How to Build a DIY Compost Sieve aka Soil Sifter for $10

This is John Kohler with
in HD. I got another exciting episode for you guys. So as you guys know you got to saw
me setup my joraform JK400 composter. Let me go ahead and spin this guy real quick,
alright. Spin it right around the doors. I love this composter. I mean, it’s made out
of metal. It’s also insulated and you know, this model actually does get quite heavy to
spin if you got it full up like I do with all my yard waste and kitchen scraps. So for
that reason I might recommend the GK270 model which is a lot easier to spin especially if
you’re a young lady and, you know, you don’t have a lot of strength. This one definitely
is going to give you a workout, that’s how I build my muscles. I don’t go to gyms. I
spin my joraform composter. So anyways, this has been going for a little
over a month now. Go ahead and open this guy up and check it out what I got inside. Woo,
still warm. Look at that, man, rich, delicious compost to feed my garden. But the problem is there’s a lot of stuff
that’s down in here. But there’s also a lot of unbroken down pieces. What’s this, this
is maybe like … I don’t know a branch or twig. It actually just breaks apart. There’s
actually half of an Avocado pit. And this is one of my favorite things to do, take the
Avocado pit, up Hulk Hogan. Look at that, I could just squeeze it up, breaks into little
pieces here. I like to smell my compost too. Actually, did you know there’s actually components
in soil and compost that may make you feel better and yes, there’s research on that. But any case, my compost is done. I need to
basically sift it out to basically get all the finished compost but not all the big pieces
because I don’t want to put big, you know, mango pits in my soil or what not to continue
to break down. I want to put that back in the composter with a new batch that’s going
to be going in real soon. So what today’s episode, is going to be about
how to build a pretty easy compost sifter that’s going to fit on top of your wheelbarrow.
And this is my personal design, and actually another secret on how to sift without building
a sifter at the end. So let’s go over and show you some of the
parts that I’ve pre-cut and have all ready to go and we’re just going to assemble it
and we’ll sift some compost before this video is over. Alright, so now I’m all sit up in the workshop,
actually the backyard to make my little compost sifter. Super easy, anybody could do this
with some parts available at your local, you know, big box home improvement store. So what you’ll need is just basically just
a few simple things. Number one, you’re going to need to buy some 2 by 4’s here. We got
a 2 by 4 and basically I cut 2 of them to 4 feet long. Next we have 2 pieces cut to
21 in an 8 inches long and this is actually going to be in between. So on the 2 by 4’s
is I found that by buying two 8 footers that will work about $5 approximately. Next, I have to buy a 1 piece of the 8 foot
1 by 2 and this is just some cheap 1 by 2. This is like about a buck. So that 1 piece
I cut it into two 24 inch pieces and then I cut another 2 pieces into like 21 and a
quarter. So that’s going to make the frame of the compost sifter adn then finally you
just need the hardware cloth. If you guys could see that, verify, I’m going to turn
it into an angle there maybe. This is basically a 2 foot square. So I got
a 2 foot by a 10 foot roll. I found the least expensive place to buy this locally was a
local Lowe store, when people had it. But they’re actually more expensive. So I got
… it was about 13 bucks and I just use 2 feet for this project and I’ll have a whole
bunch more leftover for later. Besides these parts, you know, I’m also going
to use some screws. I like the Dex screws, they’re fairly heavy duty and fairly long
ones, and you know, besides that I’ll need my cordless drill to pre-drill some holes
and also to screw the screws in. Also a clamp, a tape measure, and drill bit and some, you
know screwdriver bits for the drill. I mean that’s pretty much all there is to it. Next, I’ll go ahead and set this up so you
guys could see what it’s actually going to look like. Then I’ll start screwing it together
and I like screwing things together and then we’ll be done and then we’re going to actually
sift some compost. So next let me go ahead and show you guys
how this is going to go together. Basically what we’re going to do is we’re going to take
our 2 long 4 foot layers here. I’m just going to lay that out. We’re going to lay those
guys side by side, about you know, 2 feet apart. Next, we’re going to take our 2 by 4’s here
that are 21 inches and we’re going to sit it approximately 1 foot in from either side. Next, you’re going to take your two 2 by 4’s
that are 21 inches long and then put them in between there. I’m leaving about a foot
on either end. This is going to give you a nice place to hold the sifter. Then you’re
going to want to go ahead and of course screw these together very well. Then we’re going to go ahead and take our
