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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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To Screen or not to screen ??? Toplef10To Screen or not to screen ??? 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

To Screen or not to screen ??? I22gcj10To Screen or not to screen ??? 14dhcg10

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To Screen or not to screen ???

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llama momma
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To Screen or not to screen ??? Empty To Screen or not to screen ???

Post  jimmy cee 10/21/2014, 2:43 pm

That is the question ?
I have been screening compost because I enjoy the fine texture in the beds to work on.
If I don't screen compost and place in the beds as is, just lifting out the larger items, are  there benefits for this ? such as material continuing to compost on a small scale ?
Might the larger items add to the aeration of the beds ? hold more moisture due to more open areas in closed spaces, etc. ?
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Post  Marc Iverson 10/21/2014, 3:16 pm

Hugelkultur people like the idea of logs at the bottom of their beds adding long-term nutrients and structure to the soil as they slowly decay, and Back to Eden people like the extra water retention, soil temperature stabilization, and great soil structure provided by wood chips in various stages of decay throughout the soil.

The problem remains of excess carbon tying up nitrogen resources in the soil at a faster rate than its completed composting can return nitrogen to the soil.

That is why the BTE people recommend what sometimes seems to me an improbably large mixture of leafy green material -- like 90% -- in their wood chips, why BTE advocates advise pushing aside the top layer of wood chips and planting in soil rather than directly in wood chips, and also why BTE isn't pushed as an immediate remediation of soil but one that takes a while to do its work.

You can get a lot of the benefits of BTE and of hugelkultur's attraction to big logs -- water retention and soil temperature stabilization, as well as a long-term increase in soil structure and nutrition -- simply through mulching and no-till practices, with the occasional application of normal, fully-developed compost typical of SFG.

And you won't be tying up your soil's nitrogen in the process.


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Post  camprn 10/21/2014, 3:24 pm

I don't screen as usually have better things to do, and besides the earthworms need something to eat. And when earthworms eat they make worm castings...

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Post  southern gardener 10/21/2014, 3:58 pm

we never used to screen, but did last year I believe it was, and now we do it all the time! LOVE the consistency and no "big things" get in the way when planting seeds. We then mulch heavily and it's working AMAZING! The worms seem to love living in that little "zone" where the mulch meets the compost. 
We can screen 4-5 barrels in about 30 minutes, which is not much time. We then leave the barrels set until we are ready to top off our beds. LOVE it!! 
So, bottom line, a little bit of work for the results is well worth the little effort it takes Smile 

God bless!!
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Post  CapeCoddess 10/21/2014, 5:19 pm

I screen when I'm making MM.  Other than that I haven't been of late, but I miss the finer consistency.

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Post  sanderson 10/22/2014, 2:08 am

I used to screen when I used wood chips as browns. I screened a batch this summer for winter seed pots, but the bulk of newer compost with straw-as-browns went into the new MM as is, chunky but crumbly.

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Post  Marc Iverson 10/22/2014, 4:31 pm

I love fine consistency too. It's so easy to mix and weed and work with.
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Post  grownsunshine 10/22/2014, 4:54 pm

I think I'll screen to get the nice textured compost and put the larger stuff into a new compost pile...give it more time to break down.
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Post  grownsunshine 10/22/2014, 5:08 pm

I just saw Mel said that in his book Embarassed , pg...not sure. I have the kindle version.
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Post  dk54321 10/22/2014, 5:47 pm

I don't screen, but:

1. My browns are mostly autumn leaves and shredded paper, 
2. I don't mind small chunks in my compost
3. When I find a bigger chunk in a bed, I just toss it in the compost bin, which is always within easy throwing distance because:
4. I compost in place,* 
5. Nature will do a lot of the work for you if you don't try to hurry it along, and
6. I'm lazy.

* I've seen several methods described as "composting in place".  Here's what I do: I put up a snow fence around a bed, and start tossing compostables into it as they become available. I let them accumulate for 2-3 years. Compost happens. When I decide another bed needs refreshed, I put a snow fence around it and fork the uncomposted layers from the old bin into it. That's right, I only turn my compost once every 2-3 years. I could go longer if I set up more beds and devoted more space to composting.

