Landscaping in Sandy Soil

Here in South Florida we tend to have sandy soil, especially along the coast. The majority of our state used to be under water, after all! The soil that developed from the exposed ocean floor has retained its sandy texture, which can sometimes be a hindrance when landscaping your yard.

While the large pore space between sand particles allows for plenty of oxygen to reach plant roots, it doesn’t retain water or nutrients like silt or clay-based soils – unless there is a layer of clay underneath the sand that causes it to hold water. Consequently, non-native ornamental plants can have a difficult time surviving in your yard. There are a few things you can do to improve the quality of your sandy soil to better suit your plants.

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Tips to Plant in Sandy Soil

  1. Add organic matter to the soil to help it retain water and nutrients. Organic matter includes the remains and waste from anything that was once living such as dead grass, compost made from food scraps, and manure. This material provides the essential nutrients that plants need and releases them slowly over time as opposed to fertilizer, which tends to quickly release the nutrients all at once.
  2. The issue with soil high in sand content is that the large particle size of sand allows water and nutrients to flow too quickly through. It drains before plant roots have the chance to uptake any moisture or nutrients. By adding organic matter, the soil is able to absorb water for longer periods of time, and the naturally-occurring negative charge on clay and organic matter bonds with positively-charged nutrients to keep them from leaching out before your plants can use them. The smaller particle size of organic matter helps fill in the large pores found in sandy soil, improving the texture and slowing the flow of water.
  3. Water your yard and plants using a drip irrigation system as opposed to putting out a large volume of water all at once. When water is applied too quickly over a sandy soil, the water tends to pool at the surface which can cause roots and the bases of plants to rot, then percolates so quickly through the soil that the roots are unable to take up the water they need. Most of the water is wasted, and you’ll have to water much more frequently to keep your plants alive. Drip irrigation, on the other hand, slows down the release of water so that the roots have a longer chance to soak up the moisture.
  4. Don’t forget to mulch! The goal when dealing with super sandy soils is to do what you can to improve its ability to retain nutrients that would ordinarily escape, and mulch does just that. Apply mulch in garden beds and around shrubs during the fall, and reapply annually. The layer should ideally be about 1-1.5” thick. In addition to its functionality, mulch is also an inexpensive and easy way to beautify your garden by adding rich color to your beds.
  5. Use well-adapted plants whenever possible. The easiest and best way to ensure you have a thriving garden when your soil is sandy is to use plants that naturally grow in dry, low-nutrient soils.

Big Earth Landscape Supply has the compost fertilizer, mulch, soil and gardening tools you need to cultivate the most beautiful yard on your block. Stop in one of our locations today, or shop online for even more convenience.