People often think sand and soil are one and the same. A huge part of the earth’s surface is made of soil and rocks, and sand is a type of soil, hence the confusion between the two. Soil is actually defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “ the biologically active, porous medium that has developed in the upper layers of the earth’s crust”.
There are many other types of soil, such as silt, peat, loam, and clay. You may also check Soil Yourself for other types of soil. On the other hand, sand is the loose material that consists of rocks or mineral grains. They are different, but people still use both for their landscape. The question now is, which one is better: soil vs. sand?
Before anything else, let us examine the qualities of both soil and sand that make them so different yet so useful.
This is considered one of the three Big 3 among earth’s natural resources. The three main compositions of soil are: organic matter coming from decomposing remains of plants and animals that formerly lived on the soil, minerals that come from nearby areas, and the living organisms that live on the soil. There are many others composing the soil, but these three are the most noteworthy. The fine particles that make up the soil are small and are packed tightly together. It is porous and also holds water. Being so packed together, soil is less penetrated and can hold water and allow it to sit on top of it.
Like soil, there are so many components that make up sand. It is made up of rock and minerals that are finely divided. Sand will differ in texture and color. These qualities are dependent on the location. Sand is composed of calcium carbonate, silica, and other minerals. The difference between soil and sand is that sand particles do not hold water, it is not porous, and has large spaces between the particles which makes air pass through freely.
Which one should you use?
For your landscape project, that is. People make use of sand for a number of landscaping projects. These include the following:
- Concrete – Sand is coarse. Due to this, it can be used to make certain kinds of concrete. Consequently, these can be used to make roads, walkways, edging, outdoor seating areas, and much more.
- Between pavers – Sand can be used to give levelling and fill space in between pavers. That is, if you are installing a paver walkway or a patio. Sand prevents shifting and breaking, and makes the pavers much more durable.
- Children’s playground – Sand is the favorite among children’s play areas. It is great for use as a base for sandboxes as well as flooring for play equipment. For some reason, sand is associated with play. Due to its granularity, sand will most probably remain the material of choice for playgrounds. It is also used for outdoor sports, making an ideal soft surface for the athletes. They create a smooth playing surface and edged with wood or small pavers. This gives the area an authentic look and feel. To make it last longer, a layer of gravel can be added under the sand.
This one is made up of organic material made up of dead plants and animals that have decomposed. This is simply used as an additive to improve soil quality and not as replacement for soil. It is rich in nutrients, which in turn makes the soil’s nutrients available to the plants anytime they need it. Compost is also uses to make minor changes to topsoil for gardening.
This is usually used for filling low areas, for creating walkways, or for preparing the yard for sod. It got its color from the organic material that it contains. These organic materials came from decomposing plant or animal materials. Black soil is not suitable for most garden plants however.
Garden soils are made to target certain types of plants like herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Garden soil can be purchased or made, but the type of plants that it would be used for should first be identified before creating the best garden soil.
Soil is more organic than sand, and is made of organic materials like air, water, and solids. Sand on the other hand, is composed of silica, calcium carbonate, and other materials. Soil holds water, while sand does not.
At the end of the day, sand is still a subset of soil, and both provide much needed benefits, albeit in their own different ways. It actually depends on what you intend to do; be it planting in a garden or making a play area for kids. There are cases wherein soil should be used, and there are instances wherein sand would be better. All in all, it ultimately depends on how you will use them.