a diverse mix microorganisms as possible and therefore will use things that are seasonally available…like coffee pulp that is only available for 2 or 3 months in our area. In addition, we will soon begin a fish tank and will use that water instead of well water in all of the fertilizers we make including bokashi.

We make some of the ingredients that will be listed below. For example, we make our own “EM” using a process similar to KNF-1 but anaerobically instead of aerobically as KNF does.
We also make our own kefir with fresh milk. If you’re not familiar with kiefer, it is sort of like yogurt on steroids. Whereas yogurt might have 6 to 8 active strains of bacteria, Kiefer will have 30 to 50. We use both our homemade EM and Kiefer in all of our fertilizer mixes.

Here are our normal ingredients and procedures for making bokashi.

I buy 55 gallon metal barrels with removable lids. I buy metal because I can buy three or four of those for the price of one plastic barrel. To protect the metal barrel, I buy rolls of heavy duty black plastic. The rolls are actually tubes. We cut a section about 2 meters long and use sting to tie one end closed putting the tied end to the bottom of the inside of the barrel. Once the plastic bag is full we use a piece of string to tie the top of it closed so it is an anaerobic process.

To minimize the labor, we use a layering process instead of a mixing process. In the past we would mix the ingredients by hand but now we just put them into the barrels in thin layers and that seems to work equally well and much less work and therefore much quicker.

In a large container we mix 5 gal of water, 5 gal of urine, 1 gal of molasses, 1 liter of kiefer and mix with a stick. This will be the source of moisture for the other ingredients. This will be added using a sprinkler can to the dry ingredients in the barrel.

Begin by pouring a 5 gal bucket of sheep bedding into the bottom of the barrel.
Then pour in 2 liter of EM and then 2 liters of cow manure, 2 liters of worm castings, 1 cup of bone meal, 1 cup of wood ashes, 1/2 cup volcanic rock dust.

On top of the first layer, about 1.5 gal of the premixed liquid is poured on the dry ingredients using a sprinkler can. Use enough liquid so the mixture forms a damp ball.

We use a “tamping” pole to pack the material tight in the barrel expelling airspace….similar to making silage.

The process is repeated until the barrel is full and the bag is tied closed and metal lid installed. We use masking tape to put a date label on the barrel. After 30 days, the barrel is emptied into a wheelbarrow and spread near the fruit trees….plantains and lemons. The bokashi is laid directly on the soil and covered with cut grass, etc. to keep it moist and sheltered from the sun. We normally make about 3 barrels at a time and do it each few days. Doing multiple barrels each few days is more efficient than making one barrel every day.

The idea of adding the bone meal, volcanic rock dust and wood ashes to the mix is so the microbial action will help to break down that material making the basic ingredients in them available to the plants… particularly P&K as well as the micronutrients. I’ve considered adding #6 from the original message above to the mix but as of now, it is only added to our liquid fertilizers.

Sometime later, will make a video to be more clear of how we make bokashi.