Can You Use Coarse Sand For Gardening?

Can you use coarse sand for gardening? Yes! In fact, with a bit of work, coarse sand can be some of the most instantly productive soil for growing plants such as squash, potato, and tomatoes! Follow for a few tips I have learned over the years.

Once upon a time, I injured myself and ended up in hospital for quite a while. The doctor suggested for rehabilitation I needed to do weights to help strengthen my hands!! I asked if shoveling coarse river sand was ok. He said yes. So every evening for 3 months I loaded a ton of river sand from an old reservoir and used this to formulate a few raised beds for growing potatoes and other root vegetables.

Types Of Soils And Their Characteristics

Soil is made up of different materials including sand, silt, clay, organic matter, and water.


This is a relatively coarse particle-size soil that does not clump together. It drains very well and tends to be quite nutrient-poor as a result.  Sandy soils can be fed heavily with organic matter, and manure and mulching can help to retain moisture in the surface layer.


Silt is a soil type where the particle size is generally a bit finer than sand, but it is still relatively well drained. Silt tends to feel a bit like maize flour when it is dry. Silt soil can be incredibly fertile, especially when mixed with a bit of organic matter.


Clay is made up of very small particle sizes. These tend to clump together and form a hard layer when they dry. When wet, clay takes on a plastic nature.

These solids can be quite difficult to garden in unless you improve the soil structure – typically I use gypsum, organic matter, and pearlite to effect this change. After clay soil is improved, it produces excellent-tasting vegetables due to its high nutrient density.

Organic matter compost

Organic matter compost, manure, wood chips, and shredded plant material are great ways to get organic matter into your soil.


Water is an important part of the soil. In sandy soil, water drains quickly through the soil and the soil particles have little ability to hold soil. In silt, this is less so and in clay, the water can sometimes not be able to drain at all – clay soil also has quite a strong charge that holds the water. This means that up to half of the water in clay soil can be unavailable to plants.

Loamy soil 

Loamy soil is a well-developed soil that has a mix of particle sizes from sandy to silty to clay. There is ample organic matter in loam, and this supports a large population of beneficial bacteria and fungi that maintain soil fertility. Loam has a healthy water balance, and even if heavily watered, is reasonably well drained and will keep the conditions safe for most plants.

Which sand is best for gardening

Can You Use Coarse Sand For Gardening?

Now that we have discussed the soil texture and characteristics, can you use coarse sand for gardening?

If you look at the picture above, you can see that the sand will not be able to hold any water. It will also most likely have a very low nutrient density. To use this soil for gardening, we need to incorporate at least 30% by volume of organic material and manure.

This will create very fertile soil that is excellent for growing potatoes and tomatoes. It is important to mulch these soils and feed them constantly with manure mulch to maintain a constant flow of nutrients into the soil.

Coarse Silica Sand

Final Remarks – Can You Use Coarse Sand For Gardening?

Coarse sand for gardening is ideal for use on plants that require this type of soil.  For most soils, it’s best to add coarse sand to either clay or loamy soil to make it lighter and well-drained.

It is best added at the soil preparation stage so that the soil is made ready for planting.  Adding organic matter is very important when using coarse soils – in these soils, the soil contributes very few nutrients until the soil gets established. As the soil becomes more microbially diverse, bacterial weathering of the soil particles will begin to release some nutrients such as phosphates.

I generally work on the assumption however that these coarse soils really just provide support for the plants and that the majority of the nutrients in the soil are provided by the compost and manure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which sand is best for gardening?

Generally the courser the sand, the better drained it will be. This can be a problem, as all the nutrients wash away. I believe that any sand can be a good soil, if you add enough organic matter and manure. Sandy soils must be fed organic matter constantly to maintain fertility and should be mulched.

Is coarse sand good for plants?

Yes - if you prepare it correctly with organic matter - compost and manure.

What is coarse sand used for?

I like using a coarse sand with copious organic matter to grow potatoes, tomatoes and carrots. It is also a good soil for avocados.

What is the difference between fine sand and coarse sand?

Particle size - course sand has bigger particles.

Find more information about Top 6 Choices Of The Best Sand For Gardening – Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Perfect Sand