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Plants for shallow soil with sand sub layer

Hi all,

Our garden is fundamentally a slope that has been terraced by filling up the void with sand. There is good quality top soil of around 15cm/6" (years of rotted leaves) and i have room to raise this a maximum further 5cm/2" to a total of 20cm/8" before roots would reach the sand.

I assume this is not good!?

In addition to planting bulbs (as they grow upwards not downwards is the theory here?) and plants in pots:

Can anyone please recommend any plants, grasses, trees, shrubs, perennial, biennials, annuals (anything!) that would actually enjoy these conditions?

To add to the complications its woodland edge/partial shade kind of lighting conditions.

Plant names, links and anything useful gratefully recieved.

Much appreciated and thanks in advance.


  • LoxleyLoxley NottinghamPosts: 4,961

    There's a lot you can grow. Especially if you continually add organic matter. Think how sand dunes are colonised by plants! At Methyr Mawr, there are oak trees growing on the stable dunes, further out there are sea buckthorn, gorse, broom, wild roses (pimpinellifolia?) and plenty of grasses and wildflowers. There's a list of plants from the RHS here.

  • How steep is the slope, how high are the terraces and what is the soil like underneath the sand?

    Unless the slope is very steep, there will be soil available for roots fairly close to the surface at the rear of each terrace, the sand getting deeper as you move to the front. If the soil has some water retentive properties,  then plants may still be able to find water by sending their roots down deep, but if it is free draining you will be restricted to plants that can live in dry shade.

    An additonal problem is that the sand will not give much support to taller plants, which could be at risk of blowing over.

    If the slope is not too steep, the walls not too high and the soil decent you should be able to grow a fairly wide range of plants that like your conditions. Leaf mould is good for organiic matter but low in nutrients, so you may need to add some manure or other feed before planting.

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