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Old 09-11-2010, 04:57 AM   #16
DevinWolfe
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I mean about the size of a marble and maybe a bit larger like nickel size or so.

I rushed mine and didn't screen it well enough. Just showing what not taking your time can do, but you seem to be doing a much more thorough job than I was.
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Old 09-11-2010, 04:14 PM   #17
mike2lane
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@Keithy & @Guns286: Thanks for the advice. I have decided to go with 1/4" Chicken wire ($11 at Home Depot), and I have customized a tray using just the wire and scissors. Here is my sieve (try not to laugh!):
http://db.tt/MnfR2qv
http://db.tt/cwfhKH2
http://db.tt/MtKuCJF

@Pickled_Herring: I hope this is what people mean by 'chicken wire.' So, cypress, huh? That explains why there are wood chips in the topsoil that don't float. I had removed the floaters, but I did notice that there are still a substantial number of these cypress chips left. I'm hoping that the 1/4" wire will at least serve as a good first sifting medium for those. If not, I'll try metal window screen.

Update on the drying: If the rain can hold off for today, I think I might be able to sift and re-wet this evening. Finally, thank GOD. (lol) I am not trying to sift perfectly; I mainly want to get the large chunks of random crap out of the topsoil. I should also note that I go outside every now and then and use the rake to stir things up. I have found that this evens out the drying, since there are pockets of super-moist soil randomly throughout. Also, the smell is pretty bad when I do this.

@DevinWolfe: Thank you so much for sharing your bad experience with us. I know that sucked for you, but in telling it here, you have confirmed for me to remain patient and steadfast in the process. If anything, I might over-mineralize; although, I think that might not be possible. . .
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Old 09-11-2010, 06:05 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DevinWolfe View Post
I mean about the size of a marble and maybe a bit larger like nickel size or so.

I rushed mine and didn't screen it well enough. Just showing what not taking your time can do, but you seem to be doing a much more thorough job than I was.
This is my first time trying it so I guess I'm going all out. Also, it gives me an excuse to sit outside, away from the crazy kids and wife, for a half hour or so .

Mike2Lane; Your screening rig looks good. Mine looks almost exactly the same, except I used some scrap 2x2's to build a square frame and then nailed the screen to it. You might want to think about doing something similar because the weight of the dirt will cause the middle to sag into whatever receptical you are straining it into. The frame will keep it in place.

Tonights screening will be extra interesting because my landlords gardner came, cut the grass, and now there are little blades of grass scattered all over my dirt! Great...........
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Old 09-11-2010, 06:24 PM   #19
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Oh man!
Thats a bummer about the grass clippings



Well, good luck
Take some pictures
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Old 09-11-2010, 11:04 PM   #20
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I have finished the first sifting. Things went smoothly, and (@Guns286) the grass clippings from last week's lawn job came out. After the first round, there were still some larger chunks of soil that I had to work with my hands to break up and re-pass through the sieve. Following are pics of the finished product.

Topsoil after sifting:
http://db.tt/Aw4aBEU
and up close: http://db.tt/90olw9h

Here is the debris that was filtered out:
http://db.tt/VCDb5GO
and up close: http://db.tt/hnIGV33

Now, I have the wheelbarrow filled back up with water soaking the topsoil. I will dump the water out and spread the topsoil over the tarp again tomorrow morning. Waiting two days seems unnecessary, as I intend to complete the wet/dry process many more times than recommended, during which time the soil will flush free of chemicals et al. Plus, I am so excited to see if it dries faster without the cypress holding water as before.

NOTE: There is still a substantial amount of wood in the soil mixture. My estimate is about 50% of the weight of the post-sift topsoil is smaller wood chips and/or splinters. I suppose it is good that I chose to do three (3) cubic feet of topsoil instead of two (2), as I might've not had enough for even a Betta bowl! Also, the next sift will be through a smaller sieve. I guess it's back to Lowe's to find the best material. Maybe steel window screen?

Last edited by mike2lane; 09-12-2010 at 05:37 AM..
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Old 09-13-2010, 07:41 PM   #21
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MAN, i am SO glad i found this.
i was using the same bag of topsoil that you got but there was too much wood debris mixed in so i just gave up. i never thought of just using multiple bags and then getting the debris out. I'm sure with two bags i'll have enough actual soil to do the bottom of my tank.

and yes, its been raining like crazy up here in north central florida. its crazy, but at least the heat and the sun would help to dry the material down.
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Old 09-14-2010, 08:17 PM   #22
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Well, I think I'm down to my second-to-last cycle. I just got my clay and I'm going to soak and dry one more time, then mix them.
Mike, I wanted to post pics of what my dirt looks like after straining through the window screen material, so you can see it.

Click image for larger version

Name:	topsoil 1.jpg
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ID:	23667

Click image for larger version

Name:	topsoil 2.jpg
Views:	52
Size:	121.4 KB
ID:	23668

It gets pretty fine. Which I think will be good, in the long run.
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Old 09-14-2010, 08:48 PM   #23
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The soil looks nice. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to get the soil completely dry. If it stays constantly moist in a thin layer the mineralization will actually proceed quicker. The point of laying it out is to get more O2 into the soil pores for the aerobic bacteria to do their job. The description just became a wet/dry cycle, not because you HAVE to get it dry but because you lay it out on a tarp in a thin layer and that usually drys it out fairly quickly in warm weather. The important part is that there is no smell of rotting vegetation when you get the soil wet. You want it to smell clean when you get it wet.
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Old 09-23-2010, 06:21 PM   #24
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Thank you guys for the pics. Wow, this is a LOT of work. Lordy.

Not much is happening right now, as I am going through wet/dry repeating phase. I have learned a few things which will save some time and energy if I ever go to do this again.

(1) This particular topsoil is 70-80% waste matter. Buy 6-10 times what you expect to have in the end.

(2) Upon first purchasing, I would lay it out to dry immediately. This way, I can get junk out without having to manage 100 pounds of stuff. The wood chips in it take up a lot of space and slow down the drying process substantially. Plus, that extra weight and matter is a pain in the ass to deal with, and it's unnecessary trash! I will make it my #1 priority to remove wood chips and debris if I ever do this again (although I doubt I will).

(3) After drying completely, upon the first 5 minutes of contact with water, the wood floats and can be removed with an aquarium fish net. Because the wood in this topsoil sinks when wet, the first few minutes of wetting are the most important.

(4) Using the rake to stir up the soil as it dries in the sun aids in drying and makes it less clumpy.

If I think of anything more, I'll let you guys know.
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Old 10-02-2010, 12:44 AM   #25
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Good stuff


I just got done sifting 120lbs of top soil today.
Im going to do another 200lbs next week.
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