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Uses for sand...?

 
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Hey there. Been a lurker for a while and figured I'd start to engage. Break out of my shell...it's easy behind a keyboard.

Anyway, we've bought a 15 acre "farm" in North Carolina. So many dreams and plans, but the first few years are going to have to go into cleaning up the barbed wires, abandoned trailer and all the other messes the former "farmer" left behind.

On one part of the property I have about 10 yards or more of play sand. I was going to make a pile of it over by mulch/compost area and use it for sand bags or other projects around the place. But it made me wonder...does playbox sand have any place at all as a soil amendment. We are in the NC piedmont, and our soil is mostly clay with some loamy spots along what would have been drainages if they had plowed the absolute shit out of it over the years.

Just looking for ideas I may not have thought of. I'm just cracking open the world of permaculture, and while I know for sure it's what we want to do from a land management standpoint, I have a ton to learn.
 
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Hi James,

Yes sand does have use as an amendment and could be used to amend the areas of predominantly clay soil. Just spread up to a 1" layer of sand over the heavy clay soil, and put any other amendments like a thick compost layer over the top of that; then let the worms do the rest. My suggestion though, after spreading the sand is to key line plow on contour to increase or maintain water absorption and retention. This will help ballence aeration, water absorption and prevent increased run off and or erosion.

Depending on where the sand came from will determine the mineral composition of the sand, and thus its benefits or potential detriment to any given soil type in relation to what will be grown there. For example beach sand often has a good portion of ground sea shells making it a great source of calcium carbonate that will also help buffer lowering of soil pH that can benefit many plant groupings like legumes, but can also be detrimental to acid lovers like blueberries growning on marginally acidic soil. So depending on the mineral composition of the sand, your current soil pH, the effects of any other ammendments on current pH, and what your goals of growing in that area are, can all determine the potential benefits of any particular sand type as an ammendment to a given area.

Once you understand your spacific soil, and soil needs in relation to the needs of what is proposed to be grown on that soil; then understanding your particular type of sand, will let you know all the aspects of benefit and or potential detriment of that particular sand on that particular soil considering what is to be grown there.

Hope that helps!
 
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I can't find the link to the article, but the gist of it was the over-dependency on gravel used as a footer base. Therefore if you want to, you could lay a footer for a small greenhouse with that amount of sand.
 
gardener
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Play sand is usually a river dredging product and it generally has different sized particles, this makes it a great addition to soils that are already friable since it adds more openings for air and water to infiltrate deeper into the substrate.

Sand does not make a good footing substrate, since it can shift or compress.
If you look at bridges, they like to remove all sand and gravels before building the towers, the Brooklyn Bride has one tower, now leaning, build on a sand base because they couldn't get down to bedrock.

In farming you can use sand for chicken house roost underlay so the droppings are easier to remove (kind of like cat litter), you can spread it to allow it to infiltrate via worm and weather actions on fields, you can add it to compost heaps to lighten and mineralize the compost when it finishes.
You can make fast draining pathways with it, you can add it to potting soils too.

As long as you have healthy soil, the bacteria will expel enzymes to allow them to utilize the minerals of the sand particles which will find their way to the plants growing in that soil.

R. Steele brought up using a key-line plow on contour which is great since it not only allows for better water infiltration but also slows water down as it flows down the slope.
 
Burl Smith
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Sand does not make a good footing substrate, since it can shift or compress.
If you look at bridges, they like to remove all sand and gravels before building the towers, the Brooklyn Bride has one tower, now leaning, build on a sand base because they couldn't get down to bedrock.



That elusive link was right under my nose!:
https://permies.com/forums/posts/quote/40/355918

Rufus Laggren wrote:

...FWIW regarding drainage. I have read one engineer who designed fill and engineered drainage for big dams and road beds in the 60's claim that concrete sand (what is used to mix concrete) performed far better than any other fill for drainage. He returned to projects 20 and 30 years later and made a point of checking whether his fill has remained stable and continued to perform to direct moving subsurface water properly. He views gravel/crusher-run as a special purpose fill that is grossly overused. Cement sand is spec'd to have sharp angles and corners just like crusher-run; both are spec'd for load bearing structural purposes because the particles tend to lock and hold together better than smooth sand or rock; the sharp irregular pieces also allow excellent drainage. But the reason he prefers sand for drainage is that it does not "silt up" as much from the surrounding earth diffusing into it. I don't know all the science but apparently the relative size of the particles in each kind of earth or fill has a huge influence on whether on not the boundary between to two types remain open to water flow over time. Gravel boundaries with earth tend to silt up as the earth migrates into the relatively large gaps in the gravel and pack hard; the sand being more the same size particle, doesn't offer easy pathways for the earth, clay or mud to move into and pack and so the boundary remains relatively free flowing.


...Rufus

 
Bryant RedHawk
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That engineer was referring to "sharp" sand, it can be produced by sifting the superfines from the crusher rock, there are only a very few places on earth that produce the sharp sand by excavating it from the ground.
Getting a load of the sharp sand to my home site would cost around 300.00 per ten yards and after compacting it that ten yards would shrink to around 7 yards of volume.
Usually drainage is around the outside of the footing, not part of the footing proper.  One of the places I've seen sharp sand used as the main drainage component is golf greens construction.
Greens built that way drain rain water very quickly.
 
pollinator
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Can I shift gears a little? I would be ecstatic for that amount of sand. I would make a bed for mushroom logs like nameko! I have mine in stacks but having sand would allow more ground contact, and lessen the chance for drying. I would be super stoked to get sand like that.
stacks.jpg
[Thumbnail for stacks.jpg]
 
Burl Smith
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:That engineer was referring to "sharp" sand



Yes, James did say "play sand" in his post.
 
James McMahen
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Thank you, everyone, for your replies.  It's amazing the information we can possess when we share it. The plan, for now, is to pile it up where we do our composting and store wood chips, and add it in here and there. We have an area that I will be turning into a "Mediterranean" garden. The soil there is really compacted, so I'm thinking about spreading a little out on top before I broad fork the area. Then it will get come compost and a cover crop to hold it over till next spring when I'm ready to dig in.
 
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If you live in North Carolina, and you have sharp sand, and in bulk, it most likely came from nearby. It most likely has gold in it, so I would see what I could get for gold before I disturbed it too much. Use the money to pay for projects around the farm that your farm does not have natural resources for.

You will still have the sand for the uses listed above afterwards.
 
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