Thursday, September 30, 2010

Leek - The Onion that grows Up - not Out

[Attachment(s) from rlmader1 included below]

If you have never grown Leek, they are very unusual plants for someone who
normally plants just the old favorites.
You know, Tomatoes, Cabbages, Radishes, Green Peppers, etc. However, I would
encourage you to give them a try. Not only are they handy in the kitchen,
they actually are beautiful plants when planted in bunches and allowed to

The blooms also attract lots of bees to your garden who help pollinate your
vegetables. Everything from Bumble Bees (Gentle Giants) to busy, busy, busy
Honey Bees. And an occasional Wasp. I found that as long as you don't bother
them, you can work around them as they do their work and they don't even
seem to notice. However, of course, if you have a severe reaction to bee
stings, I wouldn't encourage such a person to work around flowering plants
at all.

Leek are very hardy plants. Practically impossible to kill by cold and are
very disease resistant. I grew mine from seedlings that I grew myself. Just
seed them in a light mix of soil. When they sprout, move them into good
lighting. Let them grow another week or two and set them out about 4 inches
apart in good garden soil. They grow faster than ordinary onions and can be
set out in the fall. They will die down in the cold but if you throw a
little straw over them, the will start growing again near the end of
February in South Central Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

You can start harvesting them for use in Stews, Stir-Fries, Roasts, etc.
Anywhere, actually where you might want to enhance your cooking with a
little Onion flavoring. Just cut the root end off and keep chopping up the
stalk even into the green stalk if they are still young.

I am still learning all about Leek. If you have some notes to add, just put them in the comment section


Attachment(s) from rlmader1

1 of 1 Photo(s)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How to Get Cheap (but Great) Potted Plant Markers

I tried to find inexpensive plant markers for my potted plants as well as for my raised bed plants.  I had nearly a thousand potted plants with various tomato plants, peppers, herbs, etc. this spring and I was racking my brain. If you noticed, the Big Box Stores and Plant Nurseries are peddling these little packages of 8 or 10 plastic strips for around $3.00. They probably got them from China for 10 cents a package. Is it any wander the country is in financial trouble. 

OK. So now I will get off my Soap Box and tell you the secret to good plastic markers. Plastic Picnic Eating Utensils! Especially Knives. They can be used again and again and can be Sterilized - and easily cleaned of Permanent Marker Plant Names. Just pick up a bottle of Rubbing Alcohol along with the Utensils and Black Permanent Markers. Both can be found at your friendly "Dollar" store.

You can even find several different colors in some stores. But look for the ones where there is not to much decorative scrolling. These are easier to write on. Most packages will have knives, forks and spoons all in one package. You can use all three. Just stick the Fork and Spoon ends down in the pots leaving the handles sticking up. They should look something like this:

As anyone can see, GrandBob's Garden is always engaged
in  cutting-edge technology...

Note: Permanent marker is not too permanent with some brands. Some fade very fast with a rain or direct sunlight. Try different brands. Even the ones best known. Imagine if you have 10  different brands of tomatoes all in the same box - and they fade overnight... There is only 2 types of tomato plants I can tell apart. The regular leaf and the potato leaf. And this can be difficult with the very young plants. I have to have good markers.

Hope you find this little garden tip helpful. And I always enjoy hearing from you folks. Drop a line to
I usually answer within a few hours and sometimes minutes...If I'm not taking a nap.

Addendum:  I have just found out that Medical Tongue Depressers also make good plant markers. they are about 6" long and 1" wide and made of wood. If you can't find them locally, they are easy to find on Ebay. Average cost is about 3 - 5 dollars per 100 box. They are easy to mark with a magic marker. The could be reusable too if you repaint them with a light colored enamel.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Re: [gardenmessenger] Saving Seeds - SeedSavers

