How to Make a Garden Compost Sifter (and Why You Should)

| Compost, Video

Just as a kitchen sifter can screen uneven ingredients going into the final recipe, you can make a compost sifter to do the same thing for your garden.

When you make compost, it rarely breaks down at the same rate and consistency on its way to the finished product. Some of it will always be ready before the rest.

But who wants to wait until it’s all ready before being used? Not me. So, if you want to sift out the ingredients that could use more time in the bin, then use a compost sifter.

Making a compost sifter can easily be completed in a matter of minutes using leftover parts you might already have on-hand. Even if you had to buy everything, the total cost is under $20 with plenty of left overs for the next project.

To make this compost sifter, you only need some 2×4 pieces, weather-resistant wood screws (I like 3”), hardware cloth (I like 1”x1”), a tool to cut the wire, and some nail-able staples to secure the wire to the frame.

There’s no rule on what size to make your sifter. I suggest making it large enough to easily sit on top of whatever you’re sifting into, like a garden cart. But don’t make it so big that it’s bulky and hard to work with. I’ve found that a 2-ft. x 3-ft. sifter is ideal.

Another reason this width works well is that you can buy hardware cloth that comes in 24-inch rolls. While it’s not a big deal to cut it to fit, it does save a little time and effort in placing the hardware cloth onto the frame.

How to Make a Compost Sifter

  1. Assemble the frame. Using the 3” decking screws (or similar) secure the frame. My preference is to place the shorter pieces on the outside and screw them into the ends of the longer side pieces. Before you cut the 2×4 pieces, I suggest you make the shorter end pieces 25-inches wide. This way, you have plenty of surface area to secure the wire, without any overlap. Screw these outside pieces into the ends of the longer side pieces.

    how to make a compost sifter

    Making the shorter end pieces 25-inches provides a solid base for securing the wire, without any overlap to deal with.

  2. Secure the wire to the frame with the nail-able staples and cut any excess hardware cloth from the ends and/or sides.

Now the best part where you get to put it to work. Place the compost sifter over where you want to screen the compost.

Work your hands across the ingredients and what sifts through the one-inch squares is perfect, uniform compost ready for your garden.

The remaining parts can go back in the heap to continue breaking down. This way there’s no waste, and everything gets used in the garden eventually.

For a few dollars and just a few minutes, you’ll have a tool you’ll often use for years to come!

Links & Resources

Episode 026: Using Leaves as Mulch & Compost (and Why Leaves Change Color & Shed)

Episode 075: Top Questions for Composting at Home: You Asked, Joe Lamp’l Answers

joegardener Video Blog: How to Make a Compost Bin Using Free Shipping Pallets

The Complete Guide to Home Composting

About Joe Lamp'l

Joe Lamp’l is the creator and “joe” behind joe gardener®. His lifetime passion and devotion to all things horticulture has led him to a long-time career as one of the country’s most recognized and trusted personalities in organic gardening and sustainability. That is most evident in his role as host and creator of Emmy Award-winning Growing a Greener World®, a national green-living lifestyle series on PBS currently in production of its tenth season. When he’s not working in his large, raised bed vegetable garden, he’s likely planting or digging something up, or spending time with his family on their organic farm just north of Atlanta, GA.

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