Planting for sandy soil

Anyone who possesses heavy sticky clay soil will always pine for a light, sandy soil, yet this is not the best soil. Although much easier to cultivate, the main problems with a light sandy soil is compaction and the inability to retain water and nutrients.
As the sand particles are small, rain will wash through these particles and cause them to ‘pan’ or form a hard surface crust, making it difficult for young plants to establish. This type of soil is free draining, so although it can be easier to dig in autumn or spring, saving your back, it will dry out quickly in summer so plants need to withstand periods of drought. It is this rapid loss of water that leaches out nutrients also, so to sum up, plants will be hungry, thirsty and slow to establish!

The key step to improving sandy soil is the addition of organic matter in large quantities, year after year. Manure, compost, green waste, leaf mould, or mushroom compost – all contain something called humus – a black fibrous material formed from organic matter of decomposed plant or animal residues. This will coat individual soil particles, helping retain water, nutrients and give structure to the soil.

Some planting ideas to get you started are...

Helictotrichon sempervirens

Amelanchier lamarkii
Cercis siliquastrum
Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’

Jasminium officinale

Agapanthus ‘Bressingham White’
Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’
Kniphofia ‘Little Maid’

Artemisia ‘Powys castle’
Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Heavenly Blue’
Philadelphus coronarius

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