Have you heard about adding sand to your garden? And now thinking whether to get sand for your garden?
Experts often recommend adding sand to improve the soil of the garden. Adding sand can drain the water quickly and improve air circulation. Plus, there are some plants that require the sandy soil to thrive best.
Naturally, you’ll want to get the best sand for gardening. But how to find the best one when there are so many different types of sand out there?
So, keep reading to find out for yourself!
What is Sand?
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material that is composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. Despite having various compositions, it is defined by its grain size. Sand grains are coarser than slit and smaller than gravel. Sand varies in texture and color as well depending on the location. It is composed of silica, quartz, calcium carbonate, and other minerals. A grain of sand is non-porous, doesn’t hold water, and has large enough space between the particles to allow air to pass through freely.
Different Types of Sand
Beach sand literally means the sand from the beach. All the rocks alongside rivers end up in the ocean and get broken into tiny pieces due to the erosion of water. As the result of erosion, beach sand tends to be quite round and smooth which is not good for gardening.
Builders’ sand is also known as C-33 sand and is used to create concrete. This sand contains big grains of silica and has high lime content. But the price is generously low compared to other types of sand. That’s why some use the builders’ sand for gardening.
Play sand is the soft, processed sand that is used on children’s sandboxes and playground areas. It has a finer quality than beach or builders’ sand and has rounded particles. This makes the soil compact and your garden soil may end up in a concrete mix. Hence, paly sand is mostly avoided in gardening use.
River sand is made up of rocks and minerals commonly found in the surrounding areas of the rivers. Similar to beach sand, river sand contains smooth, rounded granules. In some cases, natural river sand contained minerals damaging for the soil and plants. So, it’s better to not pick up river sand straight from the source to use in your garden.
Horticultural sand is made from materials such as crushed granite, quartz, or crushed sandstone. It’s also known as coarse sand, sharp sand, or quartz sand. Horticultural sand is mostly lime-free and doesn’t have any salinity issues. Besides, due to the sand particles having an irregular shape, horticultural sand doesn’t clump together like regular sand. The only drawback here is that this sand is expensive compared to the other types.
What is the Best Sand for Gardening
Most types of sand can be used for gardening in some way or another. But the best sand for gardening is undoubtedly the horticultural sand. It’s useful for improving drainage and maintaining good aeration around the roots of the plants in the garden.
Horticultural sand has a very gritty texture which is made up of both small and large grains. The grains measure between 2-5 mm across and the color range from white to yellow to gray. The coarse nature of the grains helps the soil’s drainage. As the sand is free of salts and lime, there’s less chance of transferring these substances to the soil. Plus, the sand particles don’t stick together so the soil can deliver air and water to the plants better.
The beach sand and river sand have too smooth and rounded particles. Whereas builders’ sand and play sand have finer quality less gritty sand which makes the soil clamp together and harden quickly. Overall, horticultural sand doesn’t have any of these limitations and provides better options for healthy plants and gardens.
5 Best Sand for Gardening
Mosser Lee ML1110 Desert Sand Soil Cover
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Looking for an easy-to-use and convenient soil cover? Look no further than Mosser Lee’s Desert Sand Soil Cover!
Made from 100% natural desert sand, which is perfect for improving the look of house plants by covering the soil. Not only this soil cover is made from high-quality sand, but it is also suitable for decorative use in clear vases, dish gardens, and terrariums.
This decorative soil cover helps improve water drainage and thanks to its sand texture, loosening heavy or compacted soil is easier. Plus, the convenient size is easy to carry and work with and helps protect and retain moisture.
The Mosser Lee ML1110 Desert Sand Soil Cover is sure to add a touch of elegance to your plants for a lush garden or succulent terrarium.
- Perfect addition to any indoor or outdoor space
- Easy to use and lasts for long periods
- Vase medium for artificial or live flowers
- Accent color and shapes in custom designs
- Loosen heavy clay soils and improve plant drainage
- Especially Attractive with Succulents and In Rock Gardens
- Some users faced issues with packaging
- This product comes with a cancer warning
Here are the detailed specifications for those:
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TOYPOPOR Coarse Silica Sand
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Say goodbye to the harsh visual effect of coarse silica sand and hello to a miniature garden that looks delicate and beautiful!
TOYPOPOR Coarse Silica Sand is perfect for adding texture, dimension, and visual interest to any cactus arrangement. It makes a great alternative to soil and is perfect for cactus enthusiasts and miniature gardeners alike.
It brings life to dead soil, enhances the appearance of plants, and gives your cactus a natural look. With its natural color and texture, TOYPOPOR coarse silica sand is a versatile earth-tone decoration that will complement any garden style. And because it’s non-toxic, you can use it in any of your garden-related needs without fear of harm.
