A sifter, also known as a sieve or screen, is a gardening tool used to separate large chunks of wood, rocks or other debris from soil or compost. It is made up of a frame with a metal mesh or screen attached to it. There can be varying sizes of mesh depending on the intended uses of the sifter. Be sure to use a container or tarp under the sifter to collect the material that passes through it.
Here are three of our favorite uses for a sifter in the garden:
This is one of the best use cases for a sifter. You don’t want to put a chunky potting soil into plug trays for seed starting because there are way too many large chunks of wood and other debris that will get in the way of roots and compromise the mix.
You either need to buy a special purpose germination mix or screen your own ingredients to make your own seed starting mix. Also, many premade seed starting mixes don’t have compost in them, and we’d still recommend adding a high quality sifted compost to all of your seed starting mixes for the beneficial microorganisms that it contains.
Besides screening out larger than desirable debris, a sifter will also break up clumps of your ingredients that have become stuck together. Those big clumps won’t be great for seed starting.
A sifter is a key tool to have in your seed starting setup!
You can also use a sifter to harvest seeds from your garden, whether it’s to save them for planting in the future or to share with fellow gardeners.
First, be sure that the seeds are ready to harvest. One indicator is the seed heads or flowers are dry and brown and you can see fully formed seeds.
Carefully cut and collect the seed heads into a container, being careful not to drop them into the garden. Place a container under the sifter to catch the seeds. Place the seed heads in the sifter and gently agitate it to release the seeds.
The idea is to release the seeds from the plant matter, allowing them to fall through while the plant matter is caught in the sifter. You may need to manually break apart the seed heads, just be careful not to break them up so fine that the plant matter falls through as well!
When you are done separating the seeds, compost the leftover plant matter or feed it to worms.
Using the Vego Garden Worm Composter, you can generate the very best biological soil amendment that exists: worm castings! (AKA vermicompost)
One trick though, you need to separate the worms from their castings when you harvest them and return your worms to the bin so they can make the next batch for you.
When you harvest worm castings, place them into the sifter and gently agitate it back and forth to make sure you don’t lose any worms in the process!
We designed the Modular Garden Sifter for all of these purposes, we think you’ll find it very useful for your gardening!