The Rhizosphere

The Rhizosphere

By now, soil gardeners reading this will be thinking Sandgardening is starting to look a lot like hydroponics…and hydroponicists will be thinking that Sandgardening seems more like soil-based gardening.

Sandgardening carries both hydroponics and organic gardening in its DNA…and it offers the best features of both methods.

Is Sandgardening like Hydroponics?

Hydroponics – using sand as a growing media – works, has a proud history and is still practised widely in places like India and the Middle East.

Both methods use sand as growing media but sand hydroponics utilises synthetic inorganic chemical salts where the plant nutrients for Sandgardening come from organic sources.

Sand-based hydroponics and Sandgardening both have very different operational approaches in that sand hydroponics is a largely sterile inorganic environment – while a Sandgarden is organic and teeming with beneficial microbes…it’s a ‘living machine’.

What distinguishes Sandgardening from soil-based gardening?

Soil-based gardening can be productive and deeply satisfying to those with the necessary knowledge and skills.

For those who do not have a green thumb, however, it can be a frustrating rollercoaster ride.  Weeds and insects…and plant stress/disease due to climate and inconsistent feeding and watering…all serve to erode your resources, productivity and patience.

Regardless of the capability of the operator – or the method – soil gardening generally involves digging, weeding and all manner of hard work.

Having said that, soil is prized by organic gardeners because the best of soils play host to a thing called the rhizosphere…which Wikipedia tells us is…

“…the narrow region of soil or substrate that is directly influenced by root secretions and associated soil microorganisms known as the root microbiome. The rhizosphere involving the soil pores contains many bacteria and other microorganisms that feed on sloughed-off plant cells, termed rhizodeposition, and the proteins and sugars released by roots, termed root exudates. This symbiosis leads to more complex interactions, influencing plant growth and competition for resources. Much of the nutrient cycling and disease suppression by antibiotics required by plants, occurs immediately adjacent to roots due to root exudates and metabolic products of symbiotic and pathogenic communities of microorganisms. The rhizosphere also provides space to produce allelochemicals to control neighbours and relatives.”

What you can take from that information is that the rhizosphere is a big deal for organic gardeners and soil scientists.  Soil without a rhizosphere is just dirt – useful perhaps as an anchor for plant roots – but far less capable as a growing environment.

The rhizosphere is (what is known in business circles as) the ‘unique selling proposition’ for soil.  It’s the ‘sustainable competitive advantage’ that soil has over all other media…and a big part of that advantage is that it’s not to be found in other growing media.

Except sand.

Sandgardening can facilitate the rhizosphere that exists in soil.

Indeed, creating the sand equivalent of soil is very easy.

Sand  + organics + oxygen + water + microbes + light = SOIL

Aside from being able to recreate the rhizosphere, Sandgardening has some other significant advantages over soil.

  • It will grow much more food – for far less water – than any soil-based garden of a similar size.
  • It’s easier to learn and operate.
  • It requires far less labor input…no digging, weeding or hand watering.
  • It’s organic – by design…no synthetic herbicides or pesticides…or chemical fertilizers.
  • It’s less likely (depending on its source) to harbor soil-borne diseases…and if it does contract a soil disease, it can be more readily disinfected.
  • It provides for precise watering and feeding…in a timely manner.
  • It can be done anywhere that the climate can sustain gardening…including indoors.
  • It’s more productive…it will grow more food for fewer inputs in a given footprint. 
  • It’s more resilient…it will recover faster from setbacks.
  • It’s more sustainable – no waste stream.  Everything in a Sandgarden can be 100% recyclable.

Just so we’re clear, we have no argument with good soil whatsoever.  

We do however have concerns that, like freshwater, the amount of arable land was always finite but, because of the way that humanity has used both resources, the amount of either that is available to us is under the double jeopardy of increasing populations and soil degradation and loss through…

  • climate change
  • ongoing urban growth
  • pollution of soil
  • desertification
  • erosion
  • aquifer depletion
  • soil salinity
  • loss of biodiversity

Sandgardening offers the consistency and systematic management of hydroponics…and the rhizosphere of soil…the best of both worlds. It also offers what neither hydroponics nor soil can including:

  • Sand can be stored…dry and pest-free…and get bio-activated quickly and as required.
  • When you use sand, your garden grows both biologically – and financially.
  • Washed and graded sand is a permanent asset that does not require replacement – and only very modest maintenance.  Given the global demand for sand (upon which our lives depend so much), the price of sand can only continue to rise.

To summarise, Sandgardening has connections with sand hydroponics and soil-based gardening – taking the best from both – while also having some unique abilities of its own…things that neither hydroponics nor soil gardening can do.

Now, it’s time for a little excitement.  It’s time to get a clearer picture of what Sandgardening is all about.