Soil sifter

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All About Soil Sifters and Screeners

Sifting soil is important for landscaping, farming, gardening, and a number of other applications. Even if you are screening soil for a small garden, this can be a daunting task without help. Large scale mechanical aid is definitely necessary if you are tackling a bigger sifting project. A heavy duty screener will sort out all the stuff you don’t want like rocks, gravel, and plant debris. The goal is to leave you with high quality topsoil that works well and looks great anywhere. If you are looking for a big time soil sifter and need it for more than a onetime rental, you can find these machines at reasonable prices online. New technology has made soil screeners more effective than ever and prices have been dropping as well. If you are in the market for a dirt sifter, check online first.

If you enjoy gardening or work on a farm, you know that debris in the soil can make things complicated for plants. It is easiest for sprouting plants to push through soft topsoil that is not clumped or loaded with rocks. This topsoil is also easier for people to work with as the growing process occurs over the course of the season. If you have ever become sore from digging around in a rough soil, you know plenty about this important benefit. A soil sifter can take care of your screening needs quickly and they are also a snap to use. Basically, you put the rough soil on a screen and sort through, allowing the fine soil to sift through while the clumped material remains above for easy sorting. A vibrating screen makes this feasible for large projects by completing the sorting step itself.

A soil sifter is a great tool for utilizing dirt that is otherwise unusable. Large scale landscapers can save a lot of money by essentially making their own quality soil from low grade, nearby sources. With the proper screen size, they can be used to sort through gravel as well. By changing screens, you can create coarse or fine gravel, depending on your needs. On projects such as these, a screener will pay for itself immediately and save a ton of money over the long term.

Another benefit of using sifters is aeration of the soil. Loose, aerated dirt is excellent for plant growth because it aids in both air and water movement. Aeration is also important for the bacterial decomposition that results in humus. Screening dirt leads to healthy plants, bacteria, and topsoil. You can also sift through compost to make sure that the largest material is left out or given more time to decompose. An important tip is to be sure to screen your soil when it is dry. Wet soil will clump together easily and can even gum up the screen, which could be a hassle.

If you are interested in screening soil for a garden or larger projects, you should consider purchasing a soil sifter. These machines are definitely worth the investment, especially if you can find a good deal online. Oftentimes, people find that the online price plus shipping is still significantly less expensive than the price tag at a local store. For any topsoil screeners or sifters, I firmly stand by EZ-Screen

Filed Under: Portable Topsoil Screeners


How to make a soil sieve

Soil sieves (or riddles) are useful for sifting out large lumps from soil, leaf mould and compost, to leave you with a fine material suitable for sowing seeds like salad leaves and sunflowers, or for potting mixes.

Making your own compost and leaf mould is easy and will save on trips to the tip. In addition to having a garden sieve, investing in a good quality compost bin is important.

You should aim to make your soil sieve slightly bigger than your wheelbarrow so you can quickly work your way through a pile of compost, directly from the heap. Add a personal touch by painting it a colour of your choice.

Follow our five easy steps below, to create your own homemade soil sieve. Or, if you’d prefer to buy a ready-made sieve, we’ve also collated a selection of the best garden sieves on the market right now.

For more planting and compost tools, browse our reviews of the best wormeries and garden hand trowels.

Soil sieves (or riddles) are useful for sifting out large lumps from soil, leaf mould and compost, to leave you with a fine material suitable for sowing seeds.

You Will Need

  • Treated timber (8m of 25mm x 50mm)
  • Wood stain
  • Wire mesh sheet, with 1cm holes
  • Wood screws (12mm x 40mm)
  • Tape measure
  • Saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver

Step 1

Measure your wheelbarrow, so you can build your sieve to fit comfortably across the top.

Step 2

Cut the timber into eight pieces and fix them together to form two equal-sized rectangles. Smooth any sharp edges with sandpaper. Use pliers to cut the wire mesh to the same size as the frame.

Step 3

Paint the timber with wood stain to preserve it and add colour, then leave it to dry.

Step 4

Set out the lower half of the timber frame on a flat surface and place the mesh on top.

Step 5

Screw the upper and lower parts of the frame together, sandwiching the mesh in-between.

Best Garden Sieves

From budget steel riddles to premium rotary models, here’s our pick of some of the best garden sieves on offer.

Bulldog Premier Garden Sieve

Made by Wigan-based company Bulldog, this garden sieve has a diameter of 37cm and a mesh size of 9mm. It’s constructed entirely from metal and has a pressed steel rim.

