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.

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