A Short  Course in Storing Seeds From Your Garden
and How to Test Their Viability (Germination Rate)
Seed Storage Containers
Pill Bottles are great. You can usually purchase new ones at any pharmacy. Also, if you can find them, Change Envelopes are good. Your best bet for finding these is an Office Supply Store. Staples, Office Max, Etc. Or use a regular letter envelope - used or new - cut in half. Put the seeds inside and seal the envelope with scotch tape if necessary.  Be sure to date them and label them as to what they are on the outside!
2 important points:  1. Store them in a dry but never hot place. 2. Store them out of the light.
On top of the fridg in the Kitchen is not recommended!  A cool, dry, closet works. A hot garage is out. So is a high shelf close to the ceiling where it is always the hottest part of any room.  Room temperatures of 72 degrees or less should be fine for most seeds. The warmer it is the faster they will deteriorate. The cooler the better. I would not recommend freezing unless you Know this is the recommended way to store this specific seed.
No matter what I do, Onions, Chives, etc. usually never germinate worth a darn after a year or so old. Other seeds do much better. Seed Companies strive for at least 85% germination. Some seeds are just hard to germinate.
How to Test for Viability
To test yours out, lay out 10 to 20 seeds in a damp (never wet or dry) paper towel sandwich.p Roll the sandwich up like a jelly roll and place in a large freezer bag. leave the bag unzipped about a half inch to allow a little air to get in. Set on a lowly lit shelf.
Every day pull the jelly roll out and check to see that it is still moist and allow to lay out of the bag for about an hour to allow fresh air to circulate. Then put the roll back into the bag. Check on an old seed package or in a garden book to the usual length of germination. About that time, start unrolling the roll to check the seeds. When they start sprouting, wait till the sprouting finishes. Count the seeds. If you planted 10 and 5 sprouted, you have of course 50 % germination. 8 sprouts = 80%. The more sets of 10's you start at the same time, of course, the more accurate you true germination rate.
To practice this, get some new radish seeds and experiment with this before testing any of  you valuable seeds. Radishes is good conditions come up is sometimes less than 48 hours. Always get as much information as you can about the recommended germination time and conditions. Some seeds require Light to sprout. Most don't.

A great book on Seed Saving is : "Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth. You can easily find a copy new or used on Ebay or from Amazon. Copyright Seed Savers Exchange 2002 Inc. Website - WWW. Seedsavers.Org


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Contain Mint and Strawberries

I just received a question from one of my readers about controlling Mint and Strawberry plants. This short article should give you some ideas to get you started.

For mint, since we usually don't use more than what can grow in a square foot of space or less; find an old deep cooking pot. Something like you might use to can pickles and tomatoes. A waterbath container. This should be about about a foot deep. If it doesn't already have holes in the bottom, put several holes at least a quarter inch in diameter. Fill it with good loose garden soil. Half Compost/Half soil is good. Or just potting soil. You could also mix half and half soil and old rotted leaves (black - leafmold). With these mixes, fill the container nearly full. Gently firm the soil down. Fill it again. You should leave a few inches at the top for watering.

Place the container of soil in an appropriately sized hole. Leave about 4 inches sticking out. Put a few mints in and water down. From here on, just trim the trailers as they climb out of the container. Keep them from reinserting themselves outside the container. You have them under control.

If you are not burying the pot in the ground, say setting it on a patio or maybe hanging it up, you will have to water it at least twice as much. Partial shade or Morning and late Afternoon shade should keep the mints from burning up if they are adequately watered.

Strawberries need a similar barrier but a lot more area. Say 10 by 10 feet. This area can be formed by setting up bricks on end in various border like designs. Like the mint, trim off the runners as they try to escape. I have heard of using a barrier of concrete blocks - filled in with a light sandy soil with good drainage. You could use old 2x6, 8, 10, 12 lumber to enclose the strawberries. This can get very expensive if you use Cedar or even Redwood - which can cost a small fortune! 

Some people buy an old fashioned "Washtub". These make nice containers for a small amounts of strawberry plants.

Last of all, you could use old tires up to the size of Tractor tires. However, don't use New tires. The fumes they give off on a hot day are not good for food! Get something several years old and your probably pretty safe. Another thing you might try is a kiddy pool. If they are buried in the ground they might better withstand our winters and the suns UV causing the plastic to deteriorate. Don't expect over one or two seasons of use from these.