- Non-toxic natural sand
- Mix with soil to improve drainage and help plants breath
- Sand color won’t fade away through time
- Used as a top dressing to keep the soil shifting around
- Used to beautify aquarium and for fish itching
- Not value for money
- Color changes through the use
- Some users complained about the product not matching the description
OUPENG Coarse Sand Stone
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If you’re looking to add some extra grit to your garden, then the Coarse Sand Stone from OUPENG might be just what you’re looking for!
Featuring natural colors that vary depending on how wet the sand is, these stones come in a variety of shapes and sizes that will add personality and character to any space. Each bag contains multiple rocks of different sizes, so you’ll be able to find the perfect piece for your needs.
These gravels also provide good drainage and can be added to potted plants to help stabilize the newly planted plants and help lock the water and other nutrients in the soil, thereby helping plants grow better. Not only are they easy to install, but they’re also environmentally friendly and durable, making them a smart investment.
- Eco-friendly and non-toxic
- Improve drainage and overall soil health
- Comes in gold, tans, and brown color
- Used in Aquariums to absorb impurities and keep the water clean
- Natural stones free of additional fillers, dyes, or oils
- Sand gets displaced if watered directly
- Poor packaging quality
Hoffman 14302 Western Desert Sand
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Create the perfect garden oasis with Hoffman’s 14302 Western Desert Sand!
This decorative soil cover is perfect for adding the final touch to container-grown plants. The finely textured, clean sand is excellent for formulating your own cactus soil. Made from washed and silica-free sand, this product features pores that help to absorb and hold water, so your plants stay hydrated all year round.
Used to form a decorative soil cover on succulents, cactus, and other desert plants, this soft and fluffy sand has a smooth finish that helps to avoid dirt build-up. With its easy-to-use wrapper, you’ll be able to apply this product in no time at all.
This quartz sand adds a touch of glamour and texture to any indoor or outdoor space and lets you enjoy years of beautiful plant growth.
- Great decorative soil topper with multiple uses
- Retain soil moisture
- Reduce compaction caused by frequent watering
- Can be used as gnat repellent
- Used to increase sandiness of the loam for plants
- More of decorative sand than desert sand
- Packaging issue
Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix
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If you’re tired of the hassle of mixing sand with soil and want the readymade solution, nothing is better than the Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix.
This fast-draining formula is enriched with Miracle-Gro Plant Food which helps to improve the growth of your plants while providing beautiful, colorful results. It contains forest products, sphagnum peat moss, sand, and perlite to help prevent soil compaction and improve drainage.
Use it in containers to enjoy beautiful plants that thrive in humid conditions.
- Good value for money
- Prevent soil compaction and improve drainage
- Great succulent mix
- Perfect for container gardening
- Some users had trouble with bug-infested products
- Peat in the mix responsible for mold
How to Pick the Best Sand for Gardening
If you have sand available on hand, you may think why not use this for gardening. But instead of the desired effect, you may end up with a negative effect. Not all sand makes the soil aerated and improves drainage. For this, you need to pick up the right type of sand.
Grain size is an important indicator to consider while choosing sand for your garden. Larger grains that are coarse with sharper edges help the dense soil become perfect for planting.
The sand substance is another thing to consider as some sands carry salt, lime, or impurities that can harm or damage plants. That’s why horticultural sand is better than natural sand harvested from the river or the beach.
You shouldn’t use regular sand that has been lying around for there can be a risk of contamination. It can be contaminated with pests, heavy metals, microorganisms, or even any disease that can kill your plants. The best action is to get processed sand from stores as it’s already sterilized and packaged in airtight bags. Or you can learn how to sterilize the sand for your plants.
Benefits of Adding Horticultural Sand to Garden
As horticultural sand has a coarse composition, it can make your soil more hospitable to outdoor or indoor plants. Here are some benefits to using horticultural sand in the garden or potting mix:
- Balanced pH levels: You can raise the soil pH by applying sand with lime or you can lower the pH of soil by applying sand containing acidic ingredients.
- Create optimal aeration: Horticultural sand has coarse large grains which prevent the soil particles from being too closely packed thus creating better aeration for the plant roots.
- Effective composting: As horticultural sand dries out quickly and encourages aeration of the soil, it can be used effectively for the composting mix for the garden.
- Improved drainage: You can mix the horticultural sand with the landscaping soil or clay soil so the rain or other water can move through the mixture more freely, and less chance of root rot.
- Improved nutrient profile: You can improve the nutrient profile of the sandy soil from your garden by incorporating the nutrients from clay.
Drawbacks of Adding Horticultural Sand to Garden
Overall, there are not many drawbacks to adding horticultural sand to the garden. We can only think of the expense.
As mentioned earlier, horticultural sand is way more expensive compared to other sands. If you’re planning on your outdoor landscaping, you are right to be worried. Because you may need sand worth several hundreds of kg. However, for indoor use or a garden with a small plot, getting a good quality small bag of sand will be enough.