Price: £13.24

Buy Bulldog Premier Garden Sieve at Amazon

Spear and Jackson Steel Frame Riddle

This garden sieve from Spear and Jackson is crafted from chrome-plated steel. The base plate has 1cm square holes and a diameter of 33cm.

Price: £17.49

Buy Spear and Jackson Steel Frame Riddle at Amazon

Clarke Rotary Soil Sieve

The spring-loaded handle of this rotary garden sieve applies pressure to the compost or soil, forcing it through the mesh to filter out any debris. It’s made from steel and a large 40cm diameter.

Price: £45.50

Buy Clarke Rotary Soil Sieve at Amazon

Wilko Metal Riddle

Wilko’s metal garden sieve is one of the cheaper options on this guide. Made from metal, it has a powder coating to prevent rust a diameter of 36.5cm.

Price: £5

Buy Metal Riddle at Wilko

Crocus 2-in-1 Garden Sieve

Made in the UK, this garden sieve comes supplied with two interchangeable screens (6mm and 12mm mesh). Each screen is made from galvanised woven wire.

Price: £9.99

Buy 2-in-1 Garden Sieve at Crocus

Galvanised Soil Sieve

This galvanised steel garden sieve from Crocus has a 30cm diameter and is finished with a clear lacquer. It has two handles on either side to help with grip.

Price: £13.99

Buy Galvanised Soil Sieve at Crocus

Your sieve can also double as a drying tray in autumn and winter for onions, garlic, root crops and beans before you store them.

Bumblebee cutout. Photo: Getty Images.
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You need a soil sifter for your garden dirt – here’s how to make one for $5

Douggarden tool, wood shop

frame title

Years ago, when I was beginning to bend a corner of my parents’ lawn to my agricultural will, I found that I needed something to remove all the rocks, sticks and dirt clods that I kept encountering. Even the compost that I made needed sifting to remove the branches that I mistakenly tossed in. One evening, I got it in my mind to build a big sifter frame. I was not anywhere as handy then as I am now, and I still managed it all -for about $5. Here’s how to build this incredible tool for your yard.

The concept is to make a big wooden frame with a durable mesh screen that could hold up to a few pounds of dirt hitting it. The solution was to buy an 8-foot length of wood and cut it down. I used what looks a lot like lathe board in retrospect, but it has held up after all these years. I suggest using a 1″x1″ pole or, if you feel inclined, going up to 2″x2″.

I cut it into four two-foot lengths. The two-foot square was really useful because you can sift a LOT of things in it at once. It also fits conveniently over a wheelbarrow, which turned out to be critical. You see, after you sift that dirt, you’ll want to put it somewhere! It’s much easier to sift over a tarp or a wheelbarrow, so make yours wide enough to fit over your trundle if you have one.

frame 2

The corners are ugly. I’m not going to run from that fact. I made the decision that I lacked the skill and the will to tenon or dovetail these. I bought the angle brackets here and screwed them in. They have held wonderfully for seven summers now. You can be as fancy as you’d like, but trust me on the brackets; you’ll want them no matter what.

As for the screen, the green plastic you see here is a chicken wire fence section, a remnant from the fencing I’d purchased for my garden’s protection. It is rustproof and strong. You can use whatever screen you’d like, but don’t fool around with a tight weave; keep the holes about 1″ wide so the dirt can pass through. To attach it. use a staple gun and be generous with those staples or the screen will just pull away from the frame. Strength in numbers, here.

frame 3

This is about an hour’s worth of project work if you count in time that it takes to go to the store. After you’ve got it done, there’s plenty to do! Here are some ways I’ve used mine:

  • sifting clods of grass out of garden plots that I have just tilled up
  • filtering out decomposed black compost from rotting leaves in the corners of our yard to get that lovely, filthy black paydirt for the garden beds
  • cleaning out rocks from topsoil
  • busting up big chunks of clay by rubbing them across the screen like I’m grating a big piece of cheese
  • laying garlic across it, supported on two chairs, to dry out and cure for storage
  • separating out the half-decomposed compost matter from the stuff ready for the garden

Once you build it, you’ll be using it to grade and sift your soil on a multitude of projects. It stores flat and sits out of the way. I wish it were a more complex project, but I also love simple tools. When you build one, be sure to tell me how you use it!

DIY soil sifter \u0026 stand / gardening woodworking / dirt sieve

Introduction: How to Make a Dirt Sifter

After putting up an instructable on making raised beds I realized I should probably go a little more in-depth on the dirt sifter since it’s a vital part of my gardening routine.  If your dirt is in need of as much amendment as mine you’ll be doing a fair amount of sifting too.  If not, well lucky you.

