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A Clever Homemade Soil Sifter

David Havard is a diabetic on dialysis, but hasn’t stopped him from gardening and more. David builds cool raised bed planters from (mostly) scrap wood and also created an ingenious soil sifter. So if you need to sift some dirt and you like home-boy DIY inventions, you’ll probably love this!

Homemade Soil Sifter

Contributor, David Havard

I started gardening two springs ago when I became disabled due to diabetes and classified as legally blind. Since I am not a person to sit around and mope, I decided to try my hand at gardening because I needed to find something to keep me out of trouble and from becoming depressed.

I had wanted to start a garden, but the soil in my back yard is terrible clay—like concrete —when it’s dry, and muddy when we get a couple days of rain. So I really didn’t want to try planting in or on top of the ground.

Research led me to a few planters made from pallets which looked like something I could handle. I ended up building 6 boxes of different sizes.


I planted tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and peas that spring, and in the fall I planted cabbages and everything did great. But when I went to remove the soil in my boxes I found acorns and pecans the squirrels had buried. Which meant that I would need to sift the soil before returning it to the beds.

Well, if you’ve ever sifted soil, you know that it takes a lot of time and shaking. I figured there had to be a better way, and that’s when I built my own version of a Motorized Soil Sifter. It worked great!


Then when spring rolled around again I wanted more boxes to plant more peas and bell peppers. So I built 7 more boxes. Now I have 13 boxes.


Sifting and reloading my boxes (also mixing in composted cow manure) was back breaking. Then in the middle of July I was diagnosed with fourth stage kidney disease, which progressed to fifth stage by Thanksgiving and I went on dialysis.  So I had to make this easier. The idea of motorizing the sifter looked good so I again went online to get inspiration.


I saw a few videos showing a saws-all mounted to the sifter.  So I took some 2 x 4’s, plywood, hose clamps, 1/4 in x 2 ft screen and a heavy duty saws-all and put it together in a weekend. I came with up my motorized garden soil sifter. And since I don’t drive, my girlfriend had to take me on the 20 trips to Lowe’s.

The top rails are 2 – 2X4’s 6 ft long, the side rails are 28 ¾ inches, with 4 – 2 x 4 legs 33 inches in height with braces in the corners. I then mounted a 28 ¾ by 28 inch piece of ½ inch plywood to one end with 2X4 blocks to the underside for support.

The sifter is 24 X 25 inches with ¼ inch hardware cloth stapled to the bottom. I mounted 4 small wheels to the sifter to make the movement smoother.

I mounted a 2X4 in the center of the plywood to hold the saws-all—which is placed upside down with blocks on both sides—and the end to keep it in place. I used hose clamps run through notches cut in the 2X4. And a hose clamp around the trigger to adjust the speed. I made a T-block with a 3 inch notch to put the blade into. I drilled a ¼ inch hole through the block and blade and secured it with a bolt, then mounted it to the sifter.


Now to try it out! So I loaded a wheelbarrow with soil from one of my boxes, turned it on and threw a couple of shovels full in and IT WORKS GREAT!!!

Not bad if I say so myself!

David Havard’s DIY Motorized Soil Sifter – Part 1

Here’s a quick update on David’s soil sifter.  He needed to do some updates on the sifter due to a loose screw.


We admire David’s ingenuity and creativity that went into making his automated soil sifter. As we like to say:



“Gardeners are the sons and daughters of the Mother of Invention.”
~LeAura Alderson

David Havard, is a native and 48 year old resident of Pascagoula, Mississippi and has worked in grocery retail, security guarding, long haul truck driving, refrigeration/HVAC and as a rust machine operator. Diagnosed with diabetes at age 26, David’s health has steadily declined to the point of disability, including being on dialysis from kidney failure and classified as legally blind. However, these extreme challenges haven’t stopped David. In fact, they’ve spurred him on to become increasingly more productive, creative and inventive. David is hoping a kidney transplant is in his future. Until then he will continue to keep busy and industrious and help out his neighbors.

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