Why and When to Use Sand for Gardening
Essentially, you should add sand to garden soil to improve the drainage, make the mixture lighter, or stop the soil from clumping and being too compact.
The perfect time to add sand to the soil of your garden is before you’ve planted anything. The sand needs to be worked into the soil and the organic matter. Once the soil mixture settles then think about planting your plants.
Planting seeds and taking cuttings
Mixing horticultural sand with compost or peat is often used to create a soilless rooting medium that drains well. The loose structure of the mixture has excellent drainage and the air circulation triggers and accelerates rooting.
Potting Mix for container
For potted plants, garden soil easily compacts when used alone so adding some sand helps container growing. You don’t even need to buy a potting mix, instead, mix some soil with compost and sand and fill the pots. Most plants work well with two parts compost to one past sand but use a 50-50 mix for cacti or other succulents.
Loosening Heavy Soil
Sand can be used to loosen the heavy soil to improve poor drainage. If the soil in your garden is heavy clay soil, then you’ll require a considerable amount of sand. Experts recommend spreading several inches of horticultural sand over the top and then digging into the top nine inches of the soil to mix them until it’s about half garden soil and half horticultural sand.
Improving Lawn Health
Not just for your garden, you can also use sand to make your lawn healthier. In poorly drained soils, lawn grass can become hard and waterlogged in rainy climates. To solve this, punch some holes into the lawn with an aerator and fill them with horticultural sand.
Prevent Tip Over
This is only applicable to indoor plants. Sand can help prevent a top-heavy plant from tipping over. Use some coarse sand to add weight to your plant and it’s done!
What Kind of Sand Do You Mix with Soil
Usually, horticultural sand is the kind of sand most used to mix with soil. It’s used to break up the particles and improve drainage in clay soil. Horticultural sand contains various sized particles:
- Coarse particles: 19 x 10 -3 inches to 4 x 10 -2 inches
- Medium-sized particles: 9 x 10 -3 inches to 2 x 10 -3 inches
- Very coarse particles: 4 x 10 -2 inches to 2 x 10 -1 inches
If horticultural sand isn’t available in your area, you can use the coarse builders’ sand as a viable alternative.
What Plants Can Grow in Sandy Soil
Sandy soil tends to be acidic and thus suits acid-loving plants perfectly. Some of these plants are camellia, rhododendron, azalea, hydrangea, lily of the Nile, grapevines, etc.
There are also some plants that thrive in the soil where water drains away fast. Some of them are impatiens, sunpatiens, Madagascar periwinkle, etc.
For vegetables, carrots grow exceptionally well on sandy soil. Besides strawberries, asparagus, beans, and radish can also tolerate high sand ratios well.
Growing herbs can be challenging in sandy soil. However, a few herbs like lavender and salvia can still survive in mostly sandy soil.
Where to buy sand for gardening?
You can get sand for gardening at most online stores like Amazon. And if you need a large amount, then it’s better to check with a local nursery or garden center. For coarse sand, you can get it from most home depots and stores selling building materials.
How to sterilize sand for plants?
To sterilize the sand, first, wash it then place the sand on a baking tray in a thin layer. Cover the sheets with aluminum foil and bake it for 30 minutes at 200°F. Take it out, let it cool, and then use.
How to wash sand for plants?
Pout the sand in a bucket and fill it up with water. Move and shift the sand thoroughly to loosen up any dirt. Carefully drain the water and repeat until the sand seems clean. You can also use boiling water and a wooden spoon to use the same trick.
Can I use river sand for gardening?
Yes, river sand can be used for gardening. However, you shouldn’t use river sand collected from a natural source and directly use in your garden. Naturally occurring river sand may have unknown mineral content, which can be damaging to your garden soil and plant alike. That’s why you should either rinse it or get the processed sand from the store. Because it’ll remove non-sand particles and other contaminations thus making your garden safe.
Can you use builders’ sand for gardening?
Builders’ sand is the cheapest option out of all sand types. Naturally, this makes it favourable to many gardeners. However, builders’ sand contains silica and has high lime content. Because of the presence of chemicals, it can reduce the potting mix pH and damage your plants.
For this reason, it’s better to skip builders’ sand. But if you choose a coarse option, it can be a good alternative to horticulture sand.
Is beach sand good for gardening?
Generally, beach sand isn’t good for gardening. You may be tempted to grab a bit of sand from the beach for your garden, but that is definitely a bad idea! Beach sand has high salt content and may contain pests that can damage your plants. Plus, the too smooth sand grains won’t let the roots absorb water and breathe air well.
Unless you have a specific type of plant suited for beach sand particularly, using beach sand for your garden wouldn’t be a smart choice.