Gardening in Sandy Soil

soil test photo by far out flora

Gardening in sandy soil can be a challenge for gardeners, especially those who want to save water. As I mentioned in “What’s My Soil Type,” water moves freely through sandy soil. This also means it moves freely past plant root zones! When this happens, soil dries out more frequently and plants wilt and/or die if not given enough water.

Can Sandy Soil be Improved?

The best way to improve sandy soil is to add organic matter, which is decomposed plant material and/or animal manure (emphasis on decomposed!).  Adding organic matter to your soil is the ONLY way to improve sandy soil. Many well-meaning gardeners may offer options they’ve tried “successfully” but ask for proof (University based research).

Since OM breaks down after a few months, you’ll need to add it every season just before you plant a vegetable garden. I recommend about 6 inches of compost mixed into the soil to a depth of a few inches. You can do this with a shovel (great workout), tiller or tractor. When planting trees and shrubs, there’s no need to amend the soil. Research (cited in my article Planting Trees) shows it’s best to dig the hole, plant the tree or shrub and fill the hole back in with the original soil.

To help sandy soils retain heat in winter and to keep them cool in winter, add mulch. To find out more on mulch, read the post here!

Special thanks to Far Out Flora for allowing me to use their photo! Read Gardening 101: Soil Preparation for tips on how to get your soil ready for planting.



1 Comment

  1. Great article. Yeah, dealing with sandy soil can be challenging getting enough water and fertilizer to the plants. Our soil is pretty much all sand, and we try working in some organic material whenever we can. It’s improving over the past 3-4 years, but at least we’re not having to deal with clay…and our succulents don’t seem to mind the freely draining soil. Matti

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