Hope this primes the pump and gets your creative juices working. And don't forget to let me know when the strawberries are ready....

Cheers - Bob

Monday, August 2, 2010

How to Clone Tomato Plants!

How to Clone Tomato Plants

Say you have a favorite tomato plant and just before it is supposed to produce fruit - so you can save seeds - a big windstorm tears the tomato plant to pieces the night before. You may never get any new seeds. What can you do? You can take the few sticks left and Clone it! That is, start genetically identical plants from the broken branches of the plant. Here is how:

Cut tomato stalks into 3 inch pieces

The next morning after a bad storm, I went out to find the one heirloom tomato that I specially wanted to save seeds from had been wind whipped to shreads and broke off at the ground. There were a few stems still scattered around in the mud puddles. I ran back into the house and grabbed a scissors and a plastic bag half full of cool water. I rushed outside with the bag and scissors. I grabbed the nearest stalk and and clipped it into sticks approximately 3 inch long.

Remove most of the leaves and trim at an angle

I then removed most of the leaves - (where there was leaves). I then picked the fatter end and trimmed it at about a 45 degree angle and tossed it into the water filled plastic bag which would keep it fresh until I was finished salvaging the scraps of the broken tomato    plant. Hopefully, these little sticks would become "chips" of the old block if this experiment worked out. This wasn't going to exactly be as easy as rooting a Mint plant!

Keep the trimmed stems in the refrigerator

As soon as I was finished and had approximately 20 little stalks in the bag, I rushed them into the house and into the refrigerator crisper - still in the water bag - until I could prepare their new home for the next few weeks. 

Prepare the Soil Mix

We like to get Ice Cream in the plastic gallon tubs - the tubs come in very handy and they have a handy plastic lid and carry handle. We use them for a thousand things. I mixed up a soil mixture of 1 part Perlite and 1 part Spagnum Peat Moss. Both come to us fairly sterile in the bag. I mixed it throughly. Wet it down giving it the drip test. That is, wet enough to throughly dampen the mix, but not so wet as to drip when a fistfull is squeezed. I then filled the Ice Cream Bucket with this mix until the bucket had about 3 inches of mix in the bottom. 

Drill holes in the Ice Cream Bucket Lid

I then took a 1/4 inch drill bit and put several holes in the lid. This was to allow fresh air to flow over the top of the stalks helping to avoid dampening off (a fungus) from destroying the stems before they can root.

Insert the Stems into the Soil Mix

Push the fat end of the stem gently down in the soil. Try to leave a little soil below the stem at the bottom. About 1/2 inch is plenty. Space the stems out from each other about 1 " apart if you can. They are easier to check and handle later on. 

Mist the Stalks before putting on the Lid

Using a cheap water bottle mister available at any Dollar Store, mist the stems a little with a find mist. You should do this once a day. Never allow the stems to dry out during the time they are in the "Cloning Chamber". Keep the room at an even 70 plus degrees which will encourage rooting of the Stems.

Place the Lid on and set aside for a few days
Every day, remove the lid and mist the stems lightly. You should not need to water the soil the stems set in. They should only be in the Chamber for a few days.

After 3 or 4 days check for New Roots

In about 3 days, gently pull up a few stems. Most likely you will see some with a few new white roots forming at the bottom. Put them back into the soil. 

Give your New Clones Light to Encourage Leafing Out

After most of the stems have sprouted; move the Ice Cream bucket into a little light. Every day move it into more and more light. A softly lit south window would be nice. Or maybe a desk lamp with a regular light bulb is handy. I use a 100 watt Florescent light bulb. These bulbs can be put as close as 2 inches and will not burn the new plants. Remember, keep water and dampness away from the bulb of any kind. Don't sprits the plants with the light hanging over. Set the lamp temporarily away to the side before getting near damp pots or using the water mister. Dry your hands before picking up the lamp. Be Safe!

When you see New Leaves

You should soon see new leaves appearing. As soon as the new leaves start forming, put your new clones into individual pots. At this point, you will want to treat your New Clones just as you would any other baby plant.

