Monday, April 13, 2009

My first compost post

I have never blogged about the composting I do in the yard so I have decided to start. It is a great way to reduce your household waste and immensely improve your soil at the same time. I will start by showing the compost screen I just built. For some reason I put a bunch of sticks & mulch in the composter. It turned my finished compost into a jumbled mess so what better to do then screen it.

I made the screen just big enough to fit over the wheel barrow rim. The frame is two layers of 1x2's with 1/4" hardware cloth sandwiched in between. The top side I mitered together by cutting the corners at 45 degrees and then I glued & screwed them together. Once that dried the hardware cloth was stapled on the back and then the second layer of 1x2's were screwed on over that with simple butt joints. With the glue drying time it took about 2 hours to make and cost about $25 dollars, mainly because hardware cloth is rather pricey. I will later add some articulating legs to the screen so I can set it up on the ground and throw compost through it.

This is my composter, it is called an Earth Machine. It has been in use for 6 years now and it works very well. The best part is the city sells them to any resident for $20 dollars every spring. The only draw back to this system is it is a real pain to turn the pile. Since adding the vegetable garden this bin does not have enough capacity for my needs. I will be expanding this year but I have not decided yet if I will get another earth machine or start a three-bin composter. The composter is behind the shed and this area will be improved this year once the new bin is added.

Below is a series of photos I took well screening the finished compost:

The bottom 2/3 is the finished compost and was accumulated
from last Spring & Summer. The top 1/3 is unfinished compost
from last fall & winter.

I separated the finished compost from
the unfinished and started to screen it.

I found pushing it through with my hands worked best.
Shaking it would probably work better if you didn't have
a bunch of debris in your finished compost like I had.

Here is the left over sticks & mulch from just two shovel fulls. That
will be the last time I put wood in the composter. This screen caught
a lot of the squash seeds too that should not have been in the
compost either. Live and Learn.

Here is the finished product, It literally is black gold. It was
light as a feather and has a sweet earthy smell. The veggies
will love it. This springs haul was 3 wheelbarrows full
or about 18 cubic feet.

I will keep doing a few compost post every now and again. Future posts will cover what I add to the composter, how I care for the composter and the improvements to the compost area once the new composter arrives.

Happy composting and if you have not started composting yet why not give it a try.


  1. That compost does look pretty good! I have 3 compost bins and co-incidentally, removed and used my compost this morning. I don't screen it though. I use it all on the veg beds just as it is. I think of the coarse bits as 'roughage' - does us good, should do the soil good! That's my theory anyway.

    I can't believe how much stuff people throw away that could be composted. Wonderful for the garden.

  2. Awesome gold for the garden. I really like your sifter-very nice!

  3. Your screen is beautifully made! If the compost is fairly dry I use the brush side of a long handled car window scraper for pushing the compost through the screen. It saves on the hands and is less bending over the wheelbarrow.

  4. I often put sticks in my compost. They get recycled every year until they eventually break down. I occasionally screen my compost, but not often. Usually I just pick through it for the large things that need more composting.

  5. Well, I am suitably inspired to make my own screen. I have a small screen I made that does the job on a limited amount of compost - but it is...well... limited in amounts! LOL! I need to pick up some 3" screws from the hardware store this week - maybe I will grab the materials to make a compost sifter while I am at it.

  6. Good craftmanship on the screen, Dan! Man...that finished compost looks really good. Alot better than mine.

  7. I love sifting compost. Don't feel too bad about putting sticks in there, I always do, helps with aeration since they don't compact as much.

    I've sifted 2 loads so far this spring and I need to do a few more. My compost sifter fell apart this spring, so I need to build a new one.

  8. My big black barrel was a composting failure! It was probably because I filled it with un-chopped garden debris just before I left it for the winter, so nothing got turned. When I uncovered it, it was a stinky mess of uncomposted squash vines. This year nothing will go into it un-chopped!


  9. Beautiful black gold! Like the pansies!

  10. Vegetable Heaven - I had never screened before either but after putting so much wood chips in I almost had to.

    Tina - Thanks, it was fun to build

    Sande - Good idea to use the car brush, thanks.

    Daphne - Most of the stuff I wanted to screen was large chunks of wood chips. I must say the screen stuff is pretty nice feeling.

    KitsapFG - Good luck making your compost screen. It should be fun.

    EG - Thanks. I thought the 1x2's might be a little flimsy but after gluing & screwing two layers together it was really strong.

    Chiot's Run - Good luck building your new sifter. You should look for gorilla glue to fasten it together, that is what I used. It cures in the presences of water and is really strong stuff.

    Granny - That's what I have in the top 1/3 of the bin. Not much will compost over the winter and mostly everything will just turn to goo by spring. It should turn into some really nice compost by summer thought.

    Rosemary - The pansies made it through the snow last week like troopers. I think they are liking this past weeks sun better though.

  11. Glad you did it. I need to break down and make one myself so I can return my neighbors. You're right, yours does look just like his, though he stained it, likely with weather proofing stain. That's a thought since it will get wet.

    Great post. Your screened compost looks better than mine did, but they both work, hehe.

  12. Sinfonian - I should seal it with something, would have been smart to do before I got it covered in compost though, hehe. The compost is a year old, that's why it is so composted looking.