If you’re like most homeowners, you take great pride in your lawn and garden. Not only do they add aesthetic value, but they also provide a space for relaxation and enjoyment. However, if your property is located in an area with sandy soil, it can be a bit more challenging to maintain a beautiful landscape. It’s no secret that finding good topsoil is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive. Fortunately, there are ways to improve and amend sandy soil so that your plants can thrive. Keep reading for tips on how to get started.
Do I Have Sandy Soil?
The first step in amending your soil is checking if you have sandy soil in the first place. So, how do you know if you do or not? There are a few ways you can tell.
First, grab a handful of soil from your garden. Then, dampen it and lightly squeeze it into a ball between your hands. If the soil crumbles apart easily and feels gritty, you have what is known as sandy soil. With sandy soil, you should be able to make out individual particles of the soil.
Sand Vs. Clay Soil
If the soil is able to easily stick together and can be rubbed to create a non-grainy layer, then that is likely clay soil. Soil with larger particles and a grainy texture would be more sandy, but soil with very fine particles and a matte texture is more likely filled with clay.
What are the Benefits And Drawbacks To Sandy Soil?
Sandy soil has a large number of component particles, which are solid and without pockets where water and nutrients can cling. Water penetrates more easily into porous soils (like clay and loam) because they allow water to settle and stay longer on the surface, where plants send out their roots.
Because of this, water and nutrients run out quickly, and because of this a lot of plants struggle to survive in this environment. Much of the best plant fertilizer in water washes away before plants have time to absorb what they need. You can water and water your soil but it will not get to the grass and plants that need it most.
However, there are some benefits to having sandy soil as well, so you might want to keep some areas of your garden with a stronger concentration of sand. For example, carrots, radishes, beets, among other root vegetables, are considerably happier in sandy soils than they are in clay soils.
Some herbs in the garden require lots of water drainage as well, and as a result, they flourish in sandy soil. As sandy soils have excellent drainage, they will also be less susceptible to root rot and other garden illnesses brought on by over-watering.
How To Improve and Amend Sandy Soil
Now that you know whether you have a sandy type of soil, as well as whether or not you actually want to change it to more natural garden soil, here are a few things you can do to amend it,
First, add organic matter. This is the biggest and most effective method. In fact, if this was the only thing you do to improve your soil it will more than likely be sufficient.
This can be done by adding compost, leaf mould or well-rotted manure to the soil. Organic matter will help to bind the sand together and improve drainage. In addition, some organic material will also help fertilize the soil.
Add this organic compost or peat moss into the top 2-3 inches of sand; then add a layer of mulch on top. You can also consider adding some dark, rich topsoil if available. After doing so, water deeply until moisture reaches at least 12 inches down when using a probe (this may take up to two weeks). This should help break up any compaction from walking or driving over the area as well as provide better drainage for future rain water.
Secondly, adjust the pH level of your soil to a more nutrient dense environment by adding lime. This way your plants will be able to absorb more nutrients and you’ll need to water them less often.
A third method is to incorporate some clay into the mix. Clay helps to water-log sandy soils, which will help to retain moisture and improve fertility. You can do this by adding clayshale, brick dust or other available mineral powders.
What Is Sandy Loam?
One effective way to create fertile soil out of a predominately sandy area is to change it into loam. Loam is a combination of sand, silt and clay soil. Loam is also more nutrient rich and has better drainage compared to sandy soils.
To do this you will need to add large quantities of organic matter such as leaf mould or compost. You will also need to add organic matter frequently – typically once a year. In terms of making large-scale changes without bringing in extra soil, adding lots of organic material will help to create loam. You should also be aware that adding organic material alone will not change the soil type, but rather only improve it.
It is important to note that if you have a lot of sand in your garden for whatever reason (for example along with clay), you can still make your own loam by layering sandy soil with the clay soil. In this way, you can create a combination that will be closer to loam.
How To Water Sandy Soil
When watering sandy soil the most important thing to remember is to do it slowly, as water run-off is one of the biggest problems with poor drainage. This means watering only a little at a time – especially in light sandy soils where water tends to drain away quickly. Watering fast and all at once might sound like a more effective method, but it just creates more problems.
However, watering a little at a time means you really need to water very frequently. Once the organic matter, compost, or clay soil takes hold, though, you won’t need to water as much or as often.
What Vegetables and Plants Can Grow In Sandy Soil?
As mentioned above, root vegetables such as carrots, beets, and radishes, are effective growers in sandy soil. Other garden herbs that require less water would be great in a sandy garden.
Sandy soil can be difficult to work with, but if you know what sandy loam is and how it differs from sand or clay soils, you’ll have a better understanding of why your garden isn’t producing as well as expected. The good news is that there are easy ways to amend and improve sandy soil so that the next time you plant something in your backyard or flowerbeds, all of those deep roots will have plenty of nourishment.
You can improve, or amend, the soil by adding organic matter such as compost or manure. This should help retain more moisture for longer periods of time so that plants are able to grow throughout the season without having their roots constantly dried out. So, if you have sandy soil, don’t fret! It is an easy fix to get your garden back to optimal soil conditions.