How to Recycle Topsoil


When re-potting garden plants, you create a lot of old topsoil that is in good condition. Savvy gardeners recycle as much topsoil as they can with a soil screener. While you can purchase ready-made screens, making your own topsoil screener is not challenging. The topsoil screener can also be used to remove rocks, sticks, trash and other debris from a bed of soil.

Step 1

Cut one of your 3-foot sections of 1-by-1 lumber in half, leaving you with two 18-inch-long sections. These will be the short sides of your box.

Step 2

Screw one of the 18-inch boards to one of the 3-foot pieces of lumber at right angles to form an L, using an electric drill. Use two screws to secure the top and bottom corners of the lumber. Repeat this step with the other 18-inch board.

Step 3

Attach the other 3-foot section of lumber to create a box. Secure each of the corners together using two screws, working in the same manner as above. You should have a box that's 3 feet by 1 1/2 feet in dimension.

Step 4

Measure your screen, using a 1/2-inch thin wire mesh, sometimes called hardware cloth. Cut the screen so that you have 1 extra inch on each side. It should measure 20 inches across and 38 inches long.

Step 5

Position the screen on top of the wire mesh frame so that it's centered. Staple the screen to one side of your frame with a staple gun, applying one staple every inch. Fold up the overlap mesh so it rests against the side of the box, then staple this to the side panel. Repeat on all sides until the screen is securely attached to your frame.

Step 6

Lay your topsoil screen across a wheelbarrow with the screen side down. Fill the interior of the screen with topsoil. Push the soil back and forth across the wire mesh using a garden trowel, or pick the screen up and shake it to allow the soil to pass through. Continue to press the soil through lightly. Topsoil falls through the holes in your screen, while any debris (such as gravel or mulch) stays on top. When you've sifted all topsoil through the wheelbarrow, dump out the waste material in the screen.

Things You'll Need

  • 3 sections, 3-foot 1-by-1 lumber
  • Measuring tape
  • Hack saw
  • Electric drill
  • 8 screws
  • 1/2-inch wire mesh
  • Scissors
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Trowel


  • Soil Finders: Topsoil Production and Recycling
  • Vegetable Gardener: Make Your Own Topsoil Screener
  • City of Glendale California: Compost Screen
Keywords: topsoil, soil screener, soil recycle

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.