Shake yo’ compost screen

Sifter hard way:nifty stuff

As part of my almost criminally long article on composting (125 pages and counting) I have been looking at compost screens and sifters. Mine is something my husband knocked together in a few minutes—a wooden frame reinforced at the corners fitted with ½” hardware cloth (read: wire mesh). It’s big enough to set down on the big new wheelbarrow I got last summer. I just shovel finished compost onto it and shove it around with my hands; what doesn’t go through goes back into the bin.

It never occurred to me that some people shook theirs–it sounds like way too much work– until I ran into that guy in the photograph above. But apparently he saw the error of his ways, and found the plans for a two-part sifter where the screen rides on top of a secure frame. Directions for building it are available here, on the Glendale, California website.

You can see the results here. And the version on the website moves!

Compost-sifter-sieve-screen
Source: Nifty Stuff

Sifting isn’t necessary, of course, unless your compost contains a high proportion of wood chips or, in my case, peanut shells. (We seem to have gone on a peanut binge this winter.) Such high-carbon items take a long time to break down, and until they do, they tie up nitrogen, which means that you don’t want too many of them in your garden soil, using the nitrogen you’d like to have available for your plants.

Somewhere along the research trail, I encountered someone who pointed out that everything from a screen that you toss back into a new compost pile carries with it a bit of active compost, teeming with all those micro-organisms that do our composting for us. So when you screen your finished compost, you inoculate your new pile. Not bad.

At the end of his thrice-updated post, this fellow announced that he'd been bested by someone who also posted his results on Nifty Stuff:

That might look like the top of the line, but there's one more improvement to this automatic version, one last fillip to be added: a way to collect the stuff that doesn't make it through the screen. In fact, this separates two different sizes of pebbles and such. Brace yourselves people, here it is: the ultimate home made compost sifter:

Doesn't he look pleased with himself? You might notice the absence of directions. The only clue to what powers this contraption is the pair of photographs tucked up under the first video clip. These fellows rely on the camera for instructions. Look closely, and ye shall understand.

13 Responses to Shake yo’ compost screen

  1. shake shake shake, shake your compost, shake your compost.

  2. I knew you’d get into the rhythm of this, Deb. But now I’m wishing I’d called this post “Shake yo’ compost” instead of “Shake yo’ compost screen.” Dang.
    –Kate

  3. I have a lot of oak leaves in my compost and they don’t break down very quickly. I sometimes just dump it in my garden anyway. Sometimes I screen. I just use hardware cloth over my wheelbarrow. I could use one of those automatic shakers, but being as I didn’t even frame my sifter, what are the odds that I’ll build one of those?

  4. I shake shake shake too! The compost that is… But instead of throwing the chunky stuff back into the compost I use it as mulch.

  5. Sieve shaking is really hard work.
    Weight+sideways motion= ouch. Bigtime.
    I solved it very simply by putting two legs on the sieve so that there is no weight and compost riddling is dead easy.
    Mind you I tend not to do that much of it as I find that the odd lump adds character to a mulch (and a person).
    However I am quite excited by these drill powered contraptions. I want bigger and better, though. I am considering stealing a fire engine with turntable ladder which I am sure could be adapted.

  6. Have spent countless hours composting ‘black gold’ for my gardens, sifting it to perfection as the type A that I am. Also put the spousal unit to work doing same. What can I say: compost….. delicious!

  7. I LOVE the Sanctus. Bach really knew how to write a bass line, didn’t he?

  8. We call ’em Riddles over here but I knew what you meant. Andrew made ours too but we’re definate shakers. Check it out!
    http://growourown.blogspot.com/2008/12/turf-stack-destroyer.html
    x

  9. my brain is turning with ideas now. I love to build things, and seeing that sifter has me pumped up to contruct some kind of “machine”.
    Like I needed something else to do.

  10. I have built another automatic riddler machine – Nifty-Stuff have been kind enough to publish details.

  11. Sure with I had one of those!!

  12. Daphne–I gather you’re truly sifting, not pushing the stuff through as I do. Otherwise, there’s no way a sheet of hardware cloth would work. Also, I can see that you’re really pushing the outside edge of the perfectionism envelope here.
    Michelle–Makes sense. I’m going to have to try this…
    James–I’ve got it: People hire you for the pleasure of seeing you do the twist with a wooden frame in hand. I always wondered….
    Anyway, it sounds as though it keeps those obliques in shape.
    Alice— My spousal unit was done after knocking together the frame; he doesn’t see the point in all this fuss. But I agree with you: oh, so lovely! I actually tried to stop sifting once last year, but found I couldn’t give it up.
    Victoria–ME TOO. Also, he sure did! Our director kept telling the basses that this was all about them, and you could see them basking and preening. Have you sung it?
    Welcome, Carrie, glad you made it over here. So you shake too? Cripes, why does everyone work so hard?
    James, I am quaking in my boots. What, I wonder, what ever are you going to do?
    Welcome, Richard–I’ve taken a look at your contraption (Just click on his name, folks, and the link takes you straight to it) and have to admit that without a video it’s a bit hard for me to work out how it’s different. I did like your claim that what motivated you to design and build this was “nothing more than laziness.” Would that my laziness gave rise to such useful items.
    Welcome, Sande, to this collection of drooling idiots, all mooning over compost sifters.
    –Kate

  13. I have old picture frames, that are ‘ready’ made for sifter frame. Just staple on the screening and ready to go.

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