Jane McGary
Tue, 26 Nov 2002 13:47:00 PST
There are two approaches to getting well-draining sand, as Jennifer seeks
but has not found.

First, if you have to buy sand in sacks at Home Depot, as Jennifer
mentioned, notice that there are two kinds "builder's sand" and "mason's
sand." The latter is very fine and probably of no use for plants; it is
used to mix mortar, grout, etc. The former is intended for mixing concrete
and has larger particles. To improve its consistency in regard to drainage,
wash it in a sieve to remove the fines.

Second, obtain sand from a bulk supplier. Most cities have landscape supply
businesses that sell rock, sand, mulch, etc., and you may find a better
product, much cheaper, there. If you don't have room for a dumptruck load,
go to the business with a garbage can or two and fill them up.

It is best to get your sand from a pit near the source, that is, upriver in
the mountains where the sand particles have not been washed down a long
way. There will be less fine material and silt, and the individual grains
will be sharper.  Sand from ocean beaches should not be used because of
salt content (I think it can be washed out, but am not sure), and sand from
lowland rivers is often too fine, rounded, and silty.

I am very lucky I live near a quarry that produces very coarse, sharp sand
and have room to order it by the truckload. Repotting every other year with
this sand as the basis of my compost, I notice excellent response from the
bulbous plants. I think there are trace elements and also organic nutrients
in the fresh sand.

Jane McGary
Northwest Oregon

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