The Q&A Archives: Growing in Sandy Soil

Question: I am building a three tiered retaining wall. The dirt that was hauled in for the building slab above it is a type of sand that compacts very tightly. Should I try and mix something with this soil in the tiers or should I dig it completely out to a certain depth and put something else in there? I can't afford too much.

Answer: If you concentrate on growing plants that are native to sandy soil, such as yucca, cacti, etc., you won't have to improve the soil too much, but I recommend adding some organic matter, such as compost and/or aged manure. This will increase water retention and nutrients in the highly mineral soil. If you have your heart set on plants that need a richer environment, add more organic amendments or grow plants in pots of good soil sunk into the sand. Since dry, sandy soil "eat" organic material quickly, try to replenish it each year, or at least keep the soil surface mulched with grass clippings, leaves, etc., which will also reduce water lost to evaporation. Hope this helps!

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