Copyright Robert Mader 2010
All Rights Reserved


Monday, June 28, 2010


Haven't you ever wandered wether you could grow decent potatoes from the grocery store?  Potatoes with sprouts on them - because you forgot about them? I did!
This year, after buying several varieties from the garden store at the rate of 6 for $3.00, I got to wandering. Can you actually start potatoes from the ones in the store that are sometimes on sale for less than $3.00 for 5 pounds? Have you also heard the story that grocery store potatoes have a "Retardant" sprayed on them so they won't sprout and therefore won't produce potatoes in the garden. I have. Have you ever noticed that even though these potatoes are supposed to have a Retardant to slow down sprouting, as soon as they get in your kitchen, they begin to sprout Anyway!   I have!
This spring, a friend of mine had a half sack of a variety we all like to use for baked potatoes. They had broke out in long 1" sprouts all over the place! I told my friend that I would take the potatoes off their hands and throw them in the trash.
Well, instead of heading out back to the trash can; I slipped around the house and put them in my Trunk! 

 Did I sin??? Naaaaaaa. When I got home, I carefully cut them up, and after drying over the cuts for 3 days, I put them in the ground in their own row beside the "Garden Store" potatoes. I labeled this last row of potatoes - "John's Potatoes". 

They seemed to sprout just fine and flourished in the same potato patch as the others. But would they Produce?
Today, I dug up my first "Grocery Store" Potato plants to see if they had done very well.

I half suspected to get little or nothing from them. After all, I always heard these weren't good to plant for various reasons. So the garden centers said, and the Agriculture Department said - and all my fellow gardeners said - or at least suspected.
                                                   This is what I found!

Next year, I'm going to try several other varieties from the Grocery Store!

Oh, there were about 5 other medium sized potatoes on that same plant.
A-h-h-h-h.    I sure love a successful garden experiment!
PS: If you cannot see these potatoes on the group, check out my blogs below for the same article.
Copyright Robert Mader 2010
All Rights Reserved
Grocery Store Potatoes Will Grow!  

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Potato Plant With "Fruit" on it! What?

I am hoping there is someone out there with more knowledge of growing potatoes than me. My potatoes are mature and the plants are dieing down. They are pretty much ready to dig now. However, on one of the dieing down plants, are 3 tomato shaped, ping-pong sized "Fruits" on it. What are they? Some kind of Potato Seed? I understand tomatoes and potatoes are related. Is this a TomTato?
I am attaching two pictures. The one with the brick gives you the relative size of the "Fruit".
OK. Some potato expert please clue me in. I have about 250 plants. This is the only plant with these on it. Should I call the FBI or the CIA or NSA? Are these Alien Seed Pods?    Dare I get near them....!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Current Radar Peek at our Weather -11:36 - and Potting Phenomena With HeatWave Tomatoes.

A peak at our weather. I bet we're going to get some of that stuff up in the Northern part of Central US. Although nothings predicted for today except Hot, Hot, Hot. I was late watering my small potted plants yesterday (Fathers Day). When I got home, it was just in the nick of time too ...
I have noticed a curious phenomena just this gardening season. ( I'm a little slow...)
In late April-Early May, I took several of my little (2-inch) Heatwave Tomatoes that I started, and put them out of my experimental "plant incubator, and set them directly in the ground in my hoophouse plot (by now uncovered).
I set them in one corner about 4 inches apart - about 10 plants - to grow until I could find a place to put them in the garden later this spring. I put the rest in small 2-1/2 pots to set out on my "Grow Table on the patio. These  on the table are now 8" to 12" plants and need to be planted NOW. However, there is a tremendous difference between the siblings set out in the hoophouse in Mid March and the ones still in the pots on the grow table. Pots definitely slow down growth in my experience. I figure it is due to not "upgrading" ever few weeks to larger pots. However, those in the hoophouse, are extremely crowded but are 4 times bigger than the ones in the pots.
The plants in the Hoop House ( still needing to be transplanted to a nicely spaced area in my garden, are at least  2 Feet Tall, sturdy, and starting to produce - even though they are jammed together in a 2 square foot space. Amazing difference even though they are all from the same batch that sprouted in February and grew to small plants in the "plant incubator".   (The "plant incubator" is an on going experiment in small-scale protective plant production - Outside - from about January to the first of June. )
Please feel free to ask any questions of what this all entails.
Here is a picture of how the plants in their paper trays look in the Plant Incubator before planting out into pots or directly into the garden patch:

Please feel free to ask any questions of what this all entails.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

How To Fight Tomato Blight Before it Starts!

