You’ll always have to deal with garden waste regardless of where you live or the size of your garden. Garden waste—sometimes called green waste—includes all organic matter from a garden that can be used as fertilizer. But does sand count as organic matter, and can you put it along with the rest of your garden waste?
You can’t put sand in your garden waste because it won’t decompose. Sand will increase the volume of the waste but reduce the material’s fertilizing qualities. Unsurprisingly, almost every city in the world has strict laws against adding sand to green waste.
Still, these laws are essential since most cities repackage their collected garden waste for other gardeners and farmers. In this article, I’ll examine what materials you can put in your garden waste and explore if composting is a better option for dealing with sand. Keep reading to learn more ways to deal with excess sand in your garden.
Sand and Composting
Since we now know that adding sand to garden waste is rarely acceptable, let’s explore if we can use the material for composting purposes. After all, composting is one of the oldest and most efficient ways to reduce waste and convert decomposing material to fertilizer.
But can you add sand to a compost pile?
Adding Sand to Compost Bins
You can add sand to your compost bin. However, you’ll need to put the sand in the right proportions to ensure that it doesn’t slow down or prevent the decomposition of organic materials in the compost. You’ll also need to ensure you’re using suitable sand.
Sand doesn’t decompose, but it’s an excellent way to increase material volume and bulk up your compost pile. It might be a perfect way to increase the amount of compost available.
Adding sand to compost can also help you slow down the rate of material decomposition. It’s especially beneficial if you’re preparing special types of compost or trying out new soil mixes for your garden.
However, you’ll only notice these benefits if you add the correct amounts of sand to your pile. Too little and you get almost no results, too much could seriously affect the quality of your soil and soil nutrients.
The best way to get the most out of sand in compost is to try different proportions. Some gardens might be able to thrive with a sand-rich compost mix, but others might die if there’s even a little too much sand in the mix.
Sand Types for Composting
Understandably, most hardeners are typically worried about adding sand to their garden—even if it’s in compost. After all, sand could affect soil drainage, aeration, and even material integrity—putting all your plants at risk.
Your garden and plants will be fine if you carefully monitor the type and amounts of sand you add to your compost bin.
Fortunately, you can add almost any type of sand to your compost, including:
- Builder’s sand
- Horticultural sand
These materials impact soil quality to varying degrees, but they’ll be excellent additions to your compost.
For example, builder’s sand is fine and slow-draining, so you might want to add only small amounts of the material to your compost. Adding excess amounts might affect the material decomposition or impact the soil’s original draining qualities.
Grit is also slow-draining but not quite as much as builder’s sand. You might be able to add some more of the material to your compost without problems, but ensure you don’t use too much. It can affect soil quality in almost the same way as builder’s sand and might interfere with the compost’s natural decomposition process.
I recommend you stick to composting only horticultural sand. It offers multiple benefits in its raw form and might help improve soil quality as compost.
Ultimately, you’ll need to monitor your soil quality if you add fertilizers and compost to your garden. And while temperature and moisture content are essential metrics to measure, ensure you keep track of quality indicators like soil pH to check its nutrient content.
I recommend using the Kensizer Soil Tester (available on Amazon.com) if you need a great tool for the job. It’s an excellent piece of equipment for taking accurate pH measurements and doubles as a moisture meter too.
Soil drainage is a big deal in gardening. Sand is an excellent potting medium to improve soil drainage.
Check out my guide to learn more about the sand type you can use for gardening, how much sand you should use in the bottom of the planter, and how it impacts soil drainage: Can You Put Sand in the Bottom of a Planter?
Proper Composting Practices
I know composting can be somewhat challenging, especially if you’re new to it or exploring gardening for the first time. However, it’s pretty simple if you follow the proper steps and ensure you only add the appropriate materials to the pile.
Fortunately, adding sand to compost is pretty much the same as the regular composting process, and you’ll get excellent results if you follow the steps in this article.
Here’s how to add sand to compost:
Preparing the Bin
Prepare your compost bin as you usually would without adding any sand. You can add as much garden waste as you can find, but kitchen waste is acceptable too. Remember to turn the heap to accelerate the decomposition process.
Using the proper compost bin can help make composting easier and faster. I’ve been using the Compost Bin by GEOBIN (available on Amazon.com) for some time now, and it’s an excellent product for composting all kinds of kitchen and garden waste.
The product has holes on the side to accelerate complete decomposition as well as a large capacity for holding lots of material.
Combining Sand and Compost
Cover the bin and leave the compost for some time. You can turn the mix occasionally to ensure the material decomposes evenly, but ensure you cover the bin afterward.
It usually takes around 6 months for compost to sufficiently decompose, and you can tell if it’s ready for your soil if the material has a sweet smell.
Add equal amounts of sand and compost to a wheelbarrow or any suitable area and mix. I don’t recommend adding sand to the compost while it’s in the early stages of decomposing to ensure you don’t affect the process.
However, processed compost and sand can significantly benefit your soil and plants.
Apply the compost-and-sand mix to your garden soil like you usually would with regular compost. You can use a rake to mix it with regular soil or a shovel if you’re working with garden beds. Ensure you apply generous amounts of the material for the best results.
Adapting Sand Ratios
I recommend you try this process with small amounts of sand in some compost to see how well it mixes. Afterward, you can add the mix to a small patch of soil and determine its impact on plant life.
Keep increasing the sand-to-compost ratio until you notice any unsavory effect on your soil quality. You can also use the soil pH meter I recommended earlier to keep track of its quality.
Acceptable Garden Waste Materials
Now that we’ve established that putting sand in your green waste is bad, let’s highlight what materials are perfect for the pile. Fortunately, you can quickly know what goes in a waste bag from its color or label.
Waste Disposal Guidelines
In the US, garden waste typically goes in a green container if it’s a three-container collection service or in a grey container if it’s a two-container collection service without a green container.
These systems might be a little confusing, but the containers usually have labels to help you identify what goes where.
Most cities and municipalities also have websites or manuals that tell gardeners how to dispose of their garden waste. These waste disposal guides are pretty handy and usually provide in-depth information on how and why the system works.
You can always check with your community’s waste management service if you need more information about garden or general waste, as well as color codes and labels.
However, an excellent rule of thumb to know if a material is suitable for garden waste is to check if it decomposes. As I mentioned, garden waste is usually reused as garden fertilizer, and only organic matter will do.
Suitable Materials for Garden Waste
Here’s what you can put in your garden waste:
- Grass trimmings
- Hedge trimmings
- Plant roots
- Non-invasive weeds
In fact, you can put almost every kind of plant waste in your garden waste, though some states might have laws against certain weeds. These weeds might be problematic, hardy, or hard to decompose, and they’re usually treated like non-degradable trash.
I recommend you check in with your city’s waste management service to know what weeds are acceptable.
I don’t recommend putting sand in your garden waste because it won’t decompose and might affect the breakdown of other organic materials in the pile. In fact, many cities have strict laws concerning what materials can go into garden waste.
However, you don’t need to throw out your sand. You can always add it to finished compost to bulk up the material and improve your soil quality. Fortunately, practically all kinds of sand will work with compost, but you might need to try different material proportions to get the ideal mix for your garden.