A healthy crop of bright, leafy greens sprouting in a backyard vegetable garden is inspiring. Not only does it make for an aesthetic backdrop, it is a nutritious outdoor activity that can involve the entire family. Little hands love to get dirty and watch as their hard work turns to ripe, red tomatoes, ruby red radishes and long, thin carrots. Maintaining a healthy vegetable garden isn't difficult if you start with a solid foundation of good soil, and for plants that like good drainage, that includes sand to be mixed with organic matter to create loose soil.
Coarse Sand for Gardens
Not all sands are created equal. As a soil component and aid in getting vegetables to sprout strong and steady from seed, sand may be a much-needed addition to the bags of plain soil you may think are the only thing you start to begin a garden.
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Coarse sand, also known as yellow sand or builder's sand, allows water to gather in pockets to feed roots as they search for nutrients in the soil. The coarse sand also creates pockets of oxygen to breathe life in tired roots that have just been transplanted or roots that are freshly sprouted from well-cared for seeds. The larger rock material in yellow or coarse sand also helps water to drain away from roots so that they aren't immersed in water overnight or for long periods of time.
Mixing Sand With Potting Soil
Once a deep layer of nutritious soil is put down, work coarse sand into the top 1 to 2 inches of the soil. Organic material should have been put in deeper at 3 to 4 inches to give the plants more minerals and nutrients to blossom and offer plump vegetables on thick, healthy vines.
If you have a clay soil base, you will need to add quite a bit of organic matter and sand to the soil to give plants a good growing substrate throughout the growing season. If your soil is heavy clay, you'll need to mix a 1:1 ratio of coarse sand to the clay soil to make a healthy change the soil structure. Otherwise, if you mix only a little sand to the clay soil, you'll essentially be making concrete, which certainly is counterproductive to growing plants. Mixing sand with potting soil should be done in large batches in a container for small gardens and tilled with a rake for larger gardens.
What Not to Use
Although sand may seem similar in size and weight, there are sands that shouldn't be used in the garden due to their makeup. Beach sand has silicon dioxide or quartz. It is rocky and doesn't provide the space that plants need to find oxygen and water in the amended soil as easily as plain coarse sand from the garden center. Clay sand has been dried and screened for children and landscaping areas, but it also doesn't provide the pockets of sustainable nutrients and air that plants need to thrive in a home garden.
Best Vegetables for Sand-Infused Gardens
Beets, radishes or any root vegetable loves a well-drained spot filled with sandy soil. Growing carrots in sand infused with nutrient-rich soil makes for an ideal crop for little hands to maintain and pull when the carrots are ready. Herbs and tender-leafed lettuces also prefer a sand garden.