The Q&A Archives: gardening in sandy soil

Question: We have a lot of sand in our yard so it is very hard to plant anything in the summertime here. So what do we need to do? Do you test the sand at all or the black dirt to see what is wrong with it? And why can't we grow anything in our ground? Please get back to me when you can on this. ty darlene

Answer: Sandy soil drains quickly but doesn't hold moisture or nutrients. I'd recommend amending the soil with organic matter such as compost. Start by spreading 4-5" of organic matter over the entire planting bed and then dig it in. Organic matter will help the soil hold both moisture and nutrients. After planting, maintain a layer of organic mulch about three inches thick over the soil. This will help reduce watering needs, hold down weeds, and also help feed the soil on an ongoing basis as it breaks down. Some perennials for a sandy soil and sunny location would include: yarrow (Achillea), columbine (Aquilegia), sea thrift (Armeria), Baptisia, Coreopsis, Dianthus, Lychnis, Nepeta, Rudbeckia, Veronica, and Sedum. For a shady area, with careful soil preparation including ample organic matter, you might try Viola labradorica, Ajuga, Hostas, and Pulmonaria. Spring blooming bulbs such as crocus and tulips should also do well. Best wishes with your garden beds!

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