4 Reasons To Mix Soil With Sand (And How To Do It)


Plain potting soil can be a good match for plants in general, but a few plants may need some amendments to thrive to their full potential. Are you thinking of mixing your potting soil with sand? 

Some types of plants, like cacti and succulents, need well-draining soil to thrive. That is why many manufacturers make a mix specially formulated for these plants. While you can buy this type of soil, it is highly beneficial to make your own mix with sand if you know how to do it correctly.

Are you thinking of making your own mix of potting soil and sand? Then, please continue reading to discover all the benefits of doing this yourself, and of course, how to do it!

What Is Horticultural Sand?

Sand is among the three soil types (sand, silt, and clay) with the coarsest particles. Of all types of soil, sand presents the highest drainage capability.  Using sand as a primary soil is never beneficial, but your crops will excel if sand is mixed with good soil. If you add soil to regular potting soil, it will ultimately increase its drainage ability. 

Horticultural sand for plants is very gritty sand made from different materials such as crushed granite, quartz, or sandstone. Therefore, horticultural sand is often called quartz sand, sharp sand, or coarse sand. Usually, when this type of sand is being used for plants, it consists of smaller and large particles. 

Horticultural sand for plants is much different from the sand in a child’s sandbox or beach sand. Sandbox sand has smaller particles, which are smooth and less gritty and generally do more harm than good because it hardens quicker and prevents the water from penetrating through to plant roots. 

The closest type of sand you could use when not finding horticultural sand would be builders’ sand. Builders sand could save you lots of money if you are deciding to improve a large area. Although the substances may not be identical, they could still be used to improve the drainage of your soil.

Reasons For Mixing Soil With Sand

Horticultural sand for plants serves one basic purpose: it will effectively improve your soil drainage. Adequate soil drainage is critical for healthy plant growth, and if your soil is poorly drained, it will become saturated over a short period. As a result, the roots of your plants will become deprived of oxygen and soon die. 

Let’s take a look at the following information and learn when and why horticultural sand is so beneficial:

  • Planting seeds and taking cuttings: Horticultural sand should always be mixed with compost, peat, or your common gardening soil to create a soilless rooting medium that drains well. The loose structure of sand and soil is beneficial for germination and for rooting new cuttings.

All you have to do to help your cuttings grow strongly is to add small amounts of slow-releasing fertilizers into your sandy soil and water thoroughly.

  • Potting mix for growing in containers: Your common gardening soil isn’t suitable on its own for container growing, as it quickly becomes compacted and brick-like. When the water can’t drain out of the soil fully, the roots of plants will suffocate, and the plant will die.

A mixture of soil and sand is an ideal environment for most plants. Many plants will strive to their fullest with a combination of one part sand and two parts soil. The only exception is when it comes to cacti or succulents, as they generally prefer a grittier 1:1 mix. A thin layer of sand on top of your potting soil mix is also beneficial for many plants.

  • Loosening heavy or compacted soil: improving heavy soil, such as clay soil, is a difficult process, but by adding sand, you can make the soil more porous, which improves the drainage. Adding sand to the already heavy or compacted soil will also give the roots a chance to penetrate the soil further.

If your soil is made of heavy clay, spread several inches of your horticultural hand over the top, then mix it into the top nine to ten inches (23-25cm) of soil. It should be noted that this is a time-consuming and difficult task, and to make a significant improvement, you would need to mix enough sand to equal to about half of the total soil volume. 

  • Improving overall lawn health: Sand can not only be used to benefit the growth of your favorite crops, but it could also help you to get a greener and more healthy lawn! If you live where the climate is especially wet and rainy, your lawn soil may become hard and soggy, which ultimately makes it poorly drained. 

One way to solve this problem would be to take horticultural sand and sprinkle it all over the grass. This will improve drainage and make for a healthier, greener lawn. 

Advantages And Disadvantages When Mixing Soil With Sand

Let’s take a look at what sandy soil offers to gardeners, both the good and the bad:

The good parts:

Sandy soil is much easier to work with than clay soil. Sandy soil is lighter in weight, and it doesn’t compact as easily as other unmixed soils. Not only does a sandy mix soil have a lot of great qualities, including that it is much more difficult to compact, but ultimately, a sandier soil is much more resistant to wet environments. 

Sandier soils are easy to dig into or amend with compost. Thanks to its good draining properties, most flowering plants benefit from it. It is also because of its good draining characteristics that you will rarely have to be concerned about overwatering and root rot problems. 

When it comes to transplanting plants, sandy soil seems to make them develop new roots and establish a little bit faster since it is easier for plants’ roots to get a foothold in the looser type of soil.

A sandy soil mix also tends to warm up faster in the spring and warmer months when compared to clay soils, so if you are an impatient gardener, having a steady sandy soi mic will give you a little bit of a head start in spring.

Just a few bad things:

Since sandy soil mixes are made up of approximately 1 part sand and 1 part topsoil, you will notice after working with it for a while that it doesn’t hold water or nutrients very well or for very long periods. 

The reason behind this statement is that horticultural sand being made up of certain compounds of silica, usually quartz crystals. It is never advised to be gardening in pure sand, but there could also be some hope to hold on to if you are. 

When it comes to sandy soils, you will have to plan to do your watering more efficiently. To water more efficiently, you have to water deep into the ground and use slow-release fertilizers instead of quick-release liquid fertilizers. 

How To Improve Your Soil By Adding Sand (Step-By-Step)

Without the correct blend of soil and sand beneath them, your plants will have a much harder time growing to their full potential. They could even die from a lack of some key materials in the soil in the worst case. 

So by adding the correct amount of sand to your soil in the correct steps, you will not only save time and money, but you will also be saving your plants by giving them a good foundation to start with. By following these easy steps, your plants will be flourishing in their soil in no time!