Then I remove the snow fence from the old bin, and it goes back to being a bed, but with a thick layer of fresh compost already in place. I mark it into squares and plant it. Once the plants are 3-4 in tall, I start pulling handfuls of leaves, shredded paper, etc. from the new bin  and tuck them around the plants as mulch. As the plants get taller, I add more mulch. With all that mulch, I do very little weeding. Then again, mulch keeps most weeds from offering much competition, I'm not that particular about the appearance of my beds, and I'm lazy.
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Post  jimmy cee 10/22/2014, 10:03 pm

I don't consider you lazy at all.....highly intelligent with good foresight.
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Post  floyd1440 10/24/2014, 7:11 am

I tried the screening too and while it gives you a very constant product, currently I just pull out any large twigs or rocks and toss it in my garden.  Next fall all the larger "clumps" will be gone.

Composting can be very labor intensive as you need to turn the pile once the temperature begins to drop to get a quick batch of compost.  Does work but at my age there should be an easier way to produce compost without killing your back.  Fortunately my neighbor, who has lived there for 25 years, has been dumping his grass clipping and leaves into a large pile, and after scrapping into the pile there is black gold and he lets me take as much as I want for my garden.

His pile "heats up" is during the fall when he picks up both leaves and grass clippings so currently I gather leaves in the fall, then add grass clippings the next summer.  I turn it once at it is cool and good to go the following year.

Lazy but it works for me...........
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Post  jimmy cee 10/24/2014, 9:02 am

I neglected to mention this in the past, I've always used a 1/2 inch mesh tray to screen my compost, this year I tried one of those plastic crates that have diamond shaped openings.
It's working fine for me, very easy to shake, larger items remain, however are easily removed.
I shake it all into my wheel barrel, the transfer it to 5 gallon buckets for the trip to the beds.
Doesn't screen as fine as the 1/2 inch, good enough for me.
These crates come in various sizes for those who wish to choose what size they want.
To Screen or not to screen ??? Compos11
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Post  llama momma 10/24/2014, 9:38 am

I screen if I'm in the mood and have the time.  The sifted result is nicer for me to work with. I can plant seeds lined up and picture perfect.  In my experience healthy vigorous seeds grow fine either way.  Its easier to plant carrots in sifted compost because I can make those 4 little rows very neat and straight. No clumps in the way.
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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 10/24/2014, 1:41 pm

I would probably screen more if my screen wasn't 1/4" hardware cloth.  It's a chore.  Hubby bought the wrong size and made it up before I had looked.  Didn't have the heart to tell him after he did such a lovely job on it! <3
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Post  sanderson 10/24/2014, 2:50 pm

audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:Hubby bought the wrong size and made it up before I had looked.  Didn't have the heart to tell him after he did such a lovely job on it! <3

A familiar theme. Shocked I don't have the heart to tell him that ___ is the wrong ___.

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Post  steve638 11/27/2014, 1:53 pm

I use a double screen system. I use a tumbler to compost and a pile. First screen has one inch holes placed over the other screen with half inch holes. Much of the screened compost ends up in the worm bin for further digestion. It's easier for the worms to go through the smaller particles.
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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 11/27/2014, 2:11 pm

I have two new beds that are 4x8x6" one will have unscreened compost and the other screened (in the MM).  I'll let you know next year if there was any significant difference. 

The unscreened was well broken down with some larger bits mostly of straw and some recognizable strings of seaweed.  Since seaweed is 19-1 it's going to provide some extra nitrogen to offset the straw.  I have red wigglers in the bed so they'll make short work of it all anyway.  

I love the feel of the MM with the screened, the only reason I'm screening on the second is to toss the larger pieces back into the next pile I'm starting and because I have plenty of time right now with nothing much going on in the garden!  If I were limited in time it would go in unscreened  Very Happy
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Post  Kelejan 11/28/2014, 12:19 am

steve638 wrote:I use a double screen system.  I use a tumbler to compost and a pile.  First screen has one inch holes placed over the other screen with half inch holes.  Much of the screened compost ends up in the worm bin for further digestion.  It's easier for the worms to go through the smaller particles.

When I am short of finished compost I take some of my unfinished and put it through a one-inch screen to toss out the large bits then put the remainder through a finer one.

:welcome:Steve I see this is your first post. Have you been lurking?
 That is how I started here. happy hi
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Post  sanderson 11/28/2014, 6:35 am

Steve, Welcome to the Forum! glad you\'re here
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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 11/28/2014, 1:56 pm

You guys are so much more alert than I, I missed that it was Steve's first post  Embarassed

WELCOME to the forum and I hope you'll hang around and share what you've learned with all of us!
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Post  Kelejan 11/28/2014, 5:38 pm

Don't feel bad, A-JR, you're only human.
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Post  AtlantaMarie 11/29/2014, 4:22 pm

Well, this will teach me not to look at ALL the posts!

Welcome to the SFG party, Steve!!
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