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Sift compost and get rid of clumps before spring gardening: Instructions and tips for amateur gardeners

To maintain a nutrient-rich garden soil during the spring season, sift your compost before you use it. In this way, you will remove larger, undecomposed debris, which can make your gardening much easier. Most of the time, the contents of the compost pile will turn into fine, crumbly and beautiful black soil that is ready for the garden. However, there are often still pieces of moldy oranges or rotten squash that have not fully decomposed buried in the mix. You may even find a few twigs or rocks in there. So here is a simple method that can help you remove such obstacles in time.

What you should know before you sift your compost

sift the fine from the coarse compost with a wheelbarrow in the garden

Preparing your compost pile can be an essential step before transferring compost to garden beds or potted plants. Sifting the mixture is an effective way to separate clumps of not-yet-decomposed organic matter from ready-to-use cured compost. This also allows you to aerate the compost, which promotes further decomposition and a healthy soil structure. Use screened compost in garden soil and fine screened compost with mixes for seeds. Examine the compost pile first to determine if it is mature and ready for screening. Crumbly and dark brown or black, mature compost no longer resembles the original organic matter and smells like garden soil or potting soil.

throw food scraps on the compost pile for composting

Although this step is not always necessary before actual gardening in the spring, it can give you a better medium without lumps. In this way, you ensure that only finished compost is added to the garden soil. One thing about making compost is that it takes some time to break down completely. Even the most finished compost pile may still contain large pieces of debris that need to be screened out. For this reason, you can sift the compost before spreading it in your garden. This will save you the hassle of raking or hand picking out the larger pieces if you spread the mixture directly over the soil.

Follow simple steps

sift large clumps and debris such as twigs and undecomposed plants from the compost

All you need to do is place a screen over a wheelbarrow or suitable plastic tub, put a few scoops of compost in it and push the barrow back and forth a few times. The finished compost will now fall through the wire screen, leaving behind the larger clumps of soil, which you can then break up by hand and add back to your compost pile. It is recommended that you also add any earthworms you find to the screened compost, as they play an important role in garden soil processes.

sift rain worms from the compost and add them to the compost pile


The best part is that you can easily and quickly make a DIY sieve. Such a garden tool can be made in about 30 minutes from materials you probably already have around your homestead. Here’s a simple tutorial you can follow to make it yourself.

Make the sieve for the compost soil yourself

use a cordless screwdriver to screw together boards with wood screws

If you want to screen your compost, you can use a 2.5×2.5 cm wire for coarse pieces. Should you be sifting fine compost, you can make the sieve with fabric wire made of 1.5×1.5 cm holes. What you still need as materials are boards that you screw together as a frame for the sieve, using a drill screwdriver for this purpose. Measure the wooden boards so that the frame would fit perfectly on the top of the wheelbarrow or plastic tub. After cutting your wood to the lengths listed in the cut list, take one of the long side pieces and line it up with one of the shorter boards. Screw the wood boards together with 3 wood screws and repeat for all corners.

make compost naturally for a nutrient rich garden soil


The wire comes in a variety of widths, so all you have to do is cut it to a suitable length for the screen. Once you have done this, you can attach the wire to the frame by hammering iron staples or nails onto it. To do this, place the wire over the wooden frame, making sure it is square to the frame. Then securely fasten the wire with U-shaped staples or nails hammered in this manner. It’s best to place each nail 15 inches apart on the edge, depending on how large your screen is. Finally, you can add a slider by attaching a matching wooden slat about 40 cm from the end of the screen, with two wood screws on both sides of the frame. Now your DIY sieve is ready.

How to screen the compost

use diy screen to remove large clumps from compost pile as spring gardening chore

Place the sieve on the wheelbarrow or plastic tub. Ideally, the sifting surface should be made of a 1.5cm material fabric with a wooden frame and be large enough to fit on a wheelbarrow or plastic tub without sliding down. Then pick up a shovelful of compost and place it on top. First, you can pick up the screen and sift the compost by moving it back and forth with the wheelbarrow or shaking it well on the plastic tub. Do this until only the pieces that are too large to fit through the holes remain on the screen. Now remove large items from the top of the screen, such as rocks, sticks, and worms. Place all earthworms in the screened compost and break up larger clumps to add to the screened pile. Repeat the process until all of the cured compost is screened.