Sandy soil isn’t the kind of soil that can fully support plant growth and keep your lawn healthy. It is difficult to grow plants if you have sandy soil in your backyard, especially if you have plants that don’t grow well in this type of soil.
But don’t be discouraged as everything has a solution. If you find it hard for your plants to grow in sandy soil, there are ways to fix it. First, you should check the pH level of your soil, and then, decide what amendment is best if your pH level is below 6.5.
To improve your sandy soil, you can add manure compost, organic fertilizers like Biochar, or leaves compost. You can also add wetting agents or organic soil mixture into your soil to improve its drainage, moisture level, and enhance the concentration of nitrogen and carbon, which are essential for plant growth.
In this article, we will help you improve your sandy soil by tackling the four ways to refine it. We will also discuss which tests you can conduct to determine whether or not you have sandy soil.
What Is Sandy Soil?
Soil is a natural resource categorized into different types. In this article, we will discuss one of these soil types, sandy soil. Sandy soil is light, warm, acidic, and low in nutrients. It is also known as light soil due to its high amount of sand and clay soil.
- Sandy soil has expeditious water drainage and is easy to handle. During the spring season, it is quicker to warm up but tends to dry during the summer. Sandy soil suffers from low nutrients, which get washed out by the rain.
To spot on if you have sandy soil in your backyard, check whether your soil:
- Has a gritty texture when you squeeze it in your hand;
- Easily falls in the gap of your fingers when you open your hands;
- Is filled with sand (small pieces of eroded rocks);
- Has large solid particles and no pockets, so it can’t hold nutrients and water;
- Lacks water and nutrients, making it difficult for plants to survive.
If you are unsure about whether you have sandy soil, you can perform a soil test. However, soil tests are complicated and require time and effort. Here are the various ways to perform a soil test.
- The Squeeze Test
One of the basic attributes of soil is its composition. Sandy soil is quick draining but struggles to hold nutrients and moisture. To determine if you have sandy soil, take a handful of soil, moisten it, and roll and squeeze it into a sausage shape. If the soil crumbles and falls apart as you open your hands, it is likely sandy.
- The Percolation Test
Knowing if you have good drainage is an integral part of determining what soil type you have in your backyard. To test your soil’s drainage, you need to dig a six-inch-wide and one-foot-deep hole. Fill the hole with water and watch it drain completely. Repeat the process once it drains out. Monitor how long it takes for the water to drain. If it drains quickly, then you have good drainage and likely sandy soil.
- The Worm Test
Worms are indicators of whether you have healthy soil, especially when it comes to biological activity. If you have earthworms, it means you are likely to have beneficial microbes and bacteria that make for healthy soil.
It is essential to know if you have healthy soil to know if your plants are healthy and strong. Knowing what your soil type is also important, so you can know what plants are best to grow in the type of soil you have. To conduct a worm test, you need to warm up the soil up to 55°F and moisten it. Dig a hole one foot deep and across. Then, place the soil on a piece of cardboard or tarp. Sift the soil using your hands, put them back into the hole, and count the earthworms you see. If you find:
- 10 worms: your soil is healthy.
- Less than 10 worms: your soil is acidic or doesn’t contain enough organic matter.
- pH Test
The pH level of your soil determines how well your plants grow. The pH is tested on a scale from 0 to 14, 0 meaning that your soil has an immoderate level of acidity and 14 meaning that there is a high alkaline level. Most plants grow at a fair pH level (between 6 to 7), but some plants grow in acidic soil like the sandy type.
You can purchase pH test kits to determine the pH level of your soil. Although these kits are fairly accurate, make sure to follow the instructions carefully when using them. Once you see the result, you can amend your soil if it has a low pH level.
How to Improve Sandy Soil
Sandy soil contains large solid particles like irregular shapes of tiny rocks. The large spaces between the sand particles allow the water to drain quickly. Most plants don’t survive in sandy soil, although various cacti, succulents, and sand-loving plants love that type of soil.
The first step to improve your sandy soil consists of determining its pH level. Afterward, you will know whether your soil is acidic or has a high level of alkaline. Most lawns need at least a 6.6 pH level to support plant growth. If you are having trouble with sandy soil, here are ways to improve it.
- Manure Compost
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient that helps plants grow, and manure compost can be used to improve your sandy soil. Manure is a highly beneficial fertilizer needed for plant growth.
Manure compost is usually added while tilling the soil in the winter or fall. The soil then gets enough time to soak the manure. Manure also fights against any burning threat to your plants. When your sandy soil absorbs manure, nutrients are released.
If your soil is enriched, the plant growth would have positive and healthy outcomes. Aside from the nutrients it releases, manure also helps retain the moisture level in your soil. The process of improving your sandy soil through manure compost helps increase the carbon, making it easier for plants to absorb nutrients. Manure is also classified as a slow-releasing fertilizer for plants.
- Top Dressing Lawns
Another way to improve your sandy soil is by adding a rich organic soil mixture on top of it. There should be no more than 1 cm thick of organic soil. Repeat the process from time to time to improve your sandy soil and plant growth.
- Adding Wetting Agents
Sandy soil has good drainage but doesn’t retain the moisture level needed for plant growth. Also, all its nutrients are washed away every time it rains. If your soil becomes water-resistant, adding a wetting agent is a great idea to improve its components. Those agents help the soil hold water for some time.
You should usually add wetting agents yearly, and the most popular one is vermiculite. Vermiculite helps improve the aeration of your sandy soil. It comes with a group of hydrated laminar minerals. At the same time, it enhances water and nutrient retention.
Vermiculite can either be added with compost or by itself. When plants are grown in sandy soil with vermiculite, the growth of the plant will be improved. The plants grown in vermiculite can easily absorb ammonium, magnesium, and potassium.
Here is how to add vermiculite to your sandy soil. Dig a hole 6 inches larger than the plants’ roots, then add the vermiculite mix to your sandy soil. This method significantly improves your sandy soil and helps eliminate frequent watering.
- Organic Fertilizers
Charcoal is an organic fertilizer that can improve the quality of your sandy soil. Also called “biochar,” it is one of the first organic fertilizers. Biochar is made up of straws, stalks, plants, and other agricultural waste. Its main constituent is woody, organic material.
The main purpose of biochar is to make your sandy soil more fertile and improve its quality. However, it doesn’t add any nutrients. Biochar can be mixed with manure compost or be added with beneficial organisms like mycorrhizal fungi mycelium, mycorrhizal fungal spores, and microbes.
Another organic fertilizer that can improve the quality of your sandy soil is leaves. Those help your soil light and retain moisture thanks to their minerals. They are also a great source of carbons, which help the nitrogen level in your soil that is essential for plant growth.
To make leaves fertilizer, gather leaves and put them in a container or bin. Then, soak them in water and make sure to provide them with proper ventilation. Rotate the leaves regularly to let the air be induced into the mixture for decomposition. You need to have a large number of leaves to make a large amount of compost.
Sandy soil is a very low organic material, unlike loamy, which is gifted to be the perfect soil texture for plant growth. It’s hard to grow plants in sandy soil since can’t retain water. But, after reading this article, your problem with sandy soil will be behind you. Just make sure you know the amendment you need to improve your sandy soil and avoid mixing everything.
Remember, in sandy soil, you need to tend the organic material, nitrogen, and moisture requirements to support plant growth and keep your lawn healthy.