Growing vegetables in sandy soil is a challenge because sandy soil lacks sufficient organic matter to hold fertilizer and moisture. Organic matter provides trace minerals and provides favorable conditions in the soil for beneficial organisms to live. Vegetable plants grow best in soils rich in organic matter. If the organic matter is lacking such, as in sandy soils, vegetable plants may be stunted or lack vigor. To plant vegetables in sandy soils, the soil must be enriched with the proper amount of organic matter and other recommended amendments.
Choose an area to prepare the garden that contains sandy soil, three months before you begin planting vegetable plants. The area should receive at least six hours of direct sun each day. Preparing the site early will allow the added organic matter to decompose properly without affecting plant growth. Organic matter uses nitrogen present in the soil as it decomposes and the lack of nitrogen affects plant growth. That is why you should only use well-rotted compost and manure.
Remove all weeds and plant growth to prepare the garden. Spread a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of well-rotted compost over the planting area. Work the compost into the top 5 inches of soil and rake the area smooth. Do not elevate the sandy soil garden location unless water stands or washes into the area. Raised beds will dry out quickly, even with the added organic matter.
Take a soil test six weeks before planting vegetable plants. For assistance with taking a soil test, contact your local county agricultural extension office, or use a home testing kit. A soil test will tell you what other amendments the soil is lacking for successful vegetable production. Sandy soil lacks many nutrients because rain washes them away. The organic matter helps hold the nutrients in the soil, but is not a substitute for them.
Add recommended soil amendments into the soil at the recommended rates according to your soil test. Work the soil amendments into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil.
Plant the vegetable plants or seeds 1/2 inch lower than the required depth. This allows for settling of the sandy soil and keeps the plants closer to the moisture in the soil. Add a layer of mulch, hay or other coarse organic matter around the base of the plants, once they begin to grow, to prevent moisture loss and control weeds.