 Fight Tomato Blight!

Actually, there is no real way to avoid Tomato Blight completely. The spores live in the soil from year to year and when the conditions are right (as they were last year all over the US) nothing can completely stop it.

Last year we had a lot of moisture and cool weather that made conditions perfect for Tomato Blight. We were actually hit with the same blight that  hit Ireland in the 1840's and caused the Great Potato Famine when whole families starved to death from the effects.

Here it was called the Late Tomato Blight. Many people do not know that Tomato Plants and Potato Plants are related. Another asside: Tobacco and Tomato plants are also related. Tomato plants can catch Tobacco Mosaic. A word to the wise; smoking around tomato plants can transmit Tobacco Mozaic to Tomato Plants. Don't do it.

However, there are a few steps you can take that will definitely help  in more normal  weather conditons when planting and caring for Tomato Plants:

  • Mulch Your Tomato Plants.   Keep a barrier between the leaves of your tomato plants and the ground. A good rain or just your sprinkling can cause the Blight Spores to be splashed up into the lower leaves of the plant. The blight when started, travels up from the bottom of the Tomato plants lower leaves quickly into the upper areas. Most people use Wheat Straw. I used shredded office paper and newspaper to good effect last year although I think wheat straw would have been better. (I refused to pay $6 for a $2 bale of Straw!
  • Keep Your Tomato Plants Dry.  When you water. Water on the Ground at the base of the plant. Don't sprinkle if you can help it. Soaker hoses are perfect for this or just run water from the hose laying on the ground. Spraying the plant - incourages the blight spores - to be splashed up on the bottom of the plant where it can easily take hold in the cool shade and moist limbs and leaves.
  • Space Your Plants Generously. Plants that are planted on top of each other, encourage lots of shade and moisture near the bottom areas close to the ground. Blight Spores thrive on these conditions. A Bare minimum would be 3 feet. 4 to 5 feet would be better! 
  • Stake or Trellis Your Plants. Staking each plant or using a trellis or wire cage prevents the branches from sagging over to touch the ground. I have a short article on this blog explaing how to make great Tomato Stakes from Cedar Fence board. I will be using them extensively this year after testing out their utility for a few years. A Cedar Fence Board will cost you about $3.50 or less and you can rip out about 8 - 6 foot stakes. This year I will stain them Red Wood color instead of Green like last year. Easier to see in the plant foliage for tying up the plants as they grow big.
Trim Plants at the Bottom at least 12 Inches. Low hanging limbs that are close to the ground can easily pick-up and transmit Blight Spores upward to the plant. From the very first,  keep lower leaves trimmed off.   This is the only trimming an "Indeterminate" tomato ever really needs unless you are going for Giant tomatoes where only a few are allowed to grow and all unessential limbs are chopped of. This is done to send more nutrients to the few tomatoes left on. "Determinate" tomatoes are often pruned and "suckers" removed anyway - but you still need to observe especially the 1 foot rule from the ground of the lowest branches.                  

