Make a cheap soil sifter (sieve)


Unfortunately I only have one compost bin which I continuously add materials to, so I never have a complete “batch” of compost at one given time. In order to be able to filter out the finished compost from the non-composted material I created a soil sifter (sieve)

I checked out soil sifters online but didn’t find anything that I liked so I decided to make one myself. I went to the home improvement store and picked up a roll of ½ inch wire mesh and a 2”X4”X8’ piece of lumber. I cut two pieces one inch shorter than the width of the wire mesh and cut the remaining piece of lumber in half. Screw all the pieces together and pull wire mesh over the rectangular frame. Staple the mess around on the side of the frame and you are all done.

To use, just lean it against a wall or fence at a 45 degree angle (wire mesh facing down) and just dump your compost on top, the composted material falls through the stuff that needs a little more time stays on top which you can throw back into the compost bin.

19 Responses to “Make a cheap soil sifter (sieve)”

  1. Nancy J. Bond Says:

    What a great idea! Thanks for the instructions.

  2. Amy Says:

    My Dad built one just like this. I asked him to make me one last year…I’m still waiting! I think I’ll have to send my husband over here to see your instructions!

  3. Dee/reddirtramblings Says:

    Welcome to Blotanical. Hope you meet lots more garden bloggers.~~Dee

  4. Melanie Says:

    My husband built me a sifter just like this one but with one difference. He measured the top of my wheelbarrow and then made the sifter to fit exactly over that top.Now when I sift soil it’s already in my wheelbarrow and I can bring it right to the spot that needs to be amended.

  5. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Great idea putting it over the wheelbarrow, I would do the same but I am missing the wheelbarrow. One of those things that would be really useful but don’t want to give up the space to store it.

  6. Steve Says:

    Just thought you might be interested in seeing another design for a soil sifter. I actually created an Instructable explaining how to make it! 🙂 By the way, mine works best with two people. If I could figure out how to hook up an electric motor it would be great for one person. ;)- SteveGoto my Trommel Compost Sifter Instructable

  7. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Steve, yes I have come across your design and if I had a bike I wanted to take apart I would have one myself. So when are you adding the motor to it 🙂

  8. Steve Says:

    I was just unloading leaf mulch from the city leaf pile today and it would have been great to have a motorized trommel. The leaves were well aged and had a pretty high percentage of nice fine organic material but there was also trash, coarse clumps of leaves and big chunks of rock. 🙁 I do have a surplus washing machine motor that would probably do the trick I just need to get a belt and rig it up. I wish I had a little more metal working giftedness so I could make a serious power trommel like this one. Is that one awesome or what!? 🙂

  9. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    My contruction skills are limited to wood as well.

  10. aveggiegarden Says:

    May I ask how much the wire mesh cost? I’m thinking about making one myself! Thanks

  11. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    I thought it was less than $10 for the roll (had plenty left to make some plant cages) I checked online and coming up as $15 for the roll. May have been different gauges of wire in the store versus what is available online. Definitely one of those things you can find a good use for. One I have seen is making a potting table, construction basically same idea as soil sieve but elevated as a table. Have a container below and any extra soil (mess) is conveniently caught below.

  12. Brad Lang Says:

    I got tired of trying to find a soil sifter to buy, so I made one myself, too! Then after I made it, I decided that I could make it available to others at a relatively low cost. Check it out at I even made two other versions.

  13. Jocelyn Peterson Says:

    electric motors would sometimes overheat if they are not properly ventilated~*;

  14. Building a BBQ Smoker Says:

    […] I used some of my leftover wire from the construction of my soil sieve cut to size with the corners bent to elevate the charcoal about an inch from the bottom to allow […]

  15. Shelby Davis Says:

    I made one of these a couple years ago, but this year, I’ve added an additional improvement. I made a 5 foot a frame out of scrap 2x4s and suspended the sifter from the top with nylon cord. then I can just shake the sifter without having to lift it! I’ll have to take photos.

  16. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Shelby, I normally lean mine against a fence at about 45 degress and throw some some compost at it. Would love to see some pictures/video of your creation.

  17. Shelby Davis Says:

    As soon as the ground dries enough to use this, maybe I’ll take a video as well…

  18. Shelby Davis Says:

    Flickr image of the sieve
    As soon as the ground dries enough to use this, maybe I’ll take a video as well…

  19. How to harvest your compost from your portable compost bin - The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    […] You may still have some uncomposted material mixed in there so I like to run this through my homemade soil sieve to filter out the larger material.  When I am running the material through I am not too […]

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