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DIY Compost Screen with Garden Trays

Composting allows me to add some organic matter to my garden, but the material often needs sifting. Instead of buying a compost sifter, I made my own DIY Compost Screen by using common plastic garden trays.

These trays are readily available at most garden centers when you purchase a flat of seedlings. 

The come with openings in the bottom of various sizes and make great screens to remove large items from your compost so that it can be used in your garden soil.

Hands holding compost

I have a huge compost pile at the back of my vegetable garden.  I am committed to organic gardening and try not to use any chemical fertilizers or pest control.

Recycle garden carry tray into a DIY Compost screen

My pile is done with the rolling compost pile method.  I find it easier than bins and piles that need to be turned conventionally.

When the compost has broken down and is ready to use for my vegetable garden, it might need screening.  Often, compost will still have some bits and pieces in it that have not broken down and will need to be screened. 

There are lots of ways to do this, but one that is easy, costs nothing and works well is to recycle old plastic garden trays as compost screens.

When you go to a garden center and buy trays of plants, they will often put them into black plastic carry trays which have holes in the bottom.  They make perfect compost screens. 

Now, they will not last forever, since they are lightweight, but I can managed to screen several wheel barrows full of compost before they start to break down on the sides.  When they do, I put one with a fine screen inside a larger one with bigger holes and start again.

Eventually, they will break, but by then I have been back to the garden center and have more waiting for me to use.

This is the one I am using right now. It has holes that allow the compost to fall through but still retain sticks, twigs and large weeds.

Plastic tray ready for adding compost to screen.

The plastic tray is ready for adding compost sol that it can be screened. I just dumped in a large amount of compost, held it over my wheel barrow and gave my arms a good workout by shaking it back and forth.

Still needs breaking down.

The left over bits will go back into the compost pile so that it can break down further.  When I was finished shaking the tray, the bin still had a lot of material that was not broken down.

That just got dumped back into the largest part of my compost pile for more decomposition, and I added more compost material and shook again.  When I was done, this is what I ended up with:

Finished compost.

The finished compost is ready to add to my garden. This load of compost was just filled with earth crawlers.  They love my compost pile!

worms in compost

The worms love my compost and they will help to aerate the soil. My project for next year is to have hubby make me a nifty screening gadget that I discovered on YouTube.  Fingers crossed. 

Until then, my DIY Compost screen will work just fine!

How do you compost? What is your favorite method?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Want to know what you can and cannot add to a compost pile?  Check out these articles:

Pin This Compost Sifter Project for Later

Would you like a reminder of this inexpensive garden hack? Just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.

Inexpensive garden screens made of recycled plant trays

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Nancy MacLeod

Wednesday 21st of April 2021

I appreciated reading about your composting methods. I have been making compost for some years now, but recently I have a big problem w/ it: I put the finished compost into a bed (I live with a redwood forest right next to my garden, so have to grow everything in containers)and planted some tomato seedlings. Shortly thereafter, I saw that something was eating them. One was seriously damaged, eaten all around the trunk. I came out with a flashlight that evening, and there were gobs of pillbugs/sowbugs all over it! I hand picked them off, and read up on how to get rid of them organically- diotematious (Ok. I know I'm not spelling it right, but hopefully you can tell what I mean)_soil was recommended, saying that it took 48 hours to work- I got some, but it's been a week and I still have lots of the bugs. It seems that all the beds I put my compost in have a ton of them. Also these tiny little centipedes that eat my plants as well.Have you any ideas for me? Thank you so much.

Carol Speake

Saturday 24th of April 2021

It sounds as though your compost pile didn't heat up enough to kill all the organisms. Compost piles need a specific mix of green and brown material to get hot enough to kill pests and bacteria.

Best garden ideas from the DIY experts! | Flea Market Gardening

Thursday 8th of May 2014

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