Screen Compost for Better-Quality Organic Fertilizer from Worms -

Screen Compost for Better-Quality Organic Fertilizer from Worms

Compost, Gardening, Live Worms, Red Worms

screening compostAn easy way to separate your composting worms from the organic fertilizer is to screen compost. Putting the finished compost through a screen also makes higher-quality compost, because it’s fluffier and free of stickers, pits, sticks, and debris. Where do you get a screen? Can you make it yourself, or buy it? How do you screen compost?

Best Time to Screen Compost

When the weather is fair and you are prepping for spring planting, you will be looking for fertilizer. Any starts will need finished compost in their little pots to grow strong. The garden would love organic fertilizer mixed in with the topsoil, sprayed on as “worm tea” or used as a side-dressing. And lawns are praying for the nutrients and soil-friendly bacteria that “worm poop” provides.

If you have been composting faithfully with worms all winter, you should have built up a treasure trove of organic fertilizer in your worm bin. Some keep their worms cozy and productive indoors. Others leave them outside – those bins may need more time to bounce back if the temperatures were below freezing. When the worm bin has enough black material that looks like coffee grounds, the fertilizer is ready to harvest. Now you can get your screen ready!

How to Get A Screen

compost screenThe trick to a composting screen is the diameter of the holes. You have a choice: either buy a screen, or make your own. Either way, Uncle Jim is here to help! Therefore, you really can’t go wrong if you keep reading.

Our 16-Inch Round Steel Compost Sifter is perfect for screening compost. The sifter lets organic fertilizer through, leaving worms and debris in the sifter. Specifically, the mesh openings are approximately 1/4 inch in size. Its galvanized steel framing and stainless steel sifting screen ensure many years of use with proper care. Just keep it clean and dry.

If you are handy and have the time, making a composting screen takes about 20 minutes. The payoff is that the screen will last many seasons. You will need scrap wood, a staple gun, hardware cloth with 1/4″ mesh or 1/8” mesh, and a clipper, plus a few more tools. Read our article about How to Make a Screen to Separate Worms from Compost, which includes an instructional video.

Harvest the Compost

If composting worms are mixed in with your compost, the screening process will remove them. You will add them back to the worm bin, ready to get to work again. Of course, you can use another technique to harvest your finished compost. For example, you can use a special tray-based composter designed for composting with worms. Most of the worms will be in the top bins, so the fertilizer in the bottom bins will be mostly worm-free. Or, read our article on harvesting your compost

How to Screen Compost

Screening compost requires a little time and patience. However, screening makes the compost “fluffier,” which means it can hold air better. It is also better at holding the right amount of moisture. Screened compost is very easy to work with versus compacted compost.

To screen compost, make sure the contents of the bin are not too damp. It should have the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Find out what to do if it’s too wet. Take an empty container and put the screen over it. Use a trowel to move some finished compost into the screen. Shake the screen in a side-to-side motion. Worms and larger objects will stay on top of the screen. Finished compost will drop into the new container. See our article and video about screening compost for more details.

Now you are ready to reap the rewards! Get busy gardening with your composting worms’ incredible organic fertilizer.

Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm is the #1 supplier of composting worms and worm composting accessories in the USA. You can buy our worms year-round from our website. We carry the Red Worm Mix for composting, Super Reds for composting and fishing, and mealworms for pet and bird food.

6 thoughts on “Screen Compost for Better-Quality Organic Fertilizer from Worms

  1. I would like to add worms as I put down new sod. What are the best worms for this? How many worms do you suggest per a given measurement? How deep in the soil is the best for maximum results?

    1. Hi Grant,

      We would recommend adding the European nightcrawlers! They are a larger, hardier worm that burrow deeper in the soil helping aerate and add nutrients. Typically adding 5-10 per sq/ft will yield the best results.

      Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

  2. My worms arrived four weeks ago and are thriving after some adjustments. Most notably moving from my garage to my laundry room. The George heat made them want to escape. They are much much happier inside!
    I have the Three tier Worm Cafe. The instructions say to pour approximately a gallon of water once a week into the bin (of course with the drain open). Do you recommend this?
    Also once the first tray is full do I follow the same procedure of inserting a layer of cardboard and the coconut coir then some newspaper into the top tray? Do I take out any of the worms from the lower tier or do they eventually find their way up to the higher bin. Of course I have some time before I will be adding the upper tray.

    1. Hello Holly;

      It can take up to 3 months for a tray to be full of Worm Castings depending on the amount of worms you have in each tray. Once the tray is castings only it is time to add another tray on top. Make sure that if the holed in the top tray do not meet the soil in the lower tray, you add a bit of peat moss or soil so that the worms can easily move upward. Do not put paper into the bottom of the upper/new tray, the worms must be able to move up into that tray. Then start feeding that tray only. Give the worms a week or two to move up and then remove the bottom tray of castings and harvest them, picking out any remaining worms and putting them into the new bin. There are videos you can watch on YouTube and other sites on how to do this. They are very helpful.

      You can leave the spigot open as well, there should not be a lot of leachate coming from the bins. if there is a lot of liquid, the bedding is far too wet.

      Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

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