Soil types: Sandy Soil

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What is sandy soil?

Sandy soil doesn’t behave too differently to the sand you’d find on a beach. If you pick some up and rub it between your fingers, it will feel gritty compared to types of soil like clay or silt. In addition, any lumps will break apart quite easily and, unless very wet, it won’t hold together easily if you squeeze it in your hand.

sandy soil

Sandy soil has a gritty texture and is not very good at retaining water or plant nutrients

Advantages of sandy soil

The relatively large particles which make up sandy soil are responsible for making it drain very readily, as it’s easy for water to flow between them. This loose texture also makes it easy to work with, and few plants will struggle to establish their roots in sandy soil (as long as they get enough nutrition and water).

Soil that is low in nutrients is ideal for growing wildflowers.

Disadvantages of sandy soil

The free draining property of this soil means that it doesn’t require much of a dry spell for the soil to be totally devoid of moisture and so unless you choose very drought tolerant plants, you’ll need to get out the watering can and sprinkler often over summer.

As well as being unable to hold water, sandy soil struggles to hold many nutrients, and any additional fertilizer you add can be quickly washed away.

flowers and foliage of sedum plants

Embrace the properties of sandy soil by growing drought tolerant hardy plants such as sedums

Plants for sandy soil

If you’re a keen gardener, and willing to keep plants well fed and watered, there isn’t a great deal of restriction on what you can grow in most sandy soils. Of course, those that thrive without water will do particularly well.

If you can’t be bothered with the high maintenance some plants require in this type of soil, root vegetables are known to grow much better in sandy soil than other types and, apart from keeping weeds away, shouldn’t require much input.

Plants for dry soil

These plants do particularly well in dry, sandy soil

sea thrift growing wild on a cliff top

Sea thrift is a UK wild flower that does well in sandy soils

  • Lavender and other meditteranean herbs such as rosemary and thyme
  • Tulips
  • Achillea
  • Dianthus
  • Poppies
  • Salvia
  • Sedums

Ground cover plants for sandy soil

If you need low maintenance ground cover for a sandy soil, Sedum matting is ideal.  Once established it needs little or no irrigation, it flowers all through the summer and is a magnet for butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects.

Growing a lawn on sandy soil

If you are growing a lawn on sandy soil, choose turf rather than seed - it will establish quicker.  Always use a pre-turfing fertiliser and remember to feed regularly between March and November.  Topdressing the lawn in autumn will help to add heart to the soil.

How to improve sandy soil

The best way to improve sandy soil is by increasing its ability to retain moisture and other benefits, such as holding nutrition, will follow. Adding compost or coir is a good way of generally improving the soil in this regard.

Burying manure or other organic matter around new plants will give both moisture retention and nutritional benefits.

Other types of soil

Know your soil type

Clay soil

Loam soil



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