Questions about sifting Turface.

newgen(9 Central California)April 26, 2011

So I got 3 bags of the Turface MVP and went to work. I found a metal basket (that my kids use to store their toys), the mesh is 1/8". Not much Turface is left behind when using this, a lot fell through, but what remained look like the correct size of particles.

Seeing how wasteful I was, I fabricated a ghetto sifter using fiberglass window screen material: 1/16". Still a lot of stuff fell through, but I was able to retain more. My "problem" is that what fell through the 1/16" screen look pretty similar to what remained behind, in other words, the particle sizes don't seem that much different: see the samples on the blue plastic scoop.

Maybe I'm just too paranoid. As long as lots of stuff fall through the 1/16" screen, then I should just use what didn't fall through and not worry too much! I was kinda expecting the particle size difference to be more noticeable.

The metal basket (1/8") retained good size particles, but just not much of it. I'd say probably 75% of Turface fell through, too much waste imo.

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I have to admit. I hate Turface.

I was out sifting today and you get the double plesaure of sitting in a massive plume of dust and to boot more than 50% goes through your sifter.

I think Al and just about everyone else does use the insect screening. I don't know why but I keep using my 1/10" screen.

It is what it is ... you lose a ton with Turface. Let me be the first one to congratulate whoever finds the Turface replacement that comes in a better size and serves the same purpose (and if there is even less dust I will do a little dance in your honor).

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 12:32AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Lol - I'm lucky enough to have workers who are looking for something to do in the winter that would rather screen Turface than be laid off. It's a win/win deal for both of us. ;-)

I screen mine over insect screen

and use the fines in raised beds or in hypertufa projects. I usually lose somewhere around 1/5 of the product as fines - sometimes just a little more than that. I do wish they made a product with a slightly larger and more uniform particle size, but there's just not enough demand from soil freaks yet to warrant it.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 12:44AM
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newgen(9 Central California)

What's the difference between "insect" screen and my fiberglass window screen material? I assume "insect" screen is metal? The size is the same (1/16"), no?

Al: now we know you have somebody sifting for you! LOL! It was pretty intensive for me. At first I held the sifter and shook it left/right for what seemed like forever. Back hurt, arms hurt, knees hurt, lol. Good thing there was a breeze blowing the dust away from me. When I couldn't keep up that routine anymore, I then used a wooden ruler and just dragged it back and forth over the Turface. Man, with my 3 bags, it would take me a long time.

What if I get lazy and barely sift the Turface? The purpose of Turface is to hold water, right? So I can use more of the non-water-retentive ingredient: granite (or pumice) than the prescribed ratio.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 1:03AM
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ykerzner(9 TX)

Al - I'm curious. Would crushed recycled brick work similarly to turface, assuming there was some source for it?

newgen - you could staple the window-screen to a cardboard box and then just "rub in" the turface. (I'm too lazy to make it chest-high.)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 1:29AM
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Newgen. I screen my turface in a box that I made, surrounded with insect screen. I use aluminum. nylon is also insect screen. Then I use my leaf blower to blow out the fine stuff. It works very fast, and it's easy on your back. The down side is you have to have a place to blow it. I have plenty of space. If you blow it on your lawn, turface is good for your lawn. filix.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 6:07AM
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I like filix's idea for a way to get rid of the choking dust of sifting. Twenty years from now Turface may be the new Asbestos lung problem. Al

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 9:42AM
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You can even mist it a little bit to keep the dust down. My electric leaf blower is very powerful. filix.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 10:29AM
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newgen(9 Central California)

filix: that's a great idea, aside from tapla's way of having somebody else do it! I have a few more questions, if you don't mind.

[1] What are the dimensions of that box?
[2] How much Turface do you dump in there? 1/2 full, 1/3 full?

I have space, and also have the leaf blower. So you're saying just hold the blower right next to the box and blow everything out the box? That's a lot easier.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 11:00AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

I like tapla's way too! lol!
I don't have workers needing to be kept busy in winter, but I do have a 14 yr old son, who wants every plant he see's. Especially cactus and succulents, so he's learning to make his own mixes. ;-)

We also use the insect screen.