My sifter was scrapped together in an afternoon.  Even though it’s not real easy on the eye it functions quite well.  I’ve put thousands of pounds of dirt through it and it’s still holding up.

Step 1: The Base

The base holds up the tray for sifting.  It needs to be sturdy but also easy to carry around.  I used my favorite building materials for this project- stuff I had lying around and drywall screws.  I used angle aluminum in the corners as posts because it is nice and rigid as well as lightweight.  2x2s would work just fine.  The plywood on the horizontal pieces needs to be fairly wide to help with bracing.  In the corners of each of the posts I put 3″ deck screws to loop the cord from the tray over.  You only need them on one side but this way is more versatile.

Step 2: The Tray

The tray is were all the action happens.  The tray needs to be light.  You are going to be lifting the tray on and off the base over and over again.  It also needs to be sturdy.  The tray gets filled with heavy rocks and dirt and then gets shaken dozens of times until every thing that’s going through has done so.  Your construction needs to hold up to the abuse.

The tray sides are made out of 1x4s screwed together with metal angle brackets in the corners.  The screen is 2 layers of hardware cloth one with 1/2″ holes and one with 1/4″ holes.    The 1/2″ cloth is to provide support to help hold the weight of the dirt.

After you have screwed the sides together place the tray face down and lay the hardware cloth on it.  Take some strips of 1.5″ wide x 3/4″ thick wood (or plywood) and screw them into the bottom of the tray.  Make sure the screws go through the holes of the screen.

The handles are 16″ pieces of 2×2.  I used an angle grinder with a sanding disk to shape them so that they would fit comfortably in my hand.  Use 3″ screws to attach them to the bottom of the tray.  I had them screwed in the sides for the first year but eventually they failed and ripped out chunks of wood from the sides of the tray.

Drill a 1/2″ hole about 3″ in from the end to slip the cord through.  I like to use reinforced clothesline.  It holds up the best.  I also wrap the ends in tape to make an eyelet.  This helps with wear as well as keeping the cord secure on the corner posts.

The cord is just tied in a circle with the ends poked through the holes in the tray.  Set the length so that the tray sits about two inches above the base crossbar.  This way it won’t bang into it while you are sifting.

The handles should rest on the crossbar on the other end.  They keep the tray stable as you are filling it.

Step 3: Using It

Using the sifter is very straightforward.  You fill it with as much material as you can comfortably shake.  Push and pull the tray in front of you and the sifted dirt will fall through leaving the big stuff behind.

You’ll be amazed at how nice your dirt looks after a trip through the sifter.  Your plants will thank you too!

If you like projects there's plenty more at our site: Mike and Molly's House where we chronicle our Mighty Projects on our Mini Farm (AKA our backyard).


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Sifter soil

How to Make a Soil Sifter Box for Healthy Compost

Sifting soil and compost is one aspect of gardening that can sometimes be challenging—but always pays off. This small sifter box makes it easy to shake out and keep the good stuff and return the leftovers to your compost pile. And it's the perfect size for one person to handle by themselves in a modest garden.

There are plenty of benefits to composting, such as enriching the soil we use for gardening. You also can reduce up to 30 percent of the things you normally throw in the trash by composting food scraps and yard waste instead. When composting at home, it’s important to sift your compost to separate the organic material that’s suitable for gardening and the stuff that still needs some time to decompose. The good stuff, called humus, is dark, fluffy, and rich in nitrogen and other things that plants thrive on. Depending on what organic materials you add to your compost pile, how much, and climate factors like heat and humidity, it can take up to a year for humus to develop. The good news is, once you’ve started the cycle and continue adding materials to your compost, you’ll be reaping that sweet, sweet humus for years to come.

What you need

DIY soil sifter \u0026 stand / gardening woodworking / dirt sieve

Make a cheap soil sifter (sieve)

13.6 years agocompost, sieve, soil sifter


Unfortunately I only have one compost bin which I continuously add materials to, so I never have a complete “batch” of compost at one given time. In order to be able to filter out the finished compost from the non-composted material I created a soil sifter (sieve)

I checked out soil sifters online but didn’t find anything that I liked so I decided to make one myself. I went to the home improvement store and picked up a roll of ½ inch wire mesh and a 2”X4”X8’ piece of lumber. I cut two pieces one inch shorter than the width of the wire mesh and cut the remaining piece of lumber in half. Screw all the pieces together and pull wire mesh over the rectangular frame. Staple the mess around on the side of the frame and you are all done.

