Lava Sand

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Chemicals can be good for your plants.

Alright, that statement was meant to shock the organic crowd. I stopped by Southwest Fertilizer the other day, when I saw that they had a shipment of lava sand. I bought some to use in my own garden. You may have heard that soils are rich in nutrients in volcanic areas, like in Italy around Vesuvius, and you can obtain that by incorporating lava sand into your garden beds.
    The synthetic fertilizer industry is based upon ideas of Justus von Liebig, who focused on potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Organic gardeners will use the organic chemical forms of these same chemicals. Julius Hensel had a more broad approach, realizing that he suggested the concept of mineral nutrition. He ground mountain rocks to add to vegetable beds, and found that the plants were healthier. This was adding inorganic matter ( the dreaded chemicals). I feel that if you concentrate too much on the labels organic and inorganic, you may miss an important factor in the health of your plants. Hensel showed that inorganics can be quite useful. Lava sand is a result of his work.
    This sand is made from pulverized lava/basalt rock. Decomposed granite has more silica than basalt, and basalt has higher amounts of calcium and magnesium, which makes basalt favored. The best application method is to dig the sand into the soil of a fallow garden bed (churning the soil). Since some beds do have plants, I spread the sand over the soil, and then either by hand or by hoe, mix the sand into the surface. Watering afterwards to ensure that no sand is on the leaves, and to help the sand mix in further. Lava sand then becomes the ultimate slow release fertilizer. The sand is not a complete fertilizer, so you do still need your other organic fertilizers.
    When considering your fertilizers, add lava sand to the mix. I do not know the availability of this product. I have to check if the home improvement centers carry lava sand. I am fairly certain that I have seen the sand at nurseries. I go to Southwest Fertilizer, because they have such a great selection of seeds, tools, and other products for the garden. They do sell plants, but that is a more limited aspect of their business. They are at the corner of Bissonet and Fountain View (or does the street change its name to Renwick at that point).

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This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank


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