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Extremely Sandy Soil

paulmkennopaulmkenno Posts: 2
edited April 2020 in Problem solving
Hello, we've just purchased our first home, and with it, our first garden.  Must say that I have no experience of gardening, so I could really use some advice, as I'm very eager to get the very best out of my garden, not just for me, but for the local wildlife.

My garden soil is VERY sandy, and incredibly dry. I've tried working in compost and planting a few things, but they die almost immediately. The soil just doesnt retain it's water.

Now, I know that I could choose to grow plants that thrive in sandy soil, but I'd like other things in my garden too, so...

I was thinking of digging out deep beds and completely replacing the soil in those beds with good soil. Is this a good idea? Would this even work?

I appeal to all the seasoned gardeners out there - I'm completely in the dark on this.

Many thanks!


  • Dirty HarryDirty Harry Posts: 1,047
    edited April 2020
    How much compost did you add?

    When I removed my chips and made my border I added bags and bags of compost (120 litres a pop) and farmyard manure to a very sandy soil. The bed is 9m x 1m.

    It's obviously improved but is still a sandy soil. You could dig out and replace it all but there are plenty of great plants that can still do well in sandy soil even if it's not their absolute preference.
  • edhelkaedhelka Posts: 2,350
    I don't recommend replacing the soil. If you put more moisture-retentive soil on top of sand, it will suck out all the moisture. Water wants to go down and you can't really stop that. If you decide to add new soil, do as much gradual transition between both layers as you can.
    Multi-purpose compost isn't a good soil improver for sandy soil, it decomposes to fine dust and doesn't help much. Use either composted manure or the stuff what is sold as "soil improver". Organic matter such as grass clippings or leaf mould is also good.
    Making sandy soil better takes time. You need to get the soil biology going, the recipe for that is organic matter, moisture, sun and time. Organic matter on itself won't help.
    I would recommend planting plants that can live in your conditions initially. After some time, you can start to gradually change the type of your planting. If you decide to grow plants that need more water, be prepared to water them regularly or grow them in pots.
  • SmudgeriiSmudgerii Posts: 185
    Manure, more manure and plenty of manure...  failing that ( or plus ) any organic matter, shredded paper, cardboard, used coffee grounds.  

    Or dig trenches deep enough to take straw bales and 6-8” of your soil on top.  Once the bales are in place soak them with a strong lawn feed mix ( speeds breakdown ) and cover with your soil.  Remember to take the string off the bales.

    Over time it will all improve the soil.

  • Thank you all for the advice. I think you're all correct. I've started loading the soil with lots of organic matter, and I've started to select plants that do well in sandy, well drained soil. I've mulched around the beds that I have already planted to try and retain some of the moisture, so time will tell...

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this.
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