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IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

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IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  dstack on 9/15/2013, 12:27 am

Last year (pre-SFG), I strained my compost using a plastic net that I got at Lowes. It was tedious and took a long time, but of course it was rewarding. This year so far I've been using the compost without straining. Is it really necessary to strain it for my MM? I'm hoping to plant my first boxes by next Sunday.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  southern gardener on 9/15/2013, 1:38 am

If it's truly composted I don't see that it's really necessary, as it should all be "small". But in the real world, at least in our bin, there are large and small bits. My nephew and his friend did our entire bin (4 trash barrels full of screened compost) in less than an hour, and it was REALLY nice to work with. I think we will continue to screen ours. The boys screened ours while chatting away and it was no big deal really.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 9/15/2013, 2:02 am

My husband just built me a framed screen that will fit on top of my wheel barrow and lock in place. I'm looking forward to using it as soon as my current batch that's in my tumbling compost bin is finished.

It shouldn't take all that long to do with the right tools and anything not finished enough will just go back into the tumbler to start the next load.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  sanderson on 9/15/2013, 2:05 am

Ditto on screening in the real world. I'll take a picture of my set up tomorrow morning. It gets the obviously un-composted stuff out, that I put it into the next batch of materials to be composted.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  dstack on 9/15/2013, 8:52 am

What do you use for screening? I use a plastic net that I picked up at Lowes. It's holes are 1/4" or smaller. If you saw my Crazy For Compost video, it's the same thing I use to separate the left of my bin from the right. I shuffle a little onto it, then hold the four corners and shake it until it's strained. I dump the larger pieces into the next batch of composting.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  camprn on 9/15/2013, 8:53 am

I use a semi hot compost method and there are often larger bits leftover when composting is done. Typically I don't screen the compost after it has cooled. I use it just like that, the larger bits will eventually take care of themselves. My feeling is I just don't have time to faff around with the tediousness of screening my compost.

If I was going to screen the compost I would use half inch hardware cloth set on a frame.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  llama momma on 9/15/2013, 10:06 am

I've used sifted and un-sifted compost and the plants seem fine and grow well either way.  I prefer the feel of sifted compost.  Bottom line I'll sift when there's time and I'm in the mood for it. 
 
For health considerations,  note there is information regarding working around compost heaps and inhaling a lot of the fumes.  At times it can make one slightly high I believe from actinomycetes bacteria, or leave one coughing a bit for a day or so later.  Have experienced both.  Even if one's immunity is not compromised its a very good idea to use a dust mask while sifting or working around compost.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  bnoles on 9/15/2013, 10:31 am

I've elected NOT to sift mine for both health and energy/time reasons. I really see no benefit other than appearance and even that is minor to my eyes. What a Face 


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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  boffer on 9/15/2013, 11:22 am

Necessary? No. But aesthetically, I enjoy the final product when used in MM. Plus, I use MM for indoor seed starting. Some of the stuff that I sift out wouldn't fit in the 3" pots that I use!

Sifting compost is fun with the right sifter.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  Turan on 9/15/2013, 12:34 pm

The only time I sift is for potting mixes. I do pull the big hunks of stuff out as I fork the pile. I do not have a chipper either and those broccoli trees and pumpkin vines take a while to compost.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  CapeCoddess on 9/15/2013, 1:21 pm

HA! I just came in for lunch from sifting all morning and saw this thread. Here's a thread from last year with lots of ideas:

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t13352-how-big-a-screen-for-sifting-compost?highlight=compost

I'm still using the same ol' pink sifter. I love you 

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  sanderson on 9/15/2013, 2:52 pm

My sifting set up.  The larger screen is 2' x '2 and I have used it to death.  DH made a smaller and lighter one for my back.  He'd strangle me if I didn't mention it was thrown together with SCRAP WOOD.  1/4" hardware cloth.  It gets the uncomposted wood shavings and the impossible-to-compost peanut shells.  They have been through 2 hot composts so now they are going to the green waste can.

I love the feel of sifted compost.


Double layer of wood with the screen secured between - less stress on the mess where it's screwed to the outside of the interior frame.


Uncomposed wood stall shavings


Impossible-to-compost peanut shells!  I also put the grubs I sifted out in this bucket.  Maybe try "soldier fly composting"???

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  CapeCoddess on 9/15/2013, 3:34 pm

I dunno, Sanderson, but those wood chips and peanut shells look an awful lot like good mulch to me! What a Face 

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  sanderson on 9/15/2013, 4:22 pm

CC - Hmmmm, you may be right.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  plantoid on 9/15/2013, 5:59 pm

I'd use the resultant sieved out wood and peanut husks in 2 " thi alternative layers of 8 "thickness  of green waste , keep it fairly moist for the first few months and see how it worked out in a years time.

Remember that un composted big fibres will usually rob the beds of nitrogen as they need it they need to become broken down into compost  for several months /years and then in turn when composted  they will start to produce nitrogen for the beds

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  sanderson on 9/15/2013, 7:48 pm

Only for you, kind Sir, would I try the #!@$% hulls a third time. frustration screm  

Actually, I have quite a lot of sun steamed, wet grass.  I will put the hulls between 2 thick layers of grass at the bottom of my pile, then build the rest as normal.  Maybe over winter, they will finally consent to decomposing.

