Sand and gravel have a wide array of landscaping uses, but they can be a useful addition to your vegetable garden as well. Traditionally, these materials are used for walkways, as bases for paved areas, as drainage materials, and for many other purposes. They fill similar roles in the garden, where they can often be a simpler or cheaper alternative to other commonly used materials. If you haven't considered how sand or gravel can be useful for your garden, then these three ideas will help you to get started.
Using Gravel Instead of Mulch
Mulch is widely used in gardens to assist in drainage and to help combat the growth of weeds. By covering your garden area with mulch, you prevent standing water on the surface while also making it more difficult for weeds to receive the sunlight they need to become a problem. The weeds that do make it through tend to much easier to pull as well. While mulch has its advantages, it also numerous downsides. Organic mulches break down, wash away, and regularly require replacement. Using gravel on top of your soil provides many of the same benefits without the need for yearly replacement.
Creating Simple Pathways
Gravel and sand together provide one of the easiest ways to create a simple pathway through a flower or vegetable garden. A simple layer of pea gravel between your garden rows is usually enough to provide a path that is comfortable and easy to maintain. For a longer-term option, use planks of wood to divide your walkways from your garden, and fill the area with sand before placing your gravel. Doing this will provide superior drainage and keep your pathway from washing away over time or becoming muddy. Landscaping fabric placed beneath the path can help to further reduce maintenance by preventing the growth of weeds.
Sand as a Soil Additive
Surprisingly, it is common to use sand as a soil additive for gardens of all types. Adding sand can loosen up your garden soil, making it much easier for plants to penetrate into the ground and spread their roots. Loose soil is beneficial for a wide variety of plant types, but it is especially helpful to root plants such as carrots and potatoes. It is essential to be careful when using sand as an additive, however. Adding sand to heavy clay will result in a final mixture that is denser and tougher for roots to penetrate. Instead, sand is most useful when you are creating your soil mixture from scratch, such as for raised bed planting.