Like everything else, good compost is all about balance. The full breakdown of organic material into the "black gold" prized by gardeners and worms alike requires careful, occasionally mystical-seeming attention to maintaining the yin of the nitrogen-rich fresh "green" (e.g. food scraps) and the yang of the carbon-heavy "brown" (leaves etc.).
Also like everything else, an imbalance in the system can lead to problems. Problematic compost can look like: a pile of dry, inactive scraps, or like flies, sludge, and stinks. We've also fallen down a deep rabbit hole wherein we discovered that super imbalanced, "hot" (when accelerated, unchecked microbial activity generates a lot of heat) compost piles can spontaneously combust (what!?).
For small-scale composters, it can be tricky to strike the right balance, especially in apartments with limited space for storing and turning or little opportunity to source adequate suitable "browns". One veteran Foundry Family composter with a few acres, many deciduous trees, and theoretically no excuse for bad compost *still* forgets to squirrel away enough of last fall's perfect leaf mold every. single. year. and ends up with a wet, watermelon-rind-heavy mess lo about August (hi, it's me). Enter Kenkashi.
Dreamed up in the gentle rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia by the marvelous cultural-anthropologist-turned-ingenious-tinkering-microbiologist John and now helmed his lovely daughter, Cassie, Kenkashi is a powerhouse microbial agent inspired by the traditional "Bokashi" composting method. Bokashi is a centuries-old horticultural technique that takes out the middle man of the traditional "pile". The specific organic processes of this method allow the decomposing organic matter to chill in an airtight container (like a five gallon construction bucket) for a few weeks—without getting gross or weird—and then can be placed directly in the garden, with no loss of nutrients, harmful greenhouse gas emissions, or, you know, slime.
Ok, but what IS it? In short, it is "fermented kenaf". In long, it is ground hemp fiber (the "kenaf") which has been inoculated with a combination of beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal funghi to create a peat-like material that functions as an anaerobic bacterial fermentation agent to speed and optimize the naturally occurring decomposition of organic matter. Don't just take our word for it, be charmed by John:
If you don't already compost, Kenkashi makes it easy to start. If you do, this wonder powder can be used in myriad ways in existing set-ups: both as a booster-balancer to regulate traditional compost piles or sprinkled into kitchen waste to minimize liquids or bummers (or fairy-dusted into aromatic kitty litter, or added to leaf mold enclosures, or plopped into a composting toilet, or added as an anti-plant-scorch amendment to bottom-of-the-chicken-coop bounty, or...). If it sounds magic it's because it is, because SCIENCE IS MAGIC.
The whole thing—from the specific balance of the microbes used (a very effective consortium of 30-35 micro-organisms from 3 families: lacto bacillus, photosynthetic, and yeast, which form a dynamic, self-sustaining combination) to the cellular structure of the kenaf itself (a golden-ratio honeycomb shape that inherently acts as a "slow release timer" on active microbes)—is delightfully considered, scientifically fascinating, and ultimately very satisfying. The proof is in the plants.
A little goes a long way, get yours here.
p.s. We first "met" John years ago—before he became enamored of untangling the mysteries of microbiomes he was the sweet and brilliant world-traveler who introduced us to our favorite palm market bags. John passed in February and we are sending biggest love to Cassie as she continues his work nurturing the wild, beautiful, verdant paths towards curiosity.