CC -I planned for the wood shavings to go into the next compost pile.  I have a stock pile of blond wood chips for sun mulching as they don't break down fast.  But I swear those peanut hulls could be finely shredded and used as peat moss in other countries where they only have compost.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  landarch on 9/15/2013, 7:56 pm

for me, yes...I'm straining a lot of rocks and chunks of clay out of the horse manure I get from a local boarding stable.  I even strain the compost when I aerate and move the bins.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  sanderson on 9/15/2013, 8:10 pm

Just remembered. I found a sharp sliver of glass in the last of the rested compost I screened last night*. Along with a few rocks. I usually don't wear gloves and the glass could have been unpleasant to find. Since I screen all of the outside sources of materials I put in the compost, I don't know how I missed the rocks. I chop and diced the cull produce I put in.

* I turned on the porch light and worked until 11 PM when it was cool. Cat enjoyed her bedtime reprieve of 10 PM when she is normally in the house for the night.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  camprn on 9/15/2013, 8:19 pm

Plantoid is right, a lot of wood chips in the MM will rob nitrogen. The peanut shells and a few small bits of wood will rob very little N from the Mel's mix, especially if you have chosen a variety of good materials for the homemade compost pile, they will make little difference in the nutrient balance.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  sanderson on 1/20/2014, 2:14 am

I took 4 photos today of my "stinky" compost pile from September as I screened it.  All of the photos are of the various materials in my left hand so you can judge the size of materials.  

Raw compost material from the bin:


Large material caught by the first screen:  Lots of leaves, plus wood chips and even a few peanut shells that have gone through 3 compostings.


Smaller material caught by the second screen:


Finished product: Measuring by bucket fulls, the finished product accounted for about 3/4 of the volume of the compost bulk.


I'm looking forward to getting the 3 x 3 x 3 square cage constructed and attempting Berkeley composting.  I hope I get a more finished product without a lot of un-composted browns.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 1/20/2014, 1:18 pm

Great pictures.  Looks exactly like the results I've gotten as well.

In nature, things simply lie on the surface and break down over time and wash into the soil.  I use that as a guide.  I use completely screened compost, when I dig it into the squares during planting.  I use the unscreened compost and simply put it on top of my SFG beds during the season as a suppliment if/when needed.  I then hand water from time to time so that the compost sifts down into the soil below my mulch.

My SFG beds were initially created with a wrong % of peat (calculated on pre-expanded numbers) so I have had to intensely add compost and vermiculite over the past year.  Each time I planted a square I added a large hand full of vermiculite and a couple shovels of compost.  This should be corrected hopefully this year and with any luck, I won't have to add compost during the growing season. 

Moral of the story?  Don't be in too much of a hurry to get started with your SFG that you compromise the formula.  Get the % right in the first place and you don't have to work as hard with lesser results, LOL!

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  sanderson on 1/20/2014, 1:56 pm

@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:

Moral of the story?  Don't be in too much of a hurry to get started with your SFG that you compromise the formula.  Get the % right in the first place and you don't have to work as hard with lesser results, LOL!

Oh, don't I know!   Embarassed I used Kellogg's as my 1/3 compost.  = too much peat moss.

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Compost Screening

Post  Zmoore on 6/30/2015, 9:47 am

So, there are probably past topics on this in this forum, but I haven't seen them and I'm so tickled with the results I just have to share.  Yes, I said I'm tickled with the results of rotting stuff, I think there may be a "sanity" discussion there, but that's another topic.
So, I have a couple compost piles going, but my problem is I just keep adding a little bit of material at a time.  So, I wasn't reaching a "done" pile.  It would look pretty good with some good broken down material mixed with stuff that needed more time and then I would add more stuff to help "kick start" it so to speak.  Well, I digress.  My mom mentioned she saw something on TV where a guy sifted his compost and I thought that might work.  
So, I built a wood frame about 3'X2', then nailed a half inch grid galvanized screen mesh to that.  I cut some 6"x6" posts from an old timber I had.  I cut 2 post about 2' long and then 2 posts about 18" long.  I then used these as the legs to support my screen.  So, it looks like a slanted table put all together.  I tested it out last night a little.  I scooped a couple fork loads of compost onto the table, then worked the material back and forth on the screen or maybe I should say "up and down".  Anyway, small stuff falls through, big stuff stays on top.  Once I had what mostly looked like big stuff left on top I just pushed it off the low end of the screen.  Repeat process.  When done, scoop up the "big stuff" on the ground at the end of the "table" and return it to the compost pile.  Under the table is a pile of fine broken down compost material.  
I'll have to add some pictures later.  The sifted material was awesome looking.  Felt good, smelled good... wait, did I just say I smelled rotting material?  Ummm....I may have a "sickness".  
Anyway, it adds more work because now you're handling and "processing" the material AGAIN, as if flipping the piles wasn't enough, BUT you end up with a material that looks as good as anything you can buy in the store.  I've used some of my compost already, but I was disappointed in that my "done" compost would still have chunks of leaves, straw, or other materials that hadn't quite fully broken down.  Not the end of the world, still works, but I think adding this step will give me a better material to work with and I separate out the material that's not quite done and can use it to mix with more new material to keep a pile going.

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  BeckieSueDalton on 6/30/2015, 10:45 am

I look forward to seeing your pictures.  Smile

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Re: IS STRAINING COMPOST REALLY NECESSARY FOR SFG-ING?

Post  donnainzone5 on 6/30/2015, 11:21 am

I have a small compost sifter that takes a great deal of work to use.  Perhaps I could have a friend build something like yours.  Please post pictures!

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