I’m pretty sure every gardener has tried to find an alternative to using soil in their gardens as a way to help their plants or just find a cheaper way to grow more plants. Whatever your reason is, one of the options is always beach sand. I’ve wondered numerous times if beach sand is good for gardening or if it’s something that’ll completely ruin my garden?
The insanely high salt content among other things make beach sand unsuitable for gardening but find out ways you can make it usable and even plants that love sand by reading below!
What Is Beach Sand?
First of all, sand is a word that is used quite widely for numerous things but generally, it’s just bigger rocks that have been broken down over millions of years. Beach sand is just a term used to describe sand on the beach (I know it’s crazy right?).
Think about all the rocks alongside rivers that flow into oceans, these rocks were broken into tiny pieces due to erosion from water and all the tiny pieces ended up in one place which we call a beach! Obviously, each river has different types of sands because they all come from different parts of the world which is why some beaches have variations in the color of the sand. (source)
Now, due to this erosion, sand is generally quite smooth and round which I’ll talk more about later and how it plays into gardening. A lot of gardeners consider it for gardening but there’s just a few things that make it a bad idea but these are things the normal gardener might not even consider. However, there are some plants for which it’s really good which I’ll also talk about!
Is Beach Sand Good For Gardening?
Generally, no but there are a few cases where it can be good but first I wanna talk about why it isn’t good. Most of the reasons are things that you cannot see with the naked eye and are more based on the microscopic level but they do have quite a large impact on the health of your plants! Unless you have a specific type of plant, I would not recommend using beach sand.
The first reason to consider that isn’t related to gardening is the fact that it might be illegal to take sand from your local beach as it might anger some of the local city members. Usually taking away sand can ruin how something looks and the city members don’t want this to happen! So, make sure to ask your city or town if it’s okay to take sand from the beach! (source)
Here are a few extra reasons as to why it’s bad:
- High Salt Content
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the term saltwater, and where do you find saltwater? The beach! All the sand that you’re gonna get from the beach is gonna have incredibly high salt content because of the salt water. And plants don’t like high salt amounts because of all the negative effects it brings along.
Salt is known to kill off plants as plants cannot handle the higher salt content and this can lead to other problems as more soil erosion due to the absence of plants. Another place where salt can cause issues is in terms of water as salt can absorb a lot of water which takes away water for the plants. This one is super obvious as plants need water to grow and if the salt is absorbing all of it, your plants will die off.
Plants also absorb anything in the soil which means they’ll absorb the salt from the sand. Now, plants have an in-built mechanism to produce more sugars to combat extra soil, however, this leads to more energy being spent to produce sugars compared to using that energy for actually growing. So, your plant might not grow any leaves, flowers, fruits, or vegetables which can be quite tough on the gardener if their goal was to get some produce from the plants.
- Too Smooth
Imagine you took a rock and broke it down by grinding each side down, you would end up with a smooth ball right? Well, that’s what the water does when it slowly erodes rocks over millions of years. Beach sand is just really tiny smooth rocks that are a result of millions of years of eroding. And you might be asking how does it affect plants?
Soil is generally pretty rough and coarse and doesn’t pack together especially when things like aeration that are done to keep the soil from being too closely packed together. However, because sand is so smooth and tiny, it’ll pack together tightly which can cause some pretty obvious problems.
First of all, the water won’t absorb down to where the roots are which means the water won’t be able to absorb any water. This also means that the roots won’t be able to breathe air as they could with regular soil. All these problems are because sand packs together quite tightly due to its smooth texture.
- Contains Pests
There are many organisms that make their home on the beach in the sand. If you just collect the sand from the beach and use it without any precautions, there might be a lot of pests and other living creatures in it that can cause some serious damage to your plants!
There is no way to see these pests with the naked eye but they certainly do exist and getting rid of them is quite hard. All they do is harm your plants or they can even come out as worms in the produce from your plants which could indirectly affect you, or anybody else that eats it!
How To Clean Beach Sand For Gardening?
You might’ve read some of the issues with beach sand and thought to yourself “well, I can fix those quite easily”, and you’re absolutely right! There are ways to fix most of these and others can be fixed depending on where you get your sand from but again the most important thing is that sand packs together really well which blocks plants from having access to water and air.
That one is hard to fix if you’re using sand by itself, however, there are certain plants that will grow in it which I talk about below so keep on reading! Here are some ways you can ‘prep’ beach sand in order to make it more suitable for gardening!
- Wash the salt and pests out
This is really the only thing you can do to prep your beach sand as most of the other issue about sand being too tiny and smooth is not something you can fix or if you can, I haven’t heard about it. First, find yourself a saltmeter which will help you measure how much salt content there is in your sand.
After you measure the initial salt content, get a bucket with a hole in it and fill it up with sand. After this just run the sand through a lot of water until the salt rating drops down to something that is more suitable for the type of plants you are planning on growing.
Eventually, you will have sand that is salt free or almost salt free which you can use with only certain plants. Again, I need to stress the fact that even though you have removed most of the salt from the sand, it’ll only work with certain types of plants so please be careful as to not ruin any of your plants.
Which Plants Grow In Beach Sand?
To be honest, there aren’t that many plants that can survive the terrible conditions of sand as it’s basically like suffocating a plant but there are always plants that survive anything! If you don’t plan on growing any of these, then please don’t use sand.
Here are some plants that grow in beach sand:
- Seaside GoldenRod
- Silver WormWood
There are many more plants but these are a few that are quite common among people. These plants are able to tolerate a lot of salt and like to grow in conditions that aren’t too high in moisture. Both of those things are exactly what beach sand contains which is why these plants are great for sand.
Another thing you could try doing is to mix sand with clay, or some other soil so that it works for other plants too. Sand on itself isn’t quite great but sand mixed with other materials can be quite healthy for your plants as it provides a sort of foundation to keep everything together.
Why Use Beach Sand Instead Of Soil?
Frankly, the only good benefit I could think of for using sand over soil is that it’s cheaper. There is pretty much no benefit to most plants that people use for anyone to think sand would be a better choice.
However, there are some plants that can utilize the benefits of sand which are the ones listed above. You could also use sand for decoration purposes but using it to grow plants just isn’t something that I would do for my plants.
Certainly beach sand isn’t good for gardening, however, if you think otherwise, I’d love to hear your opinion. I’m always open to new ideas as gardening is a thing where you must keep on learning to keep your plants healthy.
Other than that, I hope this article provided some value to you! Please let us know if you have any questions.