Greensand is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from ancient sea floor deposits and it has been used as a fertilizer since the 1700s. In the U.S., greensand is found mainly in Florida, Texas, New Jersey and Arkansas, in areas that were ocean floor at some point in Earth's history.
Greensand is completely organic and safe to handle. It will not harm insects, pets or people and is so safe it can be scooped up in your hands. Greensand can be mixed into the soil at planting time or it can be applied around established plants as a side dressing. Unlike chemical fertilizers, it will not burn your plants if applied too heavily.
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At first glance, greensand may not look like much of a fertilizer, with an N-P-K rating of only 0-0-0.1 to 0-0-3. But it is the trace minerals present in greensand that prove its worth. Depending on where it was mined, greensand can include up to thirty different trace minerals, including silica and magnesia. While plants need only tiny amounts of these trace minerals, they are essential to the health of both the soil and your plants. Greensand is mainly potash and hydrated silicate of iron and is often used by organic gardeners as a source of potassium for the garden.
Some manufacturers add sand to their greensand products, so the exact strength and application rate may vary anywhere from five to thirty pounds per 100 square feet of garden space. The application rate will also depend on the specific needs of your garden's soil. Whether you buy Jersey greensand, Texas glittergreen greensand or any other greensand, always check the label for instructions before applying this amendment to your garden.
In general, when applying greensand around established landscape plants, give each shrub or tree about two cups as a side dressing once a year.
Other than as a fertilizer, here's another reason to use greensand: Greensand will help loosen up clay soils and help bind sandy soils, actually helping to prevent erosion. The greensand particles act much like sand to keep soil particles from locking together, while also trapping moisture in the ground and keeping soil in place. The potassium in greensand also promotes root growth, and its ability to loosen the soil will help increase the amount of oxygen available to the growing roots.
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Greensand increases the soil's ability to hold moisture. When greensand is mixed into potting soil, less watering will be required for your potted plants. Desert clay soils amended with greensand will retain and be able to use available moisture more readily.
No matter what type of soil is in your garden, the addition of greensand will help to make soil nutrients more available to your plants. Greensand is not water soluble, it will not dissolve in water. The nutrients in greensand are available to plants only after the greensand has been digested by the good microorganisms that reside in healthy soil. These are the same microorganisms that help the soil's organic material break down and become rich, dark soil.
Greensand looks much like fine beach sand that has been tinted green, but it is able to absorb ten times more moisture than beach sand. The dark green color of greensand is natural, and when greensand is applied to the soil surface, its dark color will help absorb sunlight and help warm the soil in early spring.
An application of greensand will improve the soil and thereby improve the health of your plants. Greensand will make roses bloom longer and it will make tomato plants produce tastier fruit. If your garden soil is heavy with clay or sandy and weak, a dose of greensand will be a big step in making it more suitable for your plants.
Greensand can be found at garden centers and in some gardening catalogs. If your local garden center doesn't offer greensand, ask them if they can order it in for you. Greensand is good stuff and your garden soil and plants will appreciate it.