wire mesh hardware cloth here. Once again I got the quarter inch spacing. They do come
in half inch spacing. But I wanted a nice fine spacing to have good, you know, compost
in there. And once we got that we’re going to take the
last 1 by 2’s and put it on top. This is actually going to frame it in, hold this down more
securely, but also make it so that it actually stay in the wheelbarrow fairly well. Next, we’re going to take our 1 by 1’s, these
are the 24 inch pieces. We’re going to put them running this direction on top of our
hardware cloth over that 21 inch 2 by 4 to cover that up. Then we’re going to do the same with the other
one over on this side. Finally our 21 inch pieces are going to go right in here to completely
frame in our hardware cloth just like so. And now all you need to do is actually screw
this together. Put some screws in here to screw them to the 2 by 4’s here. There’s going
to be a couple along here as well. And basically that will make you an easy compost sifter. So, you know, one of the things that you could
do is, you know, about specific directions or you’re just going to screw this guy in
first to have your frame, then this point if you do have a staple gun, you could just
go ahead and staple this in or hold it in place. I actually don’t have one handy. So
we’re just going to go ahead and put this on. We’re just going to go ahead and put these
guys on and then I’m just going to clamp this down to hold this down and then I’m going
to screw it in, and the screws alone should be enough to hold the hardware cloth in place.
So I mean, this is a pretty easy assembly. So next I’m going to go ahead and do it. So I got that compost sifter all built. And
before I show you guys how to use it and how it works and why I designed it the way I did,
got to get some compost out of my drawer form composter to sift. So one of the questions that you might be
wondering is, “John, how do I know if I compost is ready, man?” I mean, it’s all sitting here
looking like this for a long time, man. You know, you might be like, “Oh, it’s not ready,
there’s still pieces left.” Well, that’s why I made the sifter so I could sift out the
stuff that’s ready and the stuff that’s not ready, guess what? I’ll throw it back in there
with some new materials to get it to break down further into this fine compost that I
want to use. So first we need to empty out the drawer.
You could just basically tip it and put a wheelbarrow underneath it, but then that will
fill up my wheelbarrow. So what I’m going to do is very simple, I’m just going to go
ahead and use a little bucket and this is actually Scoop Away bucket that my brother
gave me when he had a got. And now this bucket is lost. I always encourage
you guys to reuse and save 5 gallon buckets. Another buckets around the garden, they come
in very handy. Be sure to check my old videos, like back in the olden days, and it’s only
10 minutes long because I couldn’t make videos longer than that. And many uses for a 5 gallon
bucket on the garden. I had quite a fun time making that video. Anyways, we’re going to go ahead and stick
this bucket in there, it fits right in. And we’re going to scoop up the compost in the
bucket here. There are few things you want to look for
when, you know, taking out your compost. You want to make sure it looks done so, you know,
this one looks kind of like some coffee grounds, you know, after you’re done brewing a coffee.
And it’s not too wet but not too dry, and then that’s one way to tell. The other way
is to smell it, should have a nice neutral flavor. If it smells like funky or something,
it’s probably not ready, not right. The other thing is it shouldn’t be too hot. You could
stick your hand in there and it’s warm to touch, you know, it’s probably alright, ready
to go. If it’s really hot, especially in the drawer, not right, not ready to go. This is just warm to touch and so we should
be good, as you could see, got a whole bucket full here, might top off my bucket with a
shovel. And then actually I’ll show you how to use that compost sifter that I made. Alright, so here’s the sifter that I made.
As you could see, I love it when a plan comes together. And it’s basically 2 foot by 2 foot.
And I plan this to have, you know, 1 foot on each end, so you could kind of hold it
by the end, carry it, or use it with 2 people. One person could have each side and shake
it back and forth. But I kind of made it, you know, so one person
like myself could use it and here’s how it turned out. We put a bunch of screws on the
bottom, basically to frame it in, to frame in the bottom mesh here. And I didn’t frame
it in all the way down. That’s for a very important reason. This is my wheelbarrow here
and what will happen is this is will fit inside the wheelbarrow like this, and because I didn’t
make it longer, I could actually rock it back and forth in the wheelbarrow itself, you know,
so I got a good 68 inches. So if I’m just using it by myself, I could
