Compost Sifters

There is something spiritual about spending a few hours on a nice day just sifting. -- Brian Chandley, Composter
I find this activity very relaxing. Sifting is the perfect activity when I want to spend time alone thinking. On the other hand, sometimes I want to sift as quickly as possible, especially if I have a large load to sift.

Home Compost Sifter Examples and Illustrations

Use these links to view different types of sifters:

  • Mary's Hand Sifter - Instructions for a rectangular hand-sifter to be placed over a wheelbarrow.
  • Garry's A-frame Sifter - Description of an a-frame sifter which stands upright from Garry of Irondale Farm in Woolwich, Maine, USA. I have been out to the Plano, TX Demonstration Site which has a similar sifter and taken measurements and pictures. They are included here.
  • Rotating Sifters - Two rotating sifters. One is constructed from a garden hose reel. It really works great. The second is made from bicycle wheels by Rob D'Entremont, Richardson, TX, USA. Information is given on where to obtain instructions for both.
  • Leon's Large Sifter - A look at a large-size motorized sifter loaded by a front-loader. Sifter of Leon Brandon, Master Composter, Farmersville, TX, USA.
  • Frank Teuton's Sifters - Several sifters by Frank, including his famous Cantopper.

Considerations for Choosing a Sifter Type

A few commercially-made sifters are available, but I have not tried any of them or even seen any of them in person. Most sifters are home made, so create one unique to your situation.
Consider the following:

How much finished compost do you have at one time?
The more compost you need to sift at one time, the larger your sifter should be.

Are you able / willing to view sifting as a form of exercise?
If you have a disability or don't wish to use your energy to sift compost, you must look for another method of shaking the compost through a sifter -- perhaps one which vibrates by an attached motor or a rotating cylinder with baffles.

How are you going to "capture" the sifted compost?
Unless you are set up to catch compost as it falls through the sifter, you will have to lift and move it to the point of application. I sift my compost directly into a wheelbarrow so it is ready for transport.

Do I really need a sifter?
Don't worry about a sifter if you are just starting out. IF you need one, you'll find yourself saying "How can I get the finished compost separated from this other stuff?" Worry about it then.

How Does Sifting Work?

Put compost from your pile onto the screen. Shake to allow finer particles of finished compost to fall through. Larger twigs, rocks, clumps, and trash will remain on top of the screen. If the remains are mainly organic, throw them into another compost pile. If not, it can be disposed of appropriately. One composter I know gets a lot of rocks when he sifts, so he uses the remains to fill holes in his drive.

Do I Have to Sift My Compost Before I Apply It?

No. Sifted compost is easier to handle and spread. Whether or not ease of application compensates for effort required is a decision you must make on your own behalf.

Why Sift?

Do I have to sift material before it goes into the compost pile?
For most composters, the answer is no. There are some people who sift before they compost with a larger screen (2"), but very few. I know one guy who lets local yard workers dump grass clippings and leaves at his place. He has to sift before composting to take out coke and beer cans that were raked up with the leaves.

So I sift after materials are composted, but why?
Sifting compost removes clumps of matter that have not completely decomposed. Most composters have at least one pile that serves as an "add-as-you-go" pile. In these piles, sifting can help separate finished compost from newer material.

Sifting removes sizable rocks, trash, and lumps of clay which may be in your pile. For those of us who dump donated bags of yard waste into our bin, sifting is important. Otherwise, undesirable material may go out onto our lawns and gardens.

If you apply compost to your lawn, I strongly recommend that you sift it so you can more easily rake and/or water it into the grass. Sifted compost is a finer substance to work with and that makes it easier to spread.

Online Stores
Compost Tea eBook
Build a brewer with a bucket and less than $15 worth of components, and make aerated compost tea.
Composting the Holidays eBook
Compost fall leaves, hay bales, holly wreaths, pine trees, etc. Compost pumpkins (food waste) in a compost pile.



  1. Types of Manufactured Bins
  2. Build a Bin
  3. ** Sifters and Screens **
  4. Hand Tools
  5. Chippers / Shredders

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