Copyright Robert Mader 2010
All Rights Reserved


    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Make This Handy Little Compost Sifter

    Step - by - Step Building Instructions
    for your own Compost Sifter

    Several years ago when I was still very green behind the ears, I decided to learn how to make my own soil mixes for seed starting, potting soil and raised bed gardening. I soon found out that if I was to use composted leaves, kitchen greens, commercial top soil and bagged manure to make my own mixes; I would need an easy, quick, and light way to sift a few gallons of materials at a time. Actually, a few other items would be useful but I will get into this later. So I designed a sifter very simular to the one above but a little bigger. I was younger then. This is suitable for the elderly to use and is made out of better materials. You will see the old one that I finally retired after 20 plus years of use and why I had to retire it. The screen was Still in excellent shape and I cleaned it up, sized it down a little and reused it on the new screen. This screen is made or Galvanized Steel and I had given it a good enamel coat of paint the first time. Most of the paint was still in good shape. I just washed and buffed the screen a little before repainting with a new coat of enamel. I use almost one regular can of enamel spray to finish this job. I like Teal. You can use any color you want!

    Lets Get Started

    Material List: 

    1 - 6 ft Cedar Fence Board (5-1/2" X 72") Usually "Dog Eared" on one end. (You will find it at your local lumber yard or Building Materials store such as Lowes or Home Depot etc). 

    1 - 1 ft. X 2 ft.  Galvanized 1/4" inch hole Screen.  Big City Folks call it "Hardware Cloth", I've been told.  Most Hardware stores and Building Materials Stores Carry it. Here in  Kansas -  it's simply "Hail Screen".
    For finer sifting, 1/8" Screen can usually be found. Larger Course (and quicker) sifting you might want 1/2" Screen. This is sometimes used by small contractors to sift large rocks out of builders sand etc. 

    1 - Wooden Screen Trim. (Once used to hold fly screen material on old-fashioned Wooden Window Screens and Screen Doors.) Now often used as a trim board for wood projects. It's about 3/16 thick, 3/4" wide and 8 ft. long. Found at many Hardware Stores, Lumber Yards and Builder's Supplies Stores such as Home Depot and Lowes.

    Other Materials you will need:
    A Waterproof Wood Glue. I use TiteBond III. You may also find at your Hardware Store or Builders Supply Store- Elmers Waterproof Wood Glue and Gorilla Glue and others that will also work. Read the label carefully and make sure it clearly says "Waterproof".

    About 20 - 3/4 inch Copper Screen Nails - Found where you found the Window Screen Nails. Sometimes found in Winterizing Window Kits that contain plastic sheets and nails. There are found in Hardware Stores, Dollar Stores, Builders Supply Stores etc. Small 1" #4 Galvanized Nails also work fine if you can find them. 
    These are used to attach the slats to the frame of the Compost Screener sandwiching the galvanized screen between.

    1 - Can of Enamel Spray Paint - Your favorite Color. Found at any Hardware, Builders Supply, WalMart, Dollar Store, Target etc in the Hardware/Tool Department.

    A Sheet of #60, 80, or 100 Grit Sandpaper. To smooth rough edges after filing and to smooth the face sides of all  Side pieces.

    Tools You Will Need:

    A - 1"  "Spade Bit" or "Hole Saw" Bit. (Not necessary if you settle for  square holed Handles. See below.)

    A - A Saber Saw with a fine-toothed wood cutting blade. An old-fashioned "Coping Saw" can be used but    is pretty tedious for cutting out handles on the Compost Screener. Believe me "Electric is better"!

    A - Small Wood Rasp. Curved one side - Flat on the other. 8" Rasp is fine and should only cost a few dollars.

    A -  Square.  . Found in the Hardware or Building Materials Stores. If you can't find one, a "square" piece of paper or cardstock will help you to draw and cut a square cut. Table Saws usually provide their own sliding T -square to hold the board and make a square cut across the board. 

    A - Small Tape Measure or Ruler to measure and draw straight lines. 

    A - Table Saw.  If you are not acquanted with this tool, now is not the time to learn. Have an experienced friend or neighbor "rip" the sides for your Sifter. Or Use the Saber Saw but don't expect the line to be perfect unless you can clamp on a guide bar (Straight Edge) for your Saber Saw to follow and make perfect line cuts.
    A course wood blade can make a fairly fast cut if you are "ripping" with a Saber Saw. "Ripping" means to cut in the direction of the wood grain - Usually along the length of the boards.
    However, Saber Saws can also give you a nasty cut. Be careful at all times to be sure you don't have a finger or leg near the moving blade. 