I just made a rather rough screen/frame similar to Al's. Staples, wood and duct tape. lol! It works. :-)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 11:35AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Newgen - there is probably very little difference in mesh size between aluminum vs Fiberglas window/insect screen, so use them interchangeably, though the aluminum will last longer.

NOT screening the Turface ensures you WILL have a fairly significant PWT, which the gritty mix is designed to eliminate, so if you're going to forgo the screening, you might as well fall back to the 5:1:1 mix because you will have given up one of the soils best attributes. No free lunch ..... ;-)

Y - there is a product called Haydite (crushed brick) that is more porous than granite and less porous than Turface. It CAN be used in conjunction with Turface and bark to make a good soil; the problem though, is that I have never found it in a suitable size. ;-( If you had crushed/recycled brick in an appropriate size, it could be made to work well. I'll wait until you have it in hand & then we can put a recipe together if you like.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 11:54AM
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newgen(9 Central California)

jojosplants: your insect screen is metallic? And how do you sift? Shaking the whole thing with your hands? Or setting it down on the ground and drag something (like a wooden/plastic ruler) across the Turface?


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 11:54AM
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newgen(9 Central California)

Al: I'll try the leaf blower method by filix, unless you're willing to let me borrow your workers! 8-)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 11:58AM
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Al, I stopped going to gym to work on my toning and resistance build up once I started doing the screening for gritty mix. My hands became so soar from same motion for several hours. My husband was upset because I could not do any other things like, cook. I am planning to hire someone to take care of sifting part when I hire the workers for landscaping project.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 2:38PM
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Hello newgen. That box is about 2' x 2' and about 1' thick. I made a new one a couple of weeks ago. Right now I'm a sifting fool! This one is about 3'x3' and 6 inches deep. I have a wooden top that just screws on with my cordless drill. I fill it right up. I also find that it seems to work best when you lay it on its side, up on something like two cement blocks. Mine new one fits about a half bag.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 3:24PM
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The one in the picture above is made with 4 2x6s. They are screwed together. Then I laid it on its side and stapled the screen to it. Then I just covered the edge of the screen with some 1x2 pine. I then cut a hole in the top.
I made another box just like this with 1/8th screen. then I take my pine bark toss it on the driveway. Let the sun dry it out. I sift it through a 3/8 or 1/4 screen. Then you can put that bark in the 1/8th box and blast the fine stuff out with the blower that the gritty mix dosen't like. hope this helps. filix.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 3:59PM
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newgen(9 Central California)

filix: Appreciate the detailed response! I'm trying to visualize how this process works. You fill it up with Turface through that cutout window. But when it's full, you essentially have a block full of Turface that's 6" thick. How will the leaf blower blow out the fine particles when the Turface is "compacted", for lack of a better word, within this 3' x 3' x 6" enclosure?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 4:43PM
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You aim that thing just a few inches away and wiggle it. Just like you would when you are blowing leaves. You have to move the blower around a bit. And everything that can pass through that screen will. It even blows off any dust that was on the larger pieces. The turface does not compact. It stays loose. You couldn't compact it if you tried. Wear a dust mask. filix.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 8:48PM
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newgen(9 Central California)

I finally had some more time today, and only used the 1/8" metal basket. Finished 2 of my bags. Actually wasn't that bad, I guess I got used to it. Ready to do the 3rd bag tomorrow. I'd estimate that more than half fell through the 1/8" screen. I'm happy with the particle size.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 2:40AM
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Newgen, aren't you in Clovis, CA?

I thought I had fired you an email last year -- but I resent one in case you checked the option to receive email replies on this post.

You can borrow my sifter -- it fits over a wheel barrow and has a few different screen attachments. You can even double-sift with just one action (top + bottom screens) which you may need for sifting bark, but not Turface.

I also have some bags of Grit #10 if you need some ASAP. They recently rose the price to $13 per 75# bag. It is very small grit bordering on the smallest side, but it works beautiful in our climate. Holds extra water but doesn't support PWT and still have plenty of aeration in the mix.

There is a local rockery vendor that has small granite -- never seen granite that small before (except for the junk decomposed stuff). If you wanted something bigger.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 7:25PM
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