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Building your sandy soil for your dream garden

Purple coneflower-how-to-improve-sandy-soil

Purple coneflowers

Sandy soils present a challenge to many gardeners because sandy soils are hard to work with. These soils are soils which cannot retain water or nutrients. Because of this many dream garden suffers set back leaving the homeowner confused and in despair as to what went wrong. The good news is you can still have your dream garden by making improvements to your sandy soils.

How to identify sandy soils

Let’s take a stroll into your garden, and see what we can find. Now what I want you to do is to scoop up a handful of soil in your hand, rub the soil with your fingers, how does it feel? if the texture is hard or gritty then it’s possible that your garden soil is sandy. To further inspect your garden soil squeeze it in your hand to make a ball and release the pressure, if the ball falls apart after you release the pressure then you are a step closer to knowing what type of soil you have.

The final test is if the particles size is large you have come to the end of your investigation and have solved the problem which is sandy soil. It is these size particles which are the cause for its poor water and nutrient holding capacity because of the space between them.

Sandy soils advantage and disadvantage

With all that has been said sandy soils do have some advantage so there is a good side to this soil type. In this section, we will not only be looking at the bad but also the good of sandy soils.

The advantages of sandy soils

  • Sandy soils are easy to work with because this soil type has good drainage
  • The roots of plants can penetrate sandy soils much easier.
  • If  you’re installing a garden which consists of desert plants and plants that requires very little water then these soils are great to work with
  • Sandy soils are easy when comes time to pull weeds
  • Digging holes in this soil type is very easy

The disadvantage of sandy soils

  • The water holding capacity is poor
  • The nutrient holding capacity is also poor
  • Adding nutrients or fertilizers to this type of soil will leach very quickly before the roots of plants can fully absorb them
  • Because of  how lose sandy soil are plant roots cannot establish easy which means plants can topple over especially under strong winds
  • High maintenance plants that are planted in sandy soils need constant watering which can way heavily on that water bill
  • Adding constant fertilizers to this type of soil because of its poor nutrient holding capacity can also be a drain on your wallet

How to improve sandy soils

With that said let’s have a look at to how to make improvements to this soil type

You have assessed your soil and the results are you have sandy soil,  you’re still determined to have that dream garden so now comes the time to make that soil improvement but where do you go from here, look no further continue reading for the answer. Adding organic matter is a great way to improve your sandy soil. Here is a list of natural organics that will work wonders

The benefits of organic matter

Spring flowering bulb-how-to-improve-sandy-soil

Spring Flowering Bulb

Organic matter has so many benefits which will build your sandy soils which will, in turn, promote healthy plants that you will be proud of even causing you to reap a good harvest. Adding organic matter to your sandy soil will increase your plant’s ability to take up water and nutrients.

Because of the conditioning effect of organic matter on your sandy soils your soil will be able to retain water and nutrients much longer. Working organics consistently into your sandy soils during the growing season will work wonders.

Mulch

The use of mulch has many benefits, mulches can add beauty to your garden area, mulches help to keep weeds down, contributes to keeping the soil temperature cool on those hot summer days, mulches also protects the roots of plants in the winter season but what I also love about mulch is these natural organics can help to retain moisture for plant uptake and as mulches decomposes it adds nutrient to the soil which in turn will be taken up by your plants root and can also help in balancing the soil ph.

How to mulch

When adding mulch to your garden area it is good to add 2-3 inches layer around your plants. This layer of mulch will work wonders for your plant. Keep a close watch so as your mulch decomposes you can replenish it.

My personal story

I want to share a personal story from my childhood days. The first garden that I constructed was a vegetable garden, the area that was chosen was an area where we would burn tons of trash on a yearly basis. I can still remember telling my friend that I wanted to construct a garden and that the very spot where we burned trash was the spot that was chosen.

When he saw where I wanted to plant my vegetable garden he sort to discourage me by saying that, that spot would not work and that my vegetable garden would be a failure because of trash that was often burned there but little did he know that because of the tons of leaves and other organic debris that was dumped there this would be the perfect spot.