    Stock Pieces are preliminary cuts of pieces from your larger boards to get the parts close to size. Always starting with the largest pieces first and working down to the smaller pieces. This assures you that you have enough wood to cut all the pieces that you need and in such a fashion as to leave you with the least waste.This is a good practice to follow with any wood project. All your Stock Pieces will be cut from the Cedar Fence Board.

    The Photo below shows the cuts on the board using a red marker for visibility. I have left a 1/8 inch space between each cut. There is plenty of board so you may cut further down on the board. This is a stock cut. Not the Finish cut. That's why the lengths are a little longer if the board you are cutting from allows for it. You will take these stock pieces and later cut them to exact length and width needed.

    1. Make a nice square cut across the full end Fence Board. Use a  square to check that you are making a clean square cut across the board. 
    2. Cut 2 - 18 inch boards one after the other.

    3. Cut 2 - 12 inch boards one after the other.

    Cut 4 Finished Pieces From Stock Pieces

    Now we will take the Stock Pieces (4 sides pieces) and cut the down to the exact finished size.
    We will not only be cutting to exact length, we will be "ripping the boards to the exact widths

    1. Rip the 2 Sides to 4" inches wide.

    2. Rip the 2 End pieces to 5" wide.

    3.  Cut the 2 Sides to be exactly 16" long.

    4. Cut the 2 Ends to be exactly 10" long.

    Preparing the Ends for Handles

    We will now position and draw out the Handle on each End Piece. 

    1. Find the middle of the End Pieces and draw a line to show the center of the board. Draw down about 2-1/2". Here is where the  Square will come in handy. Your End Boards should look something like this.

    2. From the Center measure out 2" from the center line on each side. Again, using your  square, draw a 2-1/2" vertical line from the top down at these 2 points on both boards. Your End Boards should now look like this:

    Notice that the Centering Line runs all the way across the board and here is designated "C L" or "Center Line".   A 2-1/2" line is shown on both sides of the line.              

    3. Again, Measure down on the 2 side lines 1" on both boards. . Make a dot on each line. Draw a horizontal line connecting the dots.   This is the Solid Black Lined in the Picture.

    4. On those same vertical lines, measure down from the top - 2 inches. Make another dot on each vertical line.  Again draw a horizontal line between the dots.


    5.   Measure down on the two side lines 1-1/2 inches. Make a dot. Draw a third line parallel with the other two top and bottom lines connecting the 2 dots just drawn.

    6  You should now have a rectangular box centered on the End Pieces. Located 1" from the top of both end boards, looking like this:

    7. If you are willing to settle for a rectangular hole for a handle, all you need to do now skip #8 and cut out the hole (box with black lines)  with your Saber Saw or Coping Saw. 

     For a more pleasing look and more comfortable fitting handle. Go on to step #8.

    8. From each end of the handle - using the center horizontal line - measure in 1/2 inch and make a dot. This is the exact center point to set your  1" spade bit or hole saw bit. Drilling at this point should give you handle ends with nice half circles when your finished cutting out the complete handle.   First, check the NOTE below!                  

    When cutting out the circles, always cut from both sides of the board to avoid jagged "break-outs" caused from sawing from one side only. The center point of the blade coming through on the other side, is your guide. Just turn the board over and insert the blade in this hole.Cut until a "plug" Falls out from the center of the 1" holes you have just made.  Your board should look like this:


    9. Where the top of the hole meets the horizontal line across the handle, saw to the other hole top.
     Likewise cut the bottom horizontal line.

    To Finish up the ends, measure along the top from each end, 3". Make a small mark. Measure down from the top on each end, 1". Make a small mark. Draw a line connecting the dots on both ends.

    Cut the Angled Ends off of the End Pieces  with your Saber Saw.     Your 2 Ends should now look like this:

    Clean-Up Work on Sides and Ends.

    1.  Using the wood rasp with the finest cut, smooth  and round off  the top edges of the ends. Do the Handles the same. Do not rasp the ends of the End Pieces. 