To use, just lean it against a wall or fence at a 45 degree angle (wire mesh facing down) and just dump your compost on top, the composted material falls through the stuff that needs a little more time stays on top which you can throw back into the compost bin.

Tags: cheap, compost, vegetables


You will also be interested:

The History of the Soil Sifter

Brad Lang, Owner

Until now, if you wanted topsoil suitable for a new flower bed or vegetable garden, you had to hire somebody to haul in bags or even a truckload of expensive soil, or if you're handy, you could build something yourself to filter or screen rocky soil or raw compost into top soil. But not any more! We've built a simple, lightweight device that fits on top of a standard wheelbarrow (or can be used without one if you prefer) and filters out stones, roots, and other debris from soil being prepared for planting, leaving nothing but smooth topsoil that your plants will love, especially if you mix it with compost, manure or peat moss as part of the process. We've even created about two dozen other versions to fit different needs, including a compact version of the regular Soil Sifter, several mini versions, and Soil Sifters that fit on a Roughneck bin, a 5-gallon pail, plastic garden carts, and our newest models that fit on the Aerocart, Gorilla Cart and on a 5-quart pail. Soil Sifters aren't just for gardeners, either. We have sold them to rock hounds, treasure hunters, archeologists, Bonsai enthusiasts, you name it!

Necessity Was the Mother of this Invention

When I needed to do something about the rocky soil around my house in Michigan when I was putting in new planting beds, I searched the stores and the Web for something I could purchase to help me screen the soil. I found nothing at all in the stores, and on the Web I found a description of how to build something that seemed needlessly complicated, plus lots of how-to instructions and conflicting ideas. The screeners I did find for sale were either too small or too expensive, or both. So I made something myself, and after consulting a professional carpenter, The Soil Sifter was born. (Today, the workshop has taken over half of my basement!) It's nothing fancy (all Soil Sifters are made from unfinished #2 pine, galvanized hardware cloth, #6 screws and 3d/4d finish nails, with some finish sanding on the corners), but still, people would walk by and see me working with it and ask where I got it. Some wanted to buy one on the spot! Maybe it's because of the results I got with my gardens. Some people have asked us what's so "amazing" about a wood frame with a 1/4" screen. What's amazing is that something so simple gives such great results! And because the screens are cut just slightly smaller than the frames, there are no jagged edges poking out as you often get with homemade filters. For more information about how to use the Original Soil Sifter, please visit our How to Use page.

Great For Many Other Uses

I have also learned that The Soil Sifter can be used to sift seeds, search for fossils, find artifacts, discover buried treasure, find lost jewelry, filter unwanted substances (cat poop, for example) from your kids' sandbox, sift through crime scenes for forensic evidence -- in other words, anything that requires careful sifting of sand or soil. Especially if you don't want to spend a lot of money doing it. Bonsai enthusiasts please note: Our models are cheaper and hold more than the standard round metal screens used for bonsai potting.

One of the Soil Sifters can be used as a shelf or rack to store fruits and vegetables that need good air circulation, or even to sun-dry them, cooked or uncooked, in the proper weather conditions outdoors. Place parboiled fruits or vegetables on the screen, then leave the screen in the sun when weather is hot and dry.

Other ideas:

Adding amendments. Mixing soil amendments such as peat moss and manure can be difficult with just a shovel, and the result is often a marbled-fudge effect of improperly mixed soil. A soil sifter does a great job of mixing soil and amendments.

Making potting soil. Make a nice potting soil rich in organic material and free from stones.

Making gravel. Sometimes you need a small amount of gravel. Instead of buying a truckload, use a soil sifter to produce a small bit of gravel quickly, by sifting the tiny stones out of the soil.

Sifting worms from a worm bed to be distributed around the garden.

If you have other uses, please let us know.

New: For an additional $5 charge, you can include a set of four legs with any Soil Sifter model that will raise it approximately six inches off the ground so that it can be used in place, without a wheelbarrow, like this:

To order any Soil Sifter with this option, simply add it to your cart, but don't forget that you also have to order a Sifter! (If you are an existing customer who has purchased a Sifter in the past and would like a set of six-inch legs, please email us about it!) If your Sifter includes a set of brackets, and you're not planning to use them, please let us know and we'll include the set of legs instead at no additional charge! Just send us a separate email.

