Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to Build Soil Sieves

Al's Soil Sieves
As you know, succulents require well-draining soil to thrive. I learned about a homemade gritty soil mix for container gardening (future post to come soon). The materials in the mix, however, need to be screened to filter out large (chunks) and small (fine or powdery) particles. 

In order to do so, you need some type of soil sieve (AKA soil filters, sifters, or screens). You may or may not find them at your local big box or speciality nursery, or major hardware store. Lowe's, Home Depot, and Armstong Garden Centers did not carry them (or claimed they didn't when I called). 

After doing tons of research and competitive cost comparing, I concluded that building my own would work best. 

My handy and gracious husband agreed to help me build them. Special thanks to David for making these for me and leaving me to my succulent obsession. 

  • Wood 
  • Hardware cloth (1/8", 1/4")
  • Insect screen (1/16")

  • Hammer & nails
  • Staple gun & staples
  • Utility sheers
  • Working gloves

I got the idea to build my own sieves from this forum threadBefore I found Al's wooden frames (picture at top),  I came across these common manufactured sieves. 

Bonsai Sieves 
Bonsai sieves (AKA riddles) sometimes have interchangeable screen sizes, which are nice. But, screen sizes are not always disclosed online and may not have the smaller 1/16" size. 

A common size you'll find at retail stores is a deep rectangular shape. You can get it at Walmart or Lee Valley. The major limtation is that there is only one screen size. 

Photo Credit: Google Images

Some gardeners swear by kitchen sieves (colanders, sifters) that have a metal mesh.

Compost Sieve

Compost sieves tend to have larger openings. 

Let's get started...

The Tools
We already had the hammer and finishing nails in our tool box. My husband opted to buy a staple gun & staples for $20 at Lowe's since it would be the easiest way to make the sieves. Also, I bought special sheers at Ace Hardware, which I'll explain more below.

My husband bought the wood pieces from Lowe's. You buy them in 8' sizes and they cut it for you for free. He bought three pieces total to make all the strips he needed. 

He measured out the sieve frame to be 24"x24". I think a shorter size would have suited me better, but, oh well.

Various Screens
I bought hardware cloth (metal screen or mesh) from Ace Hardware in 1/8" and 1/4" sizes. They sell them by the yard and cut it for you. 

The fiberglass insect screen was purchased from Lowe's. They don't come in small or custom sizes. 

I ended up buying special scissors to cut the screens at home since regular scissors or even garden shears can be damaged by trying to cut steel.

Wooden Frame
The vertical sides are 24" and the horizontal sides are 23". The pieces were secured with nails.

Covered Frame
The screen was laid down and secured every 4" with a staple.
Trim Excess Screen

The excess screen was cut off. Note: With these shears, the excess side should be on the left.

Trim Excess Screen
Custom Soil Sieves

And, here's the finished product. It took him about one hour to build three. I haven't tried them yet, but will do a follow up post soon.


Wood = $3
Insect Screen = $7
Hardware Cloth = $10-$15 


Staple gun w/ staples = $20
Sheers = $15  
(I also bought other supplies like a tarp for ground covering and large storage bins to help me sift soil with these sieves.)

I hope this helps you (or a handy friend) build your own screens at home. Good luck!

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