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Replacing Perlite with sand

Posted by josko 7a Cape Cod (My Page) on
Thu, Nov 25, 10 at 8:08

I'll use about 3 doz 18" x 16" flats for starting veggie seeds this winter. I used to make my potting soil with 1/3 peat, 1/3 sterile compost, 1/3 Perlite and a bit of wood ash and fertilizer, and have been happy with the results. This year, I can't find Perlite locally (except in 8 qt Miracle Gro bags) so I'm wondering about substituting sand for Perlite. What differences should I expect, and what type/coarseness of sand should I use? Here on Cape Cod, there's no shortage of sand, and I can pretty much pick the coarseness I need. I would also sift it.
Thanks in advance.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Replacing Perlite with sand

expect several differences.. 1) will not dry out as fast with sand 2) air space will be about the same only many smaller spaces. 3) soil should retain heat better 4)the coarser the san the better
Note I use crushed shale to germinate my seed peat, fertilizer etc....... I then transfer the seedlings to a soil-less mixture to grow on.....

RE: Replacing Perlite with sand

No reason why you shouldn't use sand. Did the 19th century gardeners use perlite? One thing I would do, however, is wash the sand thoroughly before using it. Unless you are absolutely sure where it has come from it could contain a lot of salt.

RE: Replacing Perlite with sand

One problem comes to mind for me and that would be the weight of the sand. It is much heavier than perilite. For some small seeds the sand might just be heavy enough to cause emergence problems. In addition the perilite helps maintain moisture, I'm not sure about the sand. It would be a shame to sow that many flats and there be problems.

I think you could order the perilite online and the weight of it should be a plus in shipping costs.

If it were me I would order some perilite and sow like you have in the past and experiment with a tray or 2 of the sand and see what the difference is. If the sand works that would be great and you could save money in the future. Heaven knows we all want to save money. Be sure to let us know if it works for you!

Good luck.

RE: Replacing Perlite with sand

For germinating tree and shrub seeds I generally use all sand or a combination of sand and Pro-Mix. So far my results have been very good, however I have not tried this with veggies so I'm not sure how well it would work with them.

The sand I use is the unscreened, coarser type of sand and not the very fine "play sand". I simply mix equal amounts of the Pro-Mix with this coarse sand and I have a good seed starting mix. So far the trees and shrubs do very well in it.



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