put the load in there and just rock it back and forth, just like this, some people make
an additional frame. But I figured I’d use the wheelbarrow to do that and the bottom
framing that sticks down actually stops so I can’t go too far. So, let’s go ahead and
demonstrate the use of my new compost sifter. Alright, let’s go ahead and take the compost
that I made. My own compost, we’re just going to pour it in the sifter right here. And this
is probably about enough for a bucket’s worth. I’d probably empty this whole bucket in my
sifter here, fresh compost, nothing better. And I’m just going to rock it back and forth. Alright, looks like it’s working real good
and check it out we got all the big particles left on top, and we got all the fine stuff
came right through. So literally, this compost sifter is working
real good. Once again I did use the quarter inch screen, you know, otherwise it would
leave large fragment through. This is working quite good. Let’s see, some of the things
that are not composting, there’s some of the organic stickers that we’re going to go ahead
and pull those out, not put those back through the compost process. Looks like some of the little plastic from
the Bananas that come on the Bananas, did not get composted. Some of the sticks in here,
you know, some Mango seeds, some Avocado pits, some of the main things that I’m seeing. We’re going to ahead and pull out a lot of
the plastic and some of the other stuff that didn’t get composted. And we’re just going
to go ahead and let it re-compost. And I’m going to go ahead and sift more of my own
compost. Once again I made this compost sifter for
under $10. I mean, the 2 by 4 is going to be like 5 bucks. I got a 1 by 2 about a dollar.
And a few bucks for the grate. A few bucks in screws. And man, you’re all sifting your
compost for under 10 bucks by itself. This is definitely a cool tool. Probably the
next thing I’m going to do is probably going to coat the wood with a non-toxic coating
stain so that it will protect it plus it will look a lot sharper and you’ll be sure to see
that in the next video. Now if you’re not able to afford $10 to make
your own sifter like this, which is really cool, make it super simple, super easy, I’m
going to show you guys another way to sift some compost. Alright, so I got my rich compost here that
I made and strained out with my sifter. But another cheap and inexpensive way to do it,
if you don’t have a sifter like I just built and I figure this out the other day before
I built my sifter I’m like, “Man, I need to sift some compost because I’m making a nice
soil mixture. How could I sift it?” Well, you guys have seen this on a previous episode.
I used these guys actually to protect my tree collards from birds getting them, but guess
what? This is a nice big, large bag. You know, these are like … My Coconuts came
in these, but they ship like Potatoes and Onions in these bags sometimes. Ask your local
produce manager at the store for these guys, because sometimes they’ll just rip the bags
open, get the Onions and put them on for selling, they just throw these away. But these are very valuable. They could be
used for hard materials. They could be used to protect your plants from birds. And they
could also be used to sift your compost. So let’s go ahead and do that. What we’re going to do is we’re going to take
… once again I got a bucket of compost. We’re going to go ahead and put this over
the bucket. We’re going to then tip the bucket upside down like this to put the … get all
the compost inside it. We’re going to then remove the bucket. I’m then going to go ahead
and hold this shut and we’re going to grab the other side of this, and check this out.
I just rock this back and forth. And yes, this is a little bit messier than
the sifter I made, but hey, this is free literally. This is going to be some garbage. It’s, you
know, repurposing something instead of having it go to the landfill. And check it out, it
works great. It’s just a bit slower doing it this way, but it’s kind of fun. So now you guys have learned 2 ways to sift
your compost for under 10 bucks. This one is free, the other one cost me 10 bucks, you
know, and some time and if you’re not so handy with the saw and whatnot, I want to remind
you guys that if you go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and other major hardware stores, they may
cut the wood for you for free if you buy it there at no cost. You could literally go in there, have them
cut the wood for you, come home, and … Some better hardware stores will actually sell
the hardware cloth by a foot. You could get that by the foot. Come home, build your own
compost sifter so that you can enrich your garden with your own home grown compost, because
buying compost by the bag can definitely get expensive. Hope you guys enjoyed this episode learning
how to make a compost sifter. Once again my name is John Kohler with
We’ll see you next time and remember, keep on sifting.

