Print This Page

Lava Sand Newsletter


Lava Sand

Lava sand at the cinder cone.

None of my recommendations has ever had the kind of criticism as has lava sand. It’s been fascinating, especially since this is one of the most beneficial soil amendments available. Some of my critics have even tried to claim that the only reason I recommend lava sand is that I own a lava sand mine somewhere.

It all started in the late 80s at an Acres USA conference. Dr. Phil Callahan’s talks got me interested in using volcanic rock to improve plant growth and suggested that I use and promote lava sand in my work. Although it took me more than a year to get lava sand on the market in Texas, we finally got it done. Shortly after I had turned north Texas and Oklahoma on to this fascinating natural material the interesting questions started coming in. “OK, it’s working great, but why? What’s in lava sand that’s making plants respond so strongly?” At this point I really didn’t know for sure other than what Dr. Callahan had told me about energy and paramagnetism. I knew that trying to explain paramagnetic energy to organic gardeners would be difficult and explaining it to organiphobes would be a total waste of time.

Lava sand pile in the sun will hold moisture a long time.

So, I tried another angle - a soil test. I sent some lava sand, which had been brought into the Dallas/Fort Worth area from New Mexico, to K. Chandler at Texas Plant and Soil Labs in Edinburgh. The results were interesting but puzzling. The nutrient value was almost nil and the pH was 8.2. How was this high pH stuff working to make plants grow so well? I had never seen any chlorosis (nutrient deficiency) come on from using lava around susceptible plants such as sweetgum, dogwood or photinia.

Lava sand beside dry molasses.

Early test on lava sand showing better onion growth where more was applied.

In fact, I saw just the opposite. Yellowing plants greened up. How could that be? It could be because pH is an indicator only - not a controller. Many factors in the soil are more important than pH. Lava sand addresses those factors. Lava holds water, just at the right level for a long time. If the soil has good moisture and a balance of minerals, organic matter, microbes and earthworms, plant production will usually be good. The paramagnetism of the lava sand helps make all that happen.

Lava sand is crushed scoria, a reddish brown to black volcanic slag. It has an extremely porous texture. Lava sand makes soil nutrients more available to plant roots. It provides aeration and porosity to the soil. It helps retain the right amount of moisture in the soil and it is durable, resisting degradation.

Lava sand can be used in potting soils, bed preparation, landscape management and food crops. All you have to do to see its power is - try it!

Lava sand, compost and Azomite - a great combination.

Here are some of the ways to use lava sand for greater plant production. 

Sick trees - broadcast under the trees at 40-80 pounds/1,000 square feet. For more effective results on sicker trees, drill 2” holes 12-18” deep throughout the root zone and fill with lava sand and compost. Any ratio is good but 80% compost, 20% lava sand is practical and economical. Lava sand is also an important part of the official Sick Tree Treatment.

Roses - add to bed preparation at 80 pounds per 1,000 square feet and to the top of roses in pots at a rate heavy enough to cover the soil surface red. Gently work into the top 1”.

Turf - broadcast at 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Mix into topdressing at 20% of the volume.

Bed preparation - till together with compost, dry molasses, whole ground cornmeal, Azomite and natural organic fertilizer. Use 40-80 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Potting soil - add up to 1/3 the volume of organic potting soil.

Explanation of paramagnetism.

Lava sand - magic? No, it just helps the physics, chemistry and biology of the soil.

Those improvements increases and improve plant growth.

Lava sand can be red, black or a mix.


In general broadcast lava sand any time at a rate of 40 - 80 pounds per 1,000 square feet (1 ton per acre) or till into new beds at 80 -150 pounds per 1,000 square feet. For perennial beds, you could make a heavier application and add a layer of lava sand up to 2 inches thick before mixing it into the soil. You can use lava sand in any soil and with all plants. All lava sands help retain moisture, but the products with the highest paramagnetism (like American Rio) work best. The manufacturer or supplier should have that information. If they don’t, you can expect a lower quality product.

Lava sand works in potting soil, propagation flats and in any container plants. If possible use lava sands with high paramagnetic count. Lava sand offers a physical improvement to the soil that moves unhealthy, unbalanced soils toward balance. The mineral make up of lava sand is less important than the shape of each piece of sand. The angular, porous pieces of lava hold and exchange nutrients efficiently and they attract and redistributed cosmic energy in the soil. Cosmic energy is a fancy term for the sun’s energy.

For information or to purchase high quality lava sand, contact:

Andrew M. Lovett
Office 800-710-2737
Cell 704-345-7299

Click Here to Buy Howard's Books.

Here are some other useful resources from

To discuss this newsletter or any other topic, tune in each Sunday 8am - 11am central time to the Dirt Doctor Radio Show. The call-in phone number is 1-866-444-3478. Listen on the internet or click here to find a station in your area.

Please share this newsletter with everyone in your address book and all your friends on Facebook and Twitter to help me spread the word on the proper way to select, plant and maintain plants.

Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett
The Dirt Doctor


  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns