How & Why I Made a DIY Compost Sifter

I grew up in an extended family home where my grandparents grew their own food & cooked everyday. They loved gardening, so – surprise surprise – they had a compost pile too. I DID NOT like the compost pile & just really hated when it was my turn to take out the scraps.

I never thought I’d come to love gardening as much as I do now. And I definitely never thought I’d start composting.

But all these years later, here I am with a veggie garden AND a compost bin. It’s amazing stuff really & pretty magical – there’s something so satisfying about growing your own food & turning the scraps into “black gold” to grow even more veg!

I’ve learned so much over the last few years, especially that gardening & composting are both science & art.

Who knew?!

We went through so many experiments with the compost – everything from placement to watering to the best kind of bin design.

Now that we’ve got a good handle on this composting thing, I’ve figured out the solution to a problem I never even thought about until recently. I was getting some compost for a potted plant when I noticed there were some big bits that hadn’t decomposed yet.

I’m talking whole avocado pits & skins. No es bueno.

(TIP: the smaller your scraps, the quicker & easier they will break down in the compost bin. Learn from my mistakes – crush those eggshells & cut up all those fruit & veggie peels.)

Anyway, I still needed the dirt sans scraps. So I made this…

DIY Compost Sifter

Looks a little rudimentary huh? Yah well, necessity is the mother of invention. It’s a DIY compost sifter & yep it’s a “thing”, I actually looked it up.

You can buy these for as little as $10-15 or as much as… well however much you want to spend. I actually saw some for over $100, if you can believe that! I built this one for $0 using scrap wood & leftover chicken wire (from when we tried to keep Mr. Tickles & family out of the garden before we got Lola).

I’m sure there’s a dozen ways to make a DIY compost sifter, but this has got to be 1 of the easiest. No power tools or serious measuring needed, just a couple of scrap pieces of wood and a staple gun. I used:

And here’s how I did it…

How to make a DIY compost sifter in 3 easy steps.

Starting with 1 4″x4″ post, staple the chicken wire in place along the length of the post so that it is very secure. I used about 7 staples on the 1st pass.

step 1 - making a DIY compost sifter

(If you’re using 2x’s, 1x’s, or fence posts, you will only staple on 1 side of the board. Best to do it on the thickest side so that you have something to hold onto when you “sift”. More on that later.)

Roll the 4×4 into the chicken wire as if you are wrapping it. Bend the wire to help hold it in place & staple it secure on this 2nd side. Repeat the process 1 more time on the 3rd side.

step 1 - making a DIY compost sifter

Now stretch the chicken wire out as wide as you want your sifter to be. You can either:

  1. measure the width of your compost bin (great if you have the type that allows you to dump your compost like I do)
  2. measure the width of the container you’ll use to sift your compost (like a wheelbarrow or pot that you’ll normally use) or
  3. just eyeball it

Guess which option I chose.

step 2 - making a DIY compost sifter

Actually since our bin is sitting in the garden bed on the far end, I had this brilliant idea that I would just dump the compost out onto the sifter & let it fall onto the ground. Then I could just use it as needed.

That probably would still work. But then I remembered that I’d built these “legs” for an outdoor table that we ended up not using. (More on that another time maybe).

step 2 - making a DIY compost sifter

It fits perfectly under my bin to “catch” the cooked compost, so I used it as a template for the sifter. Smart huh?

Once you decide on the width, cut the chicken wire long enough to wrap around 3 sides of the 2nd 4×4. I definitely suggest using gloves for this.

step 3 - making a DIY compost sifter

Staple on all 3 sides just like with the 1st 4×4. Then flip it over & it’s ready to go.

Really. That’s it. Seriously.

DIY compost sifter

Oh wait… so earlier I said you might want to have something to hold onto when you sift. So now you have a few options on how to use this sifter:

  1. without the bin/container to “catch” the compost, you could just grab the ends of the 4×4 and shake it back & forth
  2. add handles to the 4×4’s to help shake it back & forth OR
  3. use a trowel or your gloved hands to push the dirt through.

Which option do you think I choose?

Compost bin with DIY compost sifter

The sifter fits perfectly under the compost bin but is still small & lightweight enough for me to move if I need to. I’m not ready to test it out on any compost quite yet, but that big pile of dirt could use some work.

Happy gardening y’all!

Make this DIY compost sifter for next to nothing. You'll end up with perfect "black gold" for your garden & potted plants.

How & Why I Made a DIY Compost Sifter ~ 4th House on the Right

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