100 thoughts on “How to Build a DIY Compost Sieve aka Soil Sifter for $10

  1. John, I would like to buy a juicer from you, but whenever I type in, growingyourgreensDOTcom, it redirects to your Youtube channel! I'd like to support your efforts with a purchase! -Brian

  2. Oh, man! I waited a long time for videos in HD resolution 😀

    Although I don't own a garden yet I watch your videos and trying to learn as much as I can.

    Good job and greetings from Slovenia, EU

  3. Thank you for the very detailed sifter instructions.

    I've been making compost since the 60's, thanks to Rodale and OG Magazine. I made a sifter years ago and use it regularly. Throwing the large pieces into the new compost also inoculates it with beneficial organisms to get it going faster.

    I have been using an "earth machine" for years, but I've just ordered a two-chamber tumbling composter — not as fancy as yours but it's what I can afford. Now I can make more compost, and faster too. Wow!

  4. I just use a dog food bag and I have left over underground giant pipes that I fill them up to make compost and it works find. I even have a bag in my balcony and it doesn't smell because they are just leave from my plants all for free. When I started it was with a bucket. They sell those shifters here because it is use for construction. I had one from the time we were making our house but I don't know what happen to it. need to buy one. Great video.

  5. Meh. Just dump everything to your soil or raised bed. It will desintegrate anyways. It's not like you need sifted compost for very small potted indoor plants 🙂

  6. I use the mesh bags the oranges come in. The opening is the size of the construction cloth you used to make your compost shifter.

  7. Good information, but seriously enough with the sexual innuendos, they get old after a while and aren't funny anymore

  8. Seems like I see a lot more people trolling this thought than actual references in his vids. John has been a wealth of info for my wife and me in our pursuit of a more green and organic lifestyle. Thanks John, keep up the good work and I will continue sharing your vids with friends and family. 😀

  9. John I have a question for you. What is your thoughts on the back to eden gardening style of gardening??? Would like to hear your thoughts on it.

    Thanks Jimmy James

  10. Unless you can cut wood and drill screws with your thumbs there will always be a minimal hardware investment for DIY. It's DIY not magic. Seriously.

  11. John you are one of the planet's SUPERHEROS man! Not a go getter but a much more important person of stature and value. A GO GIVER!

    Thanks for your videos, you rock

  12. Another cheap, many times free, item I use to sift my compost is an old milk crate. The openings on the bottom are bigger than the screen John uses, but it doesn't make much difference (to me at least). There is some size limitation since milk crates are only about 1×1, but they work in a pinch. I'll probably still make one like yours, John, and be happier for it. Thanks for the post!

  13. I had no idea that it had been scientifically proven but I always feel good after sticking my head in my compost bin and having a big sniff! I love that warm, eathy smell!

    Great vid John!

  14. for a small amount of compost – I just use a kitchen strainer – something everyone has in their kitchen. Thanks, John for the great tips!

  15. Watching your rock dust and composting videos as well as other videos about using epsom salt as a booster has sparked a question. Do you see any benefit of adding epsom salt to your compost as it is cooking? Thanks for the tips info you give.

  16. Have you ever tried composting with bokashi? If so – what is your opinion on this method of composting? Thanks for all of your tips!

  17. Few ideas: Exterior glue, screw and use metal corner reinforcement on 2x4s. Coat, paint, Moisture, drying of wood, use will separate joints. Use larger sheet of wire screen, cut 45 degree cut at each corner and roll 1 bys from each side. The 1 bys will take the wire stress compared to just the screws. By doing some this this it will last years and year, or just rebuild new though I build to last forever. RJF, Mundelein, IL

  18. Hi , I am a missionary living in Mexico about 2 hrs south of Mexico city.I came across your videos and I enjoyed them. The one on desert gardening was perfect I enjoy gardening a lot I have a large Cactus collection. I am going to branch out to veggies because of you.thanks and keep up the good work.I am looking forward to watching more videos.

  19. Great help … I was mistakenly waiting for it ALL to break down and it was takin 4ever! Have never seen an avo pit break down v.much and the peel i cut into tiny scraps. I need a more step by step how to though bec not carpentry inclined tho i made 2 tall/lg tomato trees from online step by step ok. Have trouble with the cordless drill not screwing into the wood and bouncing all over the place so I had to make pilot holes and screw in manually = blisters!

  20. not just u; its disrespectful wish someone would tell him; luv the guy but the inferences are not nice, some are also sexist.

  21. the hardware cloth would sag in the spaces between washer and then it will let big chunks fall in defeating the whole purpose of sifting

  22. was thinking I was the only one with a bag sifter,like you said they are free why not use wooden sifter is very large and I use it for cement work,cleaning dirt,and composting.great video again

  23. I built this out of scrap material I had laying around, thanks for the good idea. Now I need a good compost tumbler.

  24. My son and I made this sifter yesterday. Both my sons and I sifted an entire compost pile today. Thanks for the info. It worked great!

