I've noticed some people on this forum mention screening their compost.
I'm curious as to why ??
I screen mine to keep anything identifiable out of the garden or planter (sticks, apple cores, broccoli stems, etc.), to break up large clumps of compost, and because I like the feel of freshly screened, fluffy compost in my hands, and the smell, and I just like playing in it, and screening gives me an excuse to play in my "sandbox".
The big stuff has not finished composting yet. Screen it out and use the best part of the compost now. Then toss the screened stuff back into the pile for next year.
To make sure the bones of my enemies are not identifiable by the forensics lab.
Ditto the above ... plus I'm still learning what works and what doesn't, so I'm not REALLY playing, I am ACTUALLY analyzing and learning. That's my story and I'll stick to it, appearances notwithstanding.
I sifted mine for the first time ever this past weekend because I had some finished compost in there and I broke it out of its wire prison and freed it's dark and crumbly soul. It is now free and fluffy and doing it's own thing.
Actually, I have never actually had finished compost before as I just started this wonderful journey (in earnest) this year. Prior attempts were half-hearted. I had a ton of brown materials still in the pile that were not finished, but quite a bit that was, and I have been way too impatient to wait any longer, so I sifted, added more greens to the pile and it is once again cooking away. I also enjoy filling the empty void left by grown children and passed away parents with something that I definitely love to do.
While I've yet to sift being a newbie, (starting last year), I absolutely love the answers!
Mr. Pragmatist here - I run mine through a screening stand using 1/2" hail screen because it keeps the junk out of the soil that I apply the compost to, also the finer texture mixes more evenly with soil for potting flowers, etc. If any of you out there use cypress mulch you know that the larger chunks that get mixed in with fall leaves NEVER biodegrade, and it screens them out, too. Besides, the screened pile just looks better...
I sift if I'm making potting soil or using for a seed bed for very tiny seeds. If I'm tilling or digging it in, usually I don't except to pull out big chunks or woody bits.
I do like to plunge my hands into a pile of sifted stuff. But I've heard that if you sift it more than twice you're playing with it... :-o
Goodness, toxcrusadr, never thought of it that way! LOL. :)
Not that I'm against that, just don't do it where the neighbors can see.
I sift it because it gives me something to start the new pile with (maybe 1/4 to 1/3 the volume of the old pile).
For fun mostly same reason I compost(:
Totally not necessary unless you want to as others said the sieve takes out big wood and rocks makes nice potting soil I sift about 1% of my total production but it really does make a nice pile to play with
Way back in the 1960's I screened my compost, to remove undigested stuff, and then found that it was not necessary and was a lot of extra work taking time from other things that were more important so I quit doing it. The only possible reason for screening compost is that it might be used as a potting mix, but even then I don't.
"The only possible reason for screening compost is that it might be used as a potting mix"
There you have it folks, no other possible reason. It has been decreed.
Thank God, because ever since I got up things just seemed so uncertain this morning.
I'm a non-sifter myself. I'm also easily amused, so when I find, say, an avocado pit out amongst the broccoli, I like to stop, pull up my gardening bench that I have near for just these kinds of moments, plonk down and ponder the pit. See if I can relive that taste of guacamole, remember if I'd added enough shallot and jalapeÃ±o.
Just yesterday, out hoeing the chard, I found a bundle of rose stems, still held, tentatively, together by a rusting florist wire; Valentines Day, '08. The memories came rolling by, like thunderclouds on their way to Kansas.
That's how I feel about the eggshell halves that I encounter---the chick who never came to be, the kind of life he or she might have had led.
I cannot stomach sifting compost because I hate seeing all the half-dead worms hanging off the sifter, all beat up and rubbed raw.
I'm so glad to hear there's really no necessary reason to screen my compost.
I'm trying to do less work, not more. =:)
pt03 and toxcrusadr, you are killin' me! LOL.
Necessary or not, I'm going to sift. It might be extra work (the exercise won't hurt me), but, to me, it's like making a carrot cake but leaving off the cream cheese frosting. It's still a good cake, but not nearly as pleasurable.
Going with the carrot cake analogy, why bother mixing all those ingredients and baking it, huge waste of time, effort an electricity/natural gas. Just eat all the ingredients by themselves, it all ends up in the same place anyways!
I started making compost a few years before I made a serious garden. I had the luxury of having three or more yards of compost ready when I finally put in a garden bed. I used all my compost that year, and the next year, I had what I thought was finished compost that I had started the year before. I didn't sift, I just forked it onto the garden beds.
If I had screened that compost, broken up the chunks and re-piled it into a new pile, it probably would have been more finished by the time I used it.
My vegetables struggled that year until the compost had a chance to finish in the garden beds.
I bought compost from a local nursery chain this year for use in new beds so that I can give my homegrown compost more time to get finished. The potatoes, onions, and lettuce are growing beautifully so far. I'll screen and turn my compost next month and use it as a top-dressing after the tomato and pepper plants have gotten established.
I'll deliberately use unfinished compost to help control weeds. It will be screened and mulched with grass clippings. Should work well.
I use a homemade 1/4" hardware cloth sifter to collect small size which I use in spring planting. The fine compost (not completely done) goes on top of spinach, lettuce, onions, carrots seeds. Holds water well, and its easy for the sprouts to make their way into the new world.
Check out my new video I made for you ;-) (link below)
Here is a link that might be useful: Why Sift Compost ????
Nice 'post Jon!! As I tell people, it's good enough to put on your cereal.
But come on, gloves??!! What's up with that??!!
My hands are beat to death,by all this "digging in the soil and planting things"...I am now putting on lotion and then slipping on the gloves ....hey,when you get to my age ... we'll talk ;-)
Awesome compost Jon.
How about a video of you doing the sifting ?
Interesting, I've never sifted but I make leaf mold every year, not compost.
Every autumn, I mix a large pile of "weed whacked" leaves with some of the old apples that we didn't use or had plum curculio attack them.
By mid-spring, it's about 75 percent decomposed and I just place it on top of the "veggies" soil or mix it with the wood chips that are around the trees and flower beds.
I guess leaf mold is different than true compost? Never saw the need to sift it?
I don't really know how I would sift that leaf mold because it is "sticks" together too much.
I screen and use the 'big' leftovers to start a new pile. My neighbor gave me 6 bags of grass clippings the other day so I layered fresh clippings with some that was partly digested from a pile I started early this Spring when I screened my pile from last year. Did the same with chicken poo I cleaned from brooders that day and more of the partly digested pile. I walked by it a day or so later and realized...HEY, that pile is HOT! I was so excited!
Beautiful video Jon!! I have just returned from vacation and i missed my compost, but have some really great algae from the lake to add, not to mention 10 days worth of camping food peelings. I can't wait to turn my post and see how things are progressing, and from the looks of it, I will be sifting again, yippee!!!
Okay, so I have been pondering this thread ever since I first seen it, and I have the most ridiculous question. I have seen compost described as broken down organic matter where the original ingredients are "unrecognizable". For those who don't screen their compost, does it fit that description? The reason for my question, I have some really beautiful compost in the works, but I still see (mostly) leaves in it that are recognizable. They are very dark and usually break apart in my hand, but they are still whole leaves.
Sheaviance, I wouldn't worry about that. The leaves are probably decomposed, but kept some of their identifiable features because they were clumped together or something.
Thank you bpgreen!
You asked for it... You got it ;-)
Check out my video on why I sift Compost ;-)