How to Build a Soil Sifter


A soil sifter is a convenient gardening tool to own and very easy to make. Just like the kitchen variety, it's purpose is to separate out large particles leaving small, fine particles of soil or compost to use for starting seedlings or as a lawn fertilizer. Soil sifters are usually constructed as a shallow box with a screened bottom. You can add handles to your sifter or build it with rails on the bottom to hold it in place over a tub or wheelbarrow.

Gather Your Materials

  • To make a 12-inch by 18-inch soil sifter, you will need a 1-inch by 4-inch pine board, 5 feet long. You will also need eight 1 1/2- to 2-inch nails, a piece of 1/4-inch hardware cloth, a saw, a hammer, tin snips and a staple gun loaded with 3/4-inch staples. Grab a pencil, a tape measure and some gloves, too.

Build a Box

  • Using the tape measure and pencil, mark off two 12-inch lengths and two 18-inch lengths on the board. The 12-inch pieces will be the ends of your sifter and the 18-inch sections will be the sides. Cut the pieces according to your measurements. Attach the sides to one of the end pieces by nailing them together at the corners. To make nailing easier, lay the board flat and gently pound the nails in until they stand up on their own. This will make it easier to hold on to each side piece as you nail the box together.

Attach a Screen

  • Use the tin snips to cut a 12- by 18-inch piece of the hardware cloth. Staple the cloth to the bottom of the box using the staple gun. Hardware cloth usually comes with holes measuring 1/4- or 1/2-inch and is sold in rolls at hardware stores or home centers.

Customize Your Soil Sifter

  • You can make a small sifter for making a little bit of seed starting mix or you can make a larger one to screen a bin full of compost. Having a sifter that fits over your wheelbarrow makes larger gardening jobs easier. Measure the top of your wheelbarrow and cut two pieces of 1-inch by 2-inch board the same length as the ends of your sifter. Nail the rails to the outside of the bottom of your sifter so that they slip over the top of the wheelbarrow and hold the sifter in place while you add the compost.

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