  25. Any one doing this. build two of these one with 1/2 screen the other with 1/4. Stack them on top of each over. 1/4 on bottom, 1/2 on top will make sifting way faster and less effort.

  26. Thanks for the directions, John! It was easy to build and easy on the wallet. I added a push/pull handle to it made from a few blocks of 2"x4" and a length of dowel. The handle makes the sifter easy to carry and easy to slide and rock when it's over the wheelbarrow.

  27. Today I went to the CULL pile?
    6 dollars doe sieve! Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!
    He's making it tomorrow so psyched!
    Haha I just had to ….. Tell you
    Talk about hustling lumber!!!!!!

  28. John, I place two pvc pipes on top of my wheelbarrow and then place the sifter on top of that. it's much easier to rock it back and forth when it's on wheels. I also only load the sifter about half way each time, seems to be a lot easier for me. I hope it helps!

  29. If you are Really Cheap or Really Broke. Go to your local nursery and get a few square flats. The 1/4" and 1/2" flats make great or grate soil and compost sifters. If you stack the one with smaller holes on the top, it will give it a bit of strength. And best of all it is free.

  30. "Soil sifter", ha!! Every sifter I see so far uses window screen. Does everyone live in south Florida with sand for dirt? Come to TN and see some clay.

  31. John, why is your compost so brown??? Or does it look brown in the video?
    All of the compost I have made and bought is jet black.
    Thanks for the vids

  32. I find it easier to push the compost back and forth on the screen with a short-handled garden hoe, rather than shake the whole sifter. Also, sifting is easier with dry compost, so to prepare a compost pile for sifting, cover it with a plastic sheet or tarp during rains and remove the cover when the Sun can hit it. However, I don't bother to sift most of my compost when I use it to top-dress around garden plants. The twigs and chunks can sit on the ground and most of them will be gone in a year. Sifting is worth the effort for making a potting mix. An intermediate approach is to chop a twiggy compost pile with a mattock, axe, or shovel. That will cut most of the rotted twigs into shorter lengths so they aren't as ugly.

  33. I use my dryer.. oh wait it looks the same no matter how much I turn it on. That’s right , through the mesh bag in there dahh

  34. Love this video, love your enthusiasm, love that you actually wrote out what we are going to need on the video but gotta have to give you a thumbs down for being deceptive about the price. You said about $5 for the 2×4, $1 for the 2×1, $13 for the whole screen (you can't adjust the price down because you're only using part of the screen), and you didn't mention what the price of the deck screws were. I understand it might have costed you less than $10 because you already had some stuff but it would have been nice to have a fairly accurate price going out the door of the store if we didn't have these things. No, it's not gonna break the bank but it would be nice to know in reality the "$10 project" will really cost us between $20 to $25. :/
    I do appreciate that you had cheaper or free hints for using other things as sifters. Another good cheap hint would also be checking Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity or garage sales for 2×4's and screws. Always someone getting rid of grampa's stuff or downsizing.

  35. 1:35 LOL I THOUGHT I WAS CRAZY. Fresh compost I buy at some of the good sites near me locally smells heavenly in a earthy sense. I thought I was crazy. I'm glad theres research so I can tell people I'm not crazy.

  36. the idea at the end was like a bonus! I have a big bag of oranges, now I know what to do when all the oranges are gone!

  37. ok one more comment – your enthusiasm is contagious and I need to watch more of you. I have definitely been down in the dumps lately, recently disabled/unemployed, throwing a pity party I guess. ding ding ding, round 2!! i'm ready for spring now

  38. Excellent video! Thanks for uploading. I needed this because I have a major infestation of cogon grass. I made a Hugel Mound and I can't flip the sod over because the rhizomes will grow back, taking over my freshly made mound. This will come in handy when I separate the sod from the topsoil.

  39. Hello John. I've been watching your videos for awhile now. And this video in particular made me subscribe to your channel. Thanks.

  40. Nice video. Using your guide I built a slightly smaller version, 20" square screen as my wheel barrow is smaller, & my rock/dirt mix is heavier. Used the 1/2" square wire mesh as I'm separating dirt from gravel, accepting the pebbles that fall through 1/2", but rejecting all the bigger rocks. Smallest roll of that wire mesh is $7 @ HD. It's a $10 job, even cheaper if you use 2x3s or scrap. Well done !

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