Last Updated on May 20, 2022 by Real Men Sow
Gardeners who have to deal with sandy soil dream of sticky clay because it sounds like gardening heaven! However, those who have worked with sandy soils know better. Sand has its positive points, but also its problems. There is an easy way to get rid of some of these problems, namely poor fertility and a tendency for the skin to dry out quickly.
How To Test Your Garden For Sandy Soil?
A soil test is required to determine the type of soil that you have. It is extremely difficult and complicated, takes a lot of training, and is not for everyone. However, it doesn’t hurt to try.
Start by taking a handful of soil and dampening it. Then, roll it into a sausage shape. Sandy soil will break down and crumble. It will be possible to see the grains. Clay soil can be rubbed to a dull shine and will stick together easily. Silty soils are very rare and are often described with a “soapy” texture. Loam, a gardener’s paradise, is somewhere in the middle.
Turn Sandy Soil into Sandy Loam
Although it isn’t very scientific, the test above should be sufficient for most gardeners. For more information, see the Jar Test.
Next, you will need to do some more work. Because of their large particle size, sandy soils are less fertile and more susceptible to drying out than other types. There are many cavernous spaces between the particles and makes it easier for water (and other water-soluble nutrients), to filter through the soil and out of reach of plant roots. These gaps must be partially filled in to allow the soil to retain water and nutrients.
How To Improve Sandy Soil?
Organic matter can be used as a garden remedy. They enhance any soil type and any organic matter can help improve soil structure and water retention. Manure and compost are good choices because they’re rich in nutrients. They can be drip-fed to your plants. They will also increase the pH of soils with acidic soils over time.
Do you NEED organic matter on sandy soils?
It’s true, sandy soils need lots of organic matter. Your soil will need to be replenished more frequently if it is subject to high temperatures. Each autumn, start with at least two bucketfuls per square meter of organic matter. This will be added to the soil as a mulch to help protect it from the elements and scouring rains.
If they are underperforming, increase the frequency to twice per year. Three buckets or four could be an option. If you have the opportunity, it’s worth adding more during summer. Grass clippings can be a great, free resource to help reduce evaporation and provide some nitrogen for plant growth.
Best Vegetables for Sandy Soil
It takes many seasons to improve your soil. No matter what you’ll do it will always be sandy soil, even with all the effort you put into it. It’s a good idea to “work with what you have”! Let’s look at some vegetables that grow naturally in sandy soil.
Root vegetables are superstars in sandy soil. Plants with long taproots, such as carrots or parsnips, are motivated by thirst and can reach the soil several inches below the surface.
Lettuce and Collards
Sandy soil is great for those who are eager to start growing right away. You’re more likely than not to see success early on with vegetables like lettuce and collards if you warm up and dry out quickly.
Although potatoes are not susceptible to scab when grown in acidic soils, they can still be thirsty. It is best to water your potatoes less often than you use. This applies to all vegetables that are grown in this soil. This is also true for fertilizer. To gradually water your plants and provide nutrients, you might consider irrigation.
Mediterranean herbs are best suited for sandy, thin soils. In this situation, organic matter can be added to the soil. With a low fertility bed that doesn’t get waterlogged in winter, rosemary, lavender and thyme will do just fine.
Brassicas and Shallow-rooted plants
Brassicas and other shallow-rooted plants will not thrive in acidic soils and they can dry out quickly on sandy soils. These plants can be grown but will require more attention than plants that prefer to grow on sand.