A description of my compost sifter was one of the first web pages I put
online, about 1997, and my composting technique has changed a bit since then.
So here is a revisit of the topic!
The above is my compost pile. It has four compartments for composting, each
slightly more than 1 meter square, and a fifth compartment for sifted compost
which is ready to use. The photo shows the compost pile during the middle of
the spring sifting operation. After the pile thaws out (April), it is shoveled
over towards and then into the sifter. Sifted compost drops thru, and the
unsifted material is thrown back into the pile for further composting.
The photo shows two quadrants emptied out, one (the colourful one, far one)
with some fresh kitchen and garden scraps, and the other far left one with
sifted-out material thrown back. The two near quadrants are compost ready for
sifting - you can see it is essentially dirt. And under the sifter is the
This sifting operation is done once a year, in the spring. New material goes
onto the pile throughout the summer and fall, and winters over. There is no
need to turn the pile. Composting is not hot; nature takes its course. There
are typically lots of worms among the kitchen scraps before they finish
composting. Weeds are not a problem - seeds will sprout, because the compost is
a healthy growing medium; I just pull up the weeds and put them back into the
pile to be composted.
The sifted compost compartment supplies compost for gardening needs during
the year. Sifted compost is pretty much ready to use right after sifting, but
another couple of weeks of digestion is ideal - sifting will have introduced
more air into the mix, and anything that went thru the sifter mesh but is not
completely digested, will finish digestion during the next while. If the
compost is used right after sifting, it will simply complete its digestion in
the place it is used; no problem.
What goes into my compost pile? Kitchen scraps - fruits and vegetables - and
garden scraps - leafy things. Organics that do not have much or any fat or
protein content. We have plenty to choose from so do not stretch looking for
oddball stuff. Making compost is like making a stew - one adds a variety of
things, not too much of any single thing, and lets it cook for a long time.
Below are photos of the details of my compost inputs, and of my sifter.
There's a story behind the compost sifter design. My first sifter was
hand-held, a 1.2cm-screen on a wooden frame. It needed a lot of arm work, and
the screen was too small. Then I envisioned putting the frame on rigid legs,
with a lever to move it back and forth. Overly complex. What I have now is just
fine - the legs are wobbly, so the sifter can easily be shaken back and forth.
And the mesh is 2.5cm, which is plenty fine for the job of separating compost
from material which needs some more digesting.
Happy composting! Here are those additional photos:
And here, should you want a more compact compost pile, is a photo of an
urban bin. Approximately a cube, 60 cm on a side, with a hinged lid. Notice the
latch on the lid, to keep raccoons out. Three sides, the top, and the bottom
are wire mesh, so lots of air can get in. The front boards with air holes
drilled in them can be removed to shovel out the compost.