Thursday, March 17, 2011
Sifting the Compost
So, you've dutifully built a compost pile and have been feeding it throughout the winter. Now that spring is here, what do you do with it?
It is time to sift the compost! I know I'm a little weird, but I must say this is one of my favorite spring tasks. There is nothing better than getting out there, flipping off the top layer of yet-to-decompose items into the neighboring compost bay, and literally unearthing all of that lovely sweet-smelling humus. But in order to get the finished product pictured above, you need to do one final composting step: sifting.
You can certainly buy a sifter from a commercial outlet; most of these look like large gold-hunting pans, and I imagine you are supposed to fill them and then shake them until the finished material sifts out the bottom. However, this sounds an awful lot like work to me. So we use our own homemade system.
What you see above is the sifter build by Mr. FC&G for just such a purpose. Basically, it is a wooden frame on which he stapled some fairly rigid screen. We dump some humus into the top, then use the back of an old child-sized rake to encourage the finished humus through the screen while leaving the twigs, leaves, and stray eggshells behind. These all get dumped into the "working" compost bay, and then we shovel a few scoops more into the sifter and repeat the process. Yes, it is good exercise, but we do it standing up instead of kneeling and shaking a pan sifter.
So far, this has been a good year for compost, if such a thing can be said. While last year it felt like we struggled to get enough compost for all of the pots, planters, and garden, this year we quickly sifted about four wheelbarrow-loads in less than an hour, and there is plenty more out there. I'm looking forward to getting back out in the pile tomorrow and sifting a load to top dress the carrots and peas I will be planting.
Fast: Certainly, buying compost is faster than sifting your own, but c'mon: compost is the ultimate freebie that even comes with its own workout!
Cheap: The more compost I can produce and sift, the less manure and potting mix I have to buy. It is really a one-for-one replacement for both potting soil and fertilizer, and it is all natural.
Good: I have said this before and will repeat until everyone believes me: the smell of finished compost (humus) is the most wonderful, alive, Spring-like scent there is.
Posted by Jennifer Lorenzetti at 10:43 AM