Have you heard of greensand? It isn’t as well known as amendments such as bone or blood meal. It’s a mineral used to improve and enrich soil. An all-natural, slow-release fertilizer, it provides potassium in small doses that won’t burn plant roots.
It can be added to make clay soils easier to work, and to help loose, sandy soils bind together better. Since it can hold one-third of its weight in water, it will increase the moisture-holding capacity of pretty much any type of soil.
True to its name, greensand looks like – surprise! – green sand. The chemical name for greensand is glauconite. Glauconite is an iron-potassium silicate formed 570 million years ago from mineral-rich sediment. It’s a soft rock found in and around different ocean areas across the world. In ancient times it was used by artists as a green pigment for painting.
How it Helps Soil
Potassium is one of the three elements, along with nitrogen and phosphorus, essential to plant health. Potassium’s job is to improve plant hardiness and increase disease resistance. Greensand also contains iron, magnesium, and other trace minerals that are good for soil.
You can use it in flower and vegetable beds, around trees and shrubs, and on lawns. Since greensand releases potassium so slowly, it isn’t recommended for potted plants.
How to Use
Add greensand to your soil in early spring. It’s applied like any other amendment. Broadcast it over the soil surface and work it in with a rake or spade, six inches deep. Use five to ten pounds per 100 square feet the first year, and one to two pounds per 100 square feet in subsequent years.
Where to Buy
You can find greensand in both small and large bags. Six- or seven-pound bags can be ordered from online garden supply companies. For larger areas, 50 lb. bags are usually available (or can be ordered) from high-end nurseries or online.
Greensand is approved for organic gardening. It won’t harm earthworms or microbial soil life. It’s non-toxic, and safe for humans and animals.
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By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
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