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How to Get Free Sand for Your Garden

May 27, 2014

Many gardeners face the problem of having soil that is too heavy.  The soil on my farm has a lot of clay which holds water for a long time and gets really hard when it dries out.  Some crops don’t seem to mind this too much; but some, like onions and sweet potatoes, need loose, well drained soil to produce a good crop.  I am currently putting in a small bed of sweet potatoes, and I really need to amend my soil to loosen it up.  I have grown sweet potatoes in the past but, because of the heavy soil, the tubers tended to be long and thin and very misshapen.  Nothing like what you find at the grocery store.

So I need, basically, two things to add to the soil.  I need sand and compost.  The compost is no problem because I make my own, the sand is a little more problematic.  I thought about buying some bags of sandbox sand at the local hardware store, but the price was a little steep ($3.50 per bag).  Gardening is fun, but I also want it to be cost effective.

00 bagged sand

It doesn’t make sense to spend $20 on dirt to grow $5 worth of sweet potatoes, so I started looking around for an alternative.

I found the alternative less than a mile from my farm.  East Texas gets a lot of rain, and nearly every road has what we call bar ditches dug on each side of the road to channel run-off away from the road.  When we get a good rain it washes sand off of the nearby fields, if they have a lot of sand in them, and deposits the sand in the bar ditches.  The county road crews have to constantly clean out the bar ditches because they fill up with sand.

01 bar ditch sand

I found a bar ditch that was loaded with beautiful, clean, washed sand; and I decided to save the road crew a little work.  I took my truck, a five-gallon bucket, and a shovel down to the bar ditch, and in about 20 minutes I had scooped up eight or ten buckets full of sand.  Probably the equivalent of about 5 or 6 bags of sandbox sand.

02 sand in truck

I spread the sand out to turn into by future sweet potato bed.

03 sand on garden bed

04 sand raked out

It is perfect, and I saved myself about twenty bucks by using free bar ditch sand.


  1. glad 2 help permalink

    If I had a dollar for every fool who tells me that sand is not what I need for my clay soil (because it will turn it into cement, they claim), I’d be rich! How did this turn out? I’ve lived someplace with clay soil all my life, it’s the best soil as long as you mess around with it a little. The rich minerals in clay are hard to beat. Good luck with your garden!

  2. Thanks for these tips, garden is essential in a number of ways for my garden so you’ve been really helpful! Kind regards 🙂

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