Sandy soil can present gardening and landscaping challenges. Many plants like well-drained soil, but sand can drain a little too well for many species, leaving plant roots hot and dry. Sandy soil is also low in nutrients, and added fertilizers tend to quickly wash out of sandy ground. The best solution is growing plants that live in sand successfully, such as grapes and blueberries, kitchen herbs and many ornamental shrubs.
Grapes, blueberries and strawberries all grow in a deep, well-drained, loose growing medium with modest additions of organic matter, giving gardeners whose soil is predominantly sand a key advantage in growing these productive home fruit crops. Grapes appreciate the dry, warm air circulation above sand, which keeps down mildews that can negatively affect the fruit. Blueberries, however, also require the soil to be acidic. Acid peat, iron sulfate or elemental sulfur can all be added to sandy garden soil to increase the acidity. The University of Minnesota recommends a soil acid level between 4.0 and 5.0 for ideal blueberry growth. Beach plum also prefers acidic sandy soils and bears purple fruits ideal for jam.
Gardeners use the term "herb" to describe plants used mainly for food seasoning, according to the University of Missouri Extension. Richter's Herb Specialists of Ontario advise that most culinary herbs grow well in sandy soil, especially the popular kitchen herbs that originate in the coastal Mediterranean regions. Sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and oregano all thrive in sandy soil, as do tea herbs like hyssop, mint, lemon balm and lemon verbena, and fragrant herbs like lavender. Even roses grown for rose hips, such as the Rugosa varieties, do well. In especially hot, dry areas, adding some organic matter to the soil, such as compost or peat moss, or mulching with straw or shredded leaves, will help hold moisture in the soil.
Numerous flowering ornamental shrubs thrive in sandy soils, according to the Purdue University Extension Service. Butterfly bush, quince and mock orange all bloom in spring with fragrant pastel flowers, while pyracantha, sumac and chokeberry all provide rich autumn red berries and foliage. Bayberry adds interesting texture and tone to the sandy-soil landscape with waxy, fragrant clumps of silvery berries used in candlemaking. Juniper and red cedar for a densely needled evergreen background for your other sandy-soil plantings.
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