Try stacking them! As shown in the photo below, if you are trying to sift for two or more different types of material (Bonsai enthusiasts, take note), you can order two or more Sifters of the same type and simply stack them on top of each other using wooden brackets or the adjustable metal brackets. This works best with a design such as the Pail Buddy (as shown), or the Gorilla Screen, Roughnecker, or Campact. No modifications are necessary, except for specifying a different screen size for one of them. Please write to us after you order and let us know this is what you want to do, in case any changes are necessary for other models (such as the Super Mini, which has handles instead of brackets. Not available with the Smart Screen, the Handy Screen, or the Soil Sifter II. Email us if you have any questions.

ADJUSTABLE BRACKETS -- Included with the Original, the Compact, the Gorilla Screen, the Pail Buddy and the Roughnecker, or by request with any other Sifter (please email us to ask).

You can order any of the Soil Sifters with a coarser (1/2") or finer (1/8") screen, each for an additional $5 charge (because the odd-sized screen has to be special ordered and is not purchased at a quantity savings like the 1/4"). We do NOT recommend either the 1/2" (lets too much material through) or the 1/8" (not quite sturdy enough) for normal sifting of garden soil, but they may be perfect for other purposes. Be sure you know what you really want before ordering them! You can use the drop-down boxes below each model to specify which screen you want. Remember that the 1/4" screen is the regular size.

Some of the medium size or small Sifters are available with 1x4s instead of 1x3s for a deeper well, at a small additional charge. (Not available with the Original, Traditional, Gorilla Screen, Handy Screen, Smart Screen, Shaker Screen, or Soil Sifter II, due to packaging issues.) Email us for more information.

PAINTING AND VARNISHING are unavailable due to facilities issues. However, you can certainly add a finish to yours after you receive it if you like. All Soil Sifters are made from unfinished #2 pine, 1/4" galvanized hardware cloth, #6 screws and 4d/3d finish nails, with some finish sanding on the corners.

SHIPPING usually takes only a few days, depending on where you are located. Please include your shipping telephone number in the comments section when you are ordering, since we are not given this information, and it is required for shipping. Or send us an email if you are unable to use the Comments section. All Sifters are made to order, which can take anywhere from a day to a week, depending upon how busy I am and if I have raw materials on hand. In any case, if you order on Thursday or Friday, your order may not be shipped until the following Monday. In other words, if you need your Sifter in less than a week or so, please let me know and I'll do my best, but there are no guarantees. Overnight shipping is available, but is very expensive! When you check out, include your shipping telephone number under the "special instructions to the seller" section, since the billing company does not share this information with us, and it is required for shipping.

SHIPPING COSTS (Federal Express, continental U.S. only) are included in the price of each item. (It is an average cost, not an exact shipping cost, and includes the cost of the box and packing material.) If you order more than one item, you may receive a shipping rebate depending upon whether or not more than one Sifter can be shipped in a single package. Larger quantities of the same item (smaller Sifters only) may be shipped at a greater discount. Please email us for more information before ordering. PLEASE NOTE: We are now experimenting with shipping outside the continental United States! However, you will not be able to order directly from the Order Page. Please Email Us and tell us exactly where you are located and what you want to order and we will respond with a quote. Import duties, taxes, and charges are not included in the item price or shipping cost. These charges are the buyer's responsibility. Please check with your country's customs office to determine what these additional costs will be prior to buying. Thanks!

Before you order, you might want to visit our Frequently Asked Questions page or email us at [email protected] if you have any questions. Read a few testimonials from satisfied customers. And take a look at some before and after photos of our own experience with this tool. Plus, be sure to check out the other versions listed below, all of them less expensive and in smaller sizes to fit your needs. We can even make you one if you have another idea. Be sure to email us with your needs.

If for some reason you prefer not to use credit cards to place an order, or are unable to do so, email us at [email protected] and tell us which products you want and where you live so we can give you a price and alternative payment method. We cannot accept credit cards directly, however, but you may also pay by certified check or money order. There is no obligation until you pay, of course!

Bookmark this page and come back again any time: We are also looking into offering some related products for one-stop-shopping convenience for gardeners, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, check out our affiliated gardening sites by clicking on the links below.

soil sifter
Order Your Soil Sifter today!

Some Helpful Gardening Sites

25 No-Cost or Low-Cost Gardening Tool Ideas
From Better Homes and Gardens -- everything from milk cartons to newspapers to chopsticks!

The Spruce
A comprehensive and useful site for gardeners.

National Gardening Association
A nonprofit leader in plant-based education, serving a national audience with timely materials designed to foster an appreciation for the benefits of gardening. Lot of great information here!

Dave's Garden
A favorite site for gardeners around the world, articles and videos show you how to start seeds and learn how to make a garden. Members can chat with other gardeners in forums, and learn how to identify plants, pests, birds and butterflies.


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