If you're like many people who live near the ocean or a large lake, you probably struggle with sandy soils on a regular basis. Sandy soils are difficult to garden in because they lack the ability to hold the water and nutrients that most plants require in order to thrive. Although some homeowners in your position simply give up and do their gardening in containers rather than struggle with sandy soil, there are soil-building strategies designed to help you grow your garden right in the ground. Following are three effective ways to improve your sandy soil.
Plan to Use Mulch After Planting
Water retention is a serious problem in sandy soils, but applying a heavy layer of mulch after planting significantly slows down the process of evaporation. It also helps keep plant roots cool when outdoor summer temperatures are high as well as provides insulation from cold snaps in winter. Good mulching materials include bark dust, wood chips, or even straw or hay. You can also use inorganic materials for mulch, but they don't provide the added benefit of providing organic nutrients to the soil.
Plant a Cover Crop for the Winter in Vegetable Gardens
One of the worst things that can happen to any soil is for it to sit bare over the winter after the autumn harvest is finished, but it's even more damaging to sandy soils because these soils are more susceptible to erosion. Winter cover crops include red clover, buckwheat, rye, and winter-hardy varieties of oats. Cover crops help minimize weeds, and their roots systems help hold the soil in place, making it less vulnerable to being damaged by erosion. The cover crop can also be tilled into the soil in early spring to add extra structure and organic matter.
Amend the Soil With Compost Prior to Planting in Spring
Working compost into the soil prior to planting in the spring provides the soil with structure as well as with organically sourced nutrients. However, gardening in sandy soils requires an ongoing approach — adding compost, for instance, isn't something you simply do once and never again. Even if you plant cover crops to minimize erosion, it will occur to some degree, so plan on including adding composting to your list of gardening priorities to be completed on an annual basis.
If you follow these three strategies, you'll still have significant amounts of sand in your soil, but it won't be so bad that you'll be unable to grow anything in it. For more information on soil and additives like compost, contact a local landscaping company.