  1. If you have not had your yard flagged for underground activities, let this be your first and most crucial step. Creating and mixing garden soil with sand requires you to dig in your yard, lawn, or garden with a tiller and a shovel, and both of these tools can damage underground pipelines.

This important step will let you know if you need to consider changing your preparation spot.

  1. Now that you have decided on the perfect spot to prepare your soil mix, test the existing soil with a suitable soil kit. You can purchase a soil kit from your local garden center. 

Soil kits not only provide some background of the makeup of your yard’s soil but also tells you the amount of organic material the soil currently has, as well as the pH. Knowing these things will help you decide what you need to make your soil the best environment for your plants to grow.

  1. Based on your soil test results, you can now decide on the amount of sand you will need to use as additives for your soil. 
  1. Always check the percentage level of your soil’s moisture before getting started with your sand and soil mixing. To do this, grab a handful of soil and ball your hand into a fist. If the soil crumbles through your fingers, it is ready to be worked with. 

If it forms a wet, clumpy ball, the soil is too soaked to work with, and you will need to leave it for a few days to dry out. 

Never try to work with wet soil, as you will end up with a clogged, compacted mess that is no good for planting crops.

  1. Once you have established that your soil is ready to be worked with, ensure that you clean out any weeds or debris from the garden bed.
  1. Next up, it’s time to till. Spread your sand over the area you want to plant in. Make sure it forms a 10-12 inch (25-30 cm) layer all over your garden soil. 
  1. Start from one corner of your garden and work with your tiller to the other side, tilling all the sand, combining it slowly but surely with your garden soil. You can now add any chosen organic materials and till them in simultaneously.
  1. Lastly, rake the garden bed to level it out, and water the soil thoroughly.
  1. You can now decide to plant your crops to be able to harvest on time!

What Plants Will Benefit From A Soil And Sand Mix?

  • Any member of the beet family excels in the sand. Beetroot and its relatives, such as sugar beet and chard, descend from the sea beet, Beta vulgaris Maritima.

This is a kind of plant whose genetics can vary, and it usually grows on the beaches of North Africa, South Asia, and Europe! It can withstand any weather circumstances and will grow excellently in the sand and even mud!

  • Carrots. Carrots love sand, and they can cope with moderate amounts of soil fertility levels. Although, they do need a small amount of fertilizer. The different kinds of carrots we know originated in the desert lands of Afghanistan, so they evolved to grow in sand. 

For your carrots to grow to their fullest potential, fill a suitable-sized pot with a layer of compost while the bottom and top is covered fully with moist sand. 

Next, pour water and nutrients over your mix, and be careful not to flood the pot. Lastly, sow your carrot seeds on top of the sand. The carrots will send out their long root seeking out water, therefore giving you big, long carrots! 

The sand and soil mix is perfect, as there are no stones in the sand that could obstruct the roots.

  • Radishes. Similar to carrots and beetroot crops, radishes will grow quickly in a stable sand and soil mix, but like all vegetables, they will need some fertilizer to grow to their full potential.
  • Lettuce. Because lettuce is a plant that originated in dry Mediterranean soils, it will cope well on plain sand and even better in a sandy soil mix, needing little to almost no fertilizer.
  • Several family members of Brassicas. This includes crops such as greens and mustard, and they will effectively grow in sandy soils, but they will need fertilizer. They will not grow in plain sand, as their roots will have a difficult time sprouting. Therefore, your common sand and soil mix would be beneficial for developing strong and lasting roots.
  • Potatoes. Potatoes were first grown on the sandy cliffs by the cliff farmers of Branscombe. Because potatoes are so resilient, these hardy vegetables could take root in the sandy soil and grow despite the rough conditions. The cliff farmers fertilized their potatoes with seaweed and only seaweed and still got excellent and tasty potatoes!

Until today the potatoes can cope under difficult weather circumstances where most nutrients are washed away, leaving a sandy soil with very little nutrients.

  • Tomatoes. With tomatoes relating to potatoes, they are often grown in hydroponic conditions, so with the proper feeding, they will also be able to grow in pure sand, but using a sandy soil mix would ultimately give you the best results.
  • Zucchini. Zucchini and beans grew on san drafts un the Aztec culture, but they will definitely need extra nourishment if you want to grow them in your backyard or garden sand and soil mixtures.

Conclusion

It is easy to think about soil as just another medium in which your plants sit. We sometimes tend to think this is all soil is. However, the soil is a medium that consists out of all the essential ingredients that a plant needs to grow, such as water, air, and minerals. 

A soil’s primary job is to merely hold all the ingredients in place for our plants to grow. Therefore, when improving your soil with sand, you always need to ensure that all these important ingredients are readily available in your soil. In addition, sand will make the soil in your garden well-draining, loose, and fluffy.

As stated above, many crops are easy to grow in either just sand or a sandy soil mixture. It is important to remember that all of us cannot have the perfect soil right away, and remember, with the right tactics and planning, any soil could be improved and made to work better!

Resources

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/what-is-horticultural-sand.htm
https://www.thespruce.com/the-dirt-on-soil-1403122
https://extension.psu.edu/homemade-potting-media
https://www.provenwinners.com/learn/dirt-dirt-sand
https://blog.davey.com/2019/05/how-to-make-good-garden-soil-a-step-by-step-guide/
https://homeguides.sfgate.com/ratio-sand-raised-bed-soil-101003.html
https://www.thegardenshop.ie/how-to-improve-your-soil/
https://migardener.com/5-simple-ingredients-to-fix-poor-draining-soil/
https://www.provenwinners.com/learn/dirt-dirt-sand
https://blog.gardeningknowhow.com/gardening-pros-cons/overcoming-sandy-soil-disadvantages/

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