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Compost Sifter Video, Pictures, and Plans

To sift or not to sift, that is the question.

In our opinion, a compost sifter is an absolute must if you’re an avid gardener or generate a lot of compost. There is no comparison between unsifted and sifted composted in terms of aesthetics and functionality. Sure, you can get by without one, but why would you when they’re so easy to build (see plans below). When we first saw our first pile of freshly screened compost, we were ready to drool.

A compost sifter can also be called a compost screen; however, the term “screen” is often used when describing commercial-sized units (as seen in the video).

Why Use a Compost Sifter?

A sifter (or compost screen) allows you to separate the coarse, unfinished compost ingredients from the finished compost. A sifter also creates an easy means of separating out the trash, stones, and debris from your pile before using your compost in your gardens, lawns, or fields. If you’ve ever picked up the free compost offered by your municipality, you’ll know all about the need to sift your ‘post.

As we mentioned on our composting equipment page, sifting your compost is an absolute must if you’re going to be using it to topdress your lawn.

By screening your compost, you’ll create a product of uniform consistency that works wonderfully as a mulch. We’ve also been known to mix in a little sand to our screened compost, and use it as potting soil. Try it! You’re potted plants will love you. Or try sprinkling a some screened compost on top of your houseplant’s soil – the uses are endless.

Backyard Compost Sifter Options

If you’ve searched the Web, you’ve see that there are several options for building your own compost sifter. Below, we discuss a couple of those options including the basic sifter, sliding sifter, and the trommel sifter. We’ve also highlighted a couple options if you’re looking to purchase a simple backyard sifter.

Basic Sifter

Do you only have a little bit of time and money to devote to a sifter? Here’s the plan for you.

This basic sifter uses very little material, can be made in a couple hours, and won’t break the budget. Quite often, people start with this type of simple screen and then graduate to one of the models below when they want to increase their efficiency.

There are two limitations to this type of sifter. The first is its size. Since it’s quite small, you will only be able to process a small amount of material at a time. The second is its energy-consuming operation. Because you need to lift and shake the sifter in order to screen the materials, you will require a decent amount of arm strength and energy to process your compost.

Interested in a basic sifter, but don’t want to spend the time making it? Below are a few models that are ready-made and just a click away…

4pc Soil Sieve Set, Stainless Steel 12

Bosmere N485 0.5 Inch Mesh Garden Sieve

We were also thinking that one of the simplest ways to create a compost sifter would be to use a Rubbermaid container (you pick the size). Cut the bottom out of the container, leaving a lip of about 1-2″. Place some screen mesh (chicken wire works) inside the container so it’s resting on the lip. Then drill a couple holes in the lip. Finally, use zip-ties to secure the mesh to the lip. Now sift away!

Sliding Sifter

Here is a really neat invention. Rob, the gentleman in the videos, has tweaked a few other sifter plans and created this masterpiece for screening compost. Isn’t it ingenious? We think so. We also think he should start looking into manufacturing it. Thanks Rob. You’re brilliant!

Trommel (Rotary Screen)

A trommel by definition is a revolving cylindrical sieve used for screening or sizing rock and ore. In our case, we’re using it as a compost screen.

Below is an example of a trommel that Lloyd built. It’s quite impressive, isn’t it? Lloyd operates a small, commercial-sized compost operation, so don’t think the trommel that you build has to be as sophisticated.

We’ll soon be providing you with our plans (including a free downloadable pdf) for an easy-to-make compost trommel; however, for the time being, we suggest you check out these plans shown on the Instructables site.


Have a comment or question about a compost sifter? We’d love to hear it!

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…

Incline sifter 
The box sifter is great for small quantities of compost. However it requires a lot of work. Here’s a suggestion for something in between a box type sifter …

Click here to write your own.