    2. Using the Sandpaper, smooth all edges and faces of the 4 side pieces. Do not round off the ends or the corners of your assemble Compost Sifter will have weird indentions instead of nice square edges when your done..

    Glue and Nail the Sides Together to Make a Bottomless Box
    For Best Results, put 3 nails into each end of each Side Piece. See Photo.

     Nail so that the point just pierces the wood on the other side. This will allow you to set the two pieces together more accurately later. Apply the Glue and Nail the Bottomless Box Together. It should look like this when you are finished assembling the box frame:

    Attaching the Bottom Screening

    1. Trim the Screen to exactly fit the bottom. Trim about 1/16 of an inch all around the screen so that no wire sticks past the edges to cause you scratches later on.


    2. Trim 2 screen slats to fit the length of the sides (16"). Set 3 Copper Nails into the slots. One at each end and about 1" in from the end and one near the center.

    3. Apply Wood Glue to the bottom of the strip. Make sure screen is properly aligned and not sticking over anywhere. Nail the strips down upon the sides and securing the sides of the screen.

    4. Cut a screen slat for each end to fit between the Side slats just installed. They  shouldn't fit too snug to avoid warping. On the other hand, do not leave any wide cracks at the joints. Put in 3 copper nails as you did with the Side Strips and apply glue throughly to the back side (side to the screen and End Boards. Nail Down. Your Compost Sifter is almost done.

     The Finishing Touch

    Apply at least 2 coats of paint. For a smoother finish, allow the two coats to dry throughly, sand lightly with 125 to 200 Grit Sandpaper. Wipe of the dust throughly, and give 2 more light coats of paint. Since this Compost Sifter is made of Cedar; it should last twice as long as my old sifter. Mine was made of Common Pine.

    Additional Handy Garden Items to Have

    A Small Wheelbarrow. Although it's time to repaint it, my little wheelbarrow has lasted me for several years and  is perfect for sifting and mixing small amounts of potting soil etc. 


    I lay my Compost Sifter in the wheelbarrow. Pour the ingrediants into the Sifter, and sift everything into the wheelbarrow. If you have several ingredients to sift and mix; just lay the sifter on top of the pile as it grows and add the new sifted ingredient to the total contents of the Wheelbarrow.

    This small wheelbarrow can still be found at most Ace Hardware Stores. I got mine several years ago at Westlake Ace Hardware located at 3110 E Douglas - Wichita Kansas. It costs about $35. 

    A Galvanized Animal Feed Pan. These are about 14 inches in Diameter and about 4 inches Deep. Used to feed and water Small Livestock  like Goats and Sheep or as a Chicken Smorgasboard for several chickens - and Big Dogs with a healthy appetites!. 

    The Galvanized coating is a little thin. But even if you eventually get a few tiny rust holes,  it's still good for mixing  and holding a reasonable amount of potting soil. And it will be usable for several years.  It's especially handy because it is not deep which makes for easy mixing with a Garden Trowel. It's easy to hold with one hand, and mix with the other. A great appliance for the price!. Locally about $4.69.

    I found mine at Atwoods of Derby, Kansas. These should also be available at most "Feed and Seed" stores and some hardware stores.  

    A Good Garden Trowel. The wide ones work best for mixing. True Value Hardware Stores have very good ones. Make sure they are solid steel. Forget the Variety Store,  Fancy Garden Trowels. They Look very sturdy but they fall apart at the handles almost immediately after you use them. Don't waste your money.

    The price for a Good Trowel starts at about $7 New. Sometimes you can find these kind of Garden Trowels at Garage Sales for a buck or 2. Keep an eye out!

    This concludes this article. I hope you get a lot of use out of your new Compost Sifter.

    If you have found this article useful,  Please let me know so that I can continue to bring informative and useful articles to you.  Leave a comment. or just post me at I answer all letters. I'm not a big shot - just a little shot. Every reader is important and appreciated by me. Letters are Most appreciated!


    Copyright Robert Mader 2010
    All Rights Reserved
    Also Visit:
    Coming Soon