Monday, June 4, 2012

Sifting Your Soil

After moving into our home we quickly realized the entire sprinkling system needed to be replaced.  I grew up along the benches of the Wasatch Front where the soil was soft and sandy from thousands of years of river deposits.  I had dug many sprinkler trenches by hand and thought I could do the same here.  After an hour of digging, or rather chiseling, a two foot trench I realized this wasn't going to be a simple task and had to call in the heavy machinery.
It turns out we live on an ancient glacial moraine.  On top of that, shortly after finishing the sprinkler system our neighbors told us our lot was the last to be built on and it had been the duping spot for all the other neighbors unwanted rocks.  Needless to say we have a lot of rocks.
We decided early on that we would have a raised bed vegetable garden, this helped with the rock issue because we brought in top soil for the grow boxes.  But all of our flower beds had loads of rocks that needed to be removed, so I decided to build a soil sifter. 

I didn't quite know at first how to do it so I went to the hardware store and looked around for a solution.  I had seen a commercially built one in the past and knew I needed to assemble a box about 2 feet by 4 feet.  I could do this with simple 2x4's.  For the sifting screen I found 2'x8' concrete metal diamond mesh folded in half.  To hold the mesh to the 2x4's I decided to us 1x2's.

I simply measured the width and length of the mesh and cut the 2x4 studs to length and screwed them together forming a box.  I made the same cuts with the 1x2's.  I placed the 1x2's on top of the 2x4's and drilled starter holes for the screws.  This helps prevent the screws from splitting the wood.  Lastly, I placed the diamond mesh on top of the 2x4 box and screwed the 1x2's down, holding the mesh in place.  And there you have it, a soil sifting box.  Total cost is between $20 and $25.

To sift your dirt put the sifting box on top of a wheelbarrow and start shoveling dirt into it.  One to two shovels full at a time is all it can really handle.  Then move the soil with your hands or the shovel allowing it to fall through the mesh and leaving the rocks and heavy dirt clods behind.  You don't want to press hard as you will eventually tear the mesh. 

It's important to know that when sifting your soil many worms will loose their lives.  Sifting completely disturbs the soil's ecology as well, so you should only do this once with your garden soil.

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