Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sifting Soil

Normally I'm not a soil sifter. I just pick out rocks that are large enough to interfere with the rototiller. But one of the community garden workers really got into digging one of the beds  rather deeply. So I seized the opportunity to make that bed into something special.

Carrots, parsnips, and daikon don't take kindly to rocks. When the tap root hits a rock, I've seen some pretty weird results. Roots that bend 90 degrees. Double or triple forked roots. Some that simply don't form edible roots beyond the offending rock. What these veggies like is rock, or even pebble, free soil. Well I acknowledge that I'm not going to have an ideal bed for these root crops, but I can have a reasonably good area for them. So I decided to sift out rocks. 
Doug used a mattock to get down a good 10-12 inches. And he removed all the big rocks larger than a baseball. That's a good start. He got all the heavy work done. Now I followed behind, sifting the soil and refilling the bed. 

I wasn't sure what to use as a sifter. I considered drilling one inch holes in the bottom of a bucket or dish pan, but I didn't have a suitable bucket/pan on hand. I thought about nailing four pieces of short 2x4s together then stapling a piece of wire mesh to it, making a sifter. But the only sizes of wire mesh I had handy was either too small at 1/2" or too large at 2"x4". Humph. Then my eyes landed upon a greenhouse tray. So I gave it a try. Worked like a charm. A tad flimsy, but it did the job rather easily. 

I sifted right atop the bed and soil pile, letting any pebbles naturally roll down to the bottom of the bed. These I could periodically scoop out. I was surprised how easy this was. 

Once the bed is completed, I think the garden workers will opt to grow carrots first, but it's their choice. We shall see. 


  1. So - Doug digs, Su Ba sifts, and fine soil fills the row! Maika`i !
    Here's something to add a bit of straightness to the roots of carrots and long radishes: Use a straight spade to cut a slot into the prepared area for seeding, rocking it a bit back and forth to make a narrow "trench". Fill it with fine sand, then plant the seeds straight down the middle. Cover with a dusting of fine soil and cover with a strip of burlap or da kine, to help keep the seeds damp. I my best carrots that way, but I also had crazy-fine soil, since my home-built sifter was 1/2" mesh. I thought I was going to stay on that property permanently! Ha!

  2. Oops - I dropped out "grew" but you got what I meant, yah?