Sandy soil: characteristics, tips to improve it and more

The sandy soil offers several possibilities to create a beautiful garden

It is easy to think of the beach when talking about sandy soil. And of course, in this place there is usually nothing, at least not on the seafront. Of course, this could not be otherwise, since the closer to the sea a plant grows, the less nutrients it will be able to obtain and the more urgently it will have to adapt to an environment with a large amount of saltpeter.

But the truth is that there are many types of sand, so there is no single type of sandy soil. For this reason, we have the possibility of creating a beautiful garden on that soil. It may be necessary to make some improvements, but it is certainly not unreasonable to imagine a little plant paradise in such a place.

Sandy soil characteristics

Sandy soil forms desertsSandy soil forms deserts

Image – Flickr / Matt Lavin // Sonoran Desert.

A sandy soil is one that has a very high percentage of sand (more than 70%), whose granulometry ranges between 0,004 and 2mm. Its organic matter content is very low, but on the other hand it is the type of soil that has the best drainage.. Being light and very porous, the water filters very quickly. But this is also a drawback, as it barely retains moisture, so that only plants with low nutritional needs will be able to grow in it.

According to the origin of the sand, they are distinguished from three different types:

  • Alluvial sand: it is that is transported by water, such as that of a river. It is not so eroded, so a greater variety of plants can grow in it.
  • Wind sand: it is rich in quartz or carbonates, and it is the one that the wind deposits, for example, in dunes and beaches.
  • Residual sand: it is the result of the wear of rocks rich in granite, quartz or sandstone.

Types of sandy soils

Depending on the composition and the place where we are, we can distinguish different types of sandy soils:

Dry zones

Sandy soil in dry areas is usually rich in quartz or carbonates, and is formed from wind sand. There is a low amount of nutrients, and a very low moisture retention capacity. For example, we will see this in deserts, where only some plants can grow in those few places where there is more water and nutrients.

Temperate zones

The one in temperate zones is formed from alluvial sands. Usually, comes from water tanks that were formed during some glacial period; although it can also be transported from the sea, or even by the wind.

Humid areas

In this type of area, as it often rains, sandy soils are usually young, coming from sand brought by water or wind. However, as the rocks wear down, they also create soils.

Where is the sandy soil found?

In Australia there is a large area of ​​sandy soilIn Australia there is a large area of ​​sandy soil

Desert of Australia.

Sandy soil It is found mainly in the arid and semi-arid regions of the planetbut in reality there is also it in humid climates. In any case, you should know that there is it in deserts, such as the Sahara in Africa or the Sonora in North America. In Australia, a good part of its territory is sandy soil, particularly the central and western areas.

If we stay in Spain, we have all the coasts. In addition, in Andalusia there is it on the coast of Cádiz, Almería and Huelva.

How to improve a sandy soil?

Given that the two main drawbacks of this type of soil is the lack of organic matter on the one hand, and the poor water retention capacity, what we can do to improve it is the following:

Provide organic fertilizers

Such as chicken manure or guano. Both are very rich in nutrients, so they will serve to make the soil more fertile, and also to gradually retain more moisture.

Spread a thick layer, about 10 centimeters minimum, all over the area you want to improve, and mix it with a hoe or, if you have a walking tractor. Repeat from time to time, once a month or every two months.

Order a truck of clay soil, or at least silty

When you are in a hurry, and the ground is very sandy, sometimes the best solution is to choose to ask for a truckload of clay or silt rich soil to be brought in. Once you have it, it mixes well with the soil we have and that’s it.. However, you may have to ask for more as time goes on, as rain and / or wind could restore the soil to its original state.

What plants can be grown in sandy soils?

If you have a sandy soil and you don’t know which plants to grow, we recommend the following:

Caesalpinia gilliesii

Goatee grows on sandy soils

The goatee grows in sandy soils.

Known as goatee, this is an evergreen shrub that grows over 2 meters high. Its leaves are paripinnate, glabrous in color, and 6 to 28 centimeters in size. In spring it produces clusters of yellow flowers. Resists up to -4ºC.

Casuarina equisetifolia

Casuarina equisetifolia is a tree that can grow in sandy soilThe Casuarina equisetifolia is a tree that can grow in sandy soil

Image – Wikimedia Commons / Forest & Kim Starr

Known as casuarina ponytail, is a semi-evergreen tree that reaches a height of 25 to 30 meters. It has thin leaves, similar to the needles of pines. Its flowers are not very showy, so they usually go unnoticed. It resists frosts down to -7ºC.

Cytisus scoparius

The Cytisus scoparius is a small shrubThe Cytisus scoparius is a small shrub

Image – Wiimedia / Danny S.

The Cytisus scoparius is a deciduous shrub that reaches 3 meters in height. It has dark green leaves, but they are very small. The flowers, on the other hand, are very showy, yellow in color and about 2 centimeters in size. It blooms in spring. Resists up to -5ºC.

toothed lavender

Lavandula dentata is an aromatic plant

Lavandula dentata is an aromatic plant

Known as curly lavender or lavender, is an evergreen plant that reaches a maximum height of 45 centimeters. Its leaves are dark green, linear, and aromatic. The flowers are purple spikes, and appear in spring. Resists up to -7ºC.

French tamarisk

The Tamarix gallica is a small tree that grows in sandy soilThe Tamarix gallica is a small tree that grows in sandy soil

Image – Flickr / Andreas Rockstein

Known as taray or tare, is a deciduous tree that grows between 6 and 8 meters tall. The branches are flexible, and they grow in such a way that they give the plant a somewhat “weeping” appearance. Its leaves are very small, scaly, and glaucous green in color. White or pale pink flowers bloom in spring and summer. Resists up to -7ºC.

Do you want to know more plants that can grow in sandy soils? Click here below:

Sandy groundSandy ground

Related article:

Plants for sandy and clay soils

Sandy soil: characteristics, tips to improve it and more

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