I did not let his words discourage me because I was determined to have my vegetable garden. The day came when I went to that area and begin to work the soil getting everything prepared to sow my seeds. These seeds consisted of corn, pepper, okra and pigeon peas. I sowed my seeds and spend many hot summer days working my garden watering, pulling weeds and so on and in a matter of weeks I saw the results of my labour.

My seeds sprouted and in a few short months, they were ready to harvest. I could not have been more proud of my garden and guess what my friend could not say a word because the proof was there of my vegetables that was growing so healthy. Now and again as I reflex over those years it is quite clear that because of all the organic debris that was placed in this area which rotted and some that got burned contributed to the success of my vegetable garden so ends my story. Organic matter is so important when it comes to conditing your soil to meet your plant’s needs where they will be able to thrive.

The final word

Make your sandy soils work for you by working organic matter in your soils. There is hope, all is not lost many gardeners can attest to the fact that adding organic matter made a big difference as their gardens were revived to its former glory which gave that WOW. So try these methods I know you will be glad that you did as you get the results you were looking for. Create that garden oasis as you connect with nature in the most amazing way.

10 comments

  1. Lok Which says:

    I have always had the mentality that loamy soil is the best soil to plant so I ignore the sandy soil in my area and find a loamy soil for my garden.I never had any idea if how sandy soil can be improved.This post has educated me thanks for this because. Will try this on the sandy soil I ignore and it will save me the stress of walking to where the loamy soil I found is located.

    1. Norman says:

      I am so happy that you have found this post most helpful. It is so good to know that no matter what type soil we have there can always be soil improvement. Wishng you all the best with your garden project and please let me know how it goes. Have a good day.

  2. Kenny says:

    Hi thank you for the very informative and interesting article about this soil type and how best to manage it. You clearly know what your talking about and how to get the best from sandy soil and most importantly what kind of plants to put there. Keep up the great tips and very nice visuals too. Kenny

    1. Norman says:

      Hello and thank you so much! I am so happy that I could help. It is so good to know that you can build and improve your soil no matter the type. All the best to you and have a good day.

  3. Nathalie says:

    Another great post from you, Norman! I learned about the importance of mulch in a permaculture course I took several years ago but I had no idea that it could also be used to improve sandy soil. Good to know! And I love your personal story that really shows how organic matter can really positively transform a piece of land! It’s great that you did not let your friend discourage you. I do have a question: My aloe vera plant has grown too big for its pot and my mother-in-law told me that I had to use sandy soil to repot it (I cannot plant it in a garden for now). I like to get my soil straight from nature… where can I find sandy soil in nature? I live in Northern Europe (Belgium). Thanks! Nathalie  

    1. Norman says:

      Hello Nathalie I did have the last laugh and my friend could not say anything. What you can do is to purchase pure clean salt free sand a bag will do along with a bag of garden soil and mix about a quater of sand with half of your garden soil and you will be good to go. It is better to use garden soil that is free of weeds. I know it is a small investement but what you want is to it the safe and correct way. Hope this helps and please let me know how it goes have a good day. 

  4. James says:

    Thanks Norman for your post. I’ve had issues with poor soil in the past. I think the issue in my previous garden was the soil had a lot of clay in it rather than sand. I used to use mulch in that garden and it worked well in keeping the weeds down and it made the garden look good. I loved the smell of it too!

    1. Norman says:

      Hello James so happyto meet you, it is good to know that no matter the soil type we can make improvements and still have the garden of our dreams. So happy that I could help and thanks for sharing. All the best to you and have a good day.

  5. Nuttanee says:

    What a great childhood story, I hate those people that discourage when you are trying to do something, who is laughing now ha! I gotta say that you really have a green thumb. Thanks for the list I will save them on my favorite spring is coming soon and it is gardening time for me. But gotta go do that soil test forst after this winter. 🙂

    1. Norman says:

      Hello so good to meet you. It is so great to have this kind of experience as a child and yes I got the last laugh. So happy that I could help and wishing you all the best of success.

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