QUESTION: What is gardening sand? I keep reading about gardening sand, but I don’t know what it is. And what is the difference between gardening sand and builders’ sand, coarse sand, horticultural grit, horticultural sand, quartz sand, and sharp sand? — Jessie G.
ANSWER: Gardening sand, often called horticultural sand, is made from crushed granite, quartz, or sandstone into a sand with a very gritty texture normally made up of both large and small grains. It is often used in gardening to improve soil drainage or for a variety of other reasons, which we’ll delve into soon. We’ll also break down the differences between various types of sands and which can be substituted for gardening sand.
The color of the sand depends on the color of the stones it was made out of. You will see colors that range from white to yellow or gray. Horticultural sand is also free of salts and lime, so it will not transfer these substances to your soil.
The grains of horticultural sand measure between two and five millimeters across, and most of the grains are on the larger side. The coarseness of the grains help to improve your soil’s drainage. The particles of gardening sand do not stick together, so your soil is better able to deliver water and air to your plants.
The sand you see on the beach has been tossed against other particles by the water until it has very small grains as compared to gardening sand. This kind of sand rushes to fill the spaces between the soil’s grains of clay or silt. The horticultural sand has larger grains that are coarser, with sharper edges since it’s made out of broken stones. Adding gardening sand to your soil will ensure that your plants get plenty of nutrients, oxygen, and water.
The grain size isn’t the only thing you’ll need to consider when you choose sand for your garden. You’ll also need to be aware of the sand’s constituents, as some sands carry salt or impurities that can harm your plants. For example, fine sand harvested from the rivers may contain minerals or dissolved organic substances. Gardening sand is made out of pure silica and is free of lime.
Ways to Use Gardening Sand
One of the most common uses for horticultural sand is mixing it with clay soil or other soil that doesn’t drain as well as fertile loam. It will both improve the drainage of the soil and improve the aeration.
Gardening sand combined with compost or peat is often used as a soilless rooting medium for starting seeds or rooting cuttings. Because the texture of this soilless rooting medium is so loose, it works well to root cuttings or promote germination. Simply mixing compost or peat and sand makes a rooting and seed starting medium loose enough to drain exceptionally well. The air circulation of the seed starting medium also triggers sprouting or rooting.
Compost or peat mixed with gardening sand is also a perfect growing medium to use in container gardens. Most plants will do well with two parts compost or peat to one part horticultural sand, but cacti or succulents prefer a soil mixture that’s half and half.
You can also use gardening sand to loosen the soil in your garden if it has poor drainage. However, this is, of course, a larger task than amending the soil in containers. Gardening experts recommend you amend the top nine inches of soil until it is about half garden soil and half horticultural sand.
If your lawn has poor drainage, you can also use gardening sand to make it healthier. First, punch holes into the lawn with an aerator. Then use a rake to pull the gardening sand into the holes.
Gardening Sand Versus Other Sands
Gardening sand is also called coarse sand, horticultural sand, or quartz sand. There are some types of sand that are not quite the same but still are interchangeable with gardening sand: builders’ grit, builders’ sand, grit, and horticultural grit. You might need to use a substitute for horticultural sand if you can’t find it in your area or if the cost is prohibitive.
If you need to improve soil in a large area, it’s worth considering builders’ sand for the money it will save you. However, be aware that the substitute sands are likely to have salt and lime in them, while gardening sand does not contain salt and lime. If you use the builders’ grit, builders’ sand, grit, or sharp sand, we recommend washing them thoroughly to flush out the salts so they do not get into the soil.
Now you not only know what gardening sand is but what it is used for as well as its other names and acceptable substitutes. You’ve also learned that the substitutes should be well rinsed before they are used in the garden.