If your yard has sandy soil, you might be thinking that you won’t be able to have a lush green lawn. However, this could not be further from the truth. You can definitely have a great lawn. It just takes some understanding of how sandy soil drains, as this will impact your watering habits.
In today’s post were going to walk you through:
- How to grow grass in sandy soil
- The best grass types for sandy soil and when to plant them.
- How to amend your soil surface for success.
How to Grow Grass in Sandy Soil
Sandy soil is notoriously porous and does not retain moisture as well as other soil types.
The large spaces between the sand particles allow water to pass through quickly. If you have a sandy yard your main problem will be maintaining proper moisture, but if you follow the steps below you will have no problem growing a beautiful lawn.
In fact, sandy loam is one of the most common soils found at golf courses, which are obviously known for having great lawns.
Follow these steps and you’ll have a lush lawn in no time.
Get the Soil Tested
The first step before planting grass seed or amending your soil is to get it tested.
These results will help you know what you’re dealing with and whether or not you need to improve the soil before moving forward.
The test may also prevent you from wasting your time and money and help you avoid adding any soil amendments that you don’t actually need. At the same time, if your soil is lacking anything you will know exactly what it is and how much you need to add.
You can get the soil sample tested for free from your local county office, which might take a while to get the results back. If you need speedy results, you may want to get the sample over to your local county extension office for a fee, or buy the DIY soil testing kits.
Other than testing for nutrients, these tests also check for pH levels in the soil. The optimal pH level should be between 6 and 6.5. When the soil’s pH level rises, the levels of nutrients such as iron and phosphorus drop. If the pH levels drop, the level of these nutrients rises and may become toxic for your lawn.
The soil’s acidity is also crucial to your lawn’s overall health, since some grass species require slightly acidic soil. Taking soil samples to be tested will save you a lot of guesswork and eliminate extra work from your hands.
NOTE: Don’t take a soil sample for testing if you have recently fertilized the area, as the results will not be accurate.
Prepare the Soil
Once you have had the soil tested and know exactly what you’re dealing with, it’s time to start prepping the soil.
If you are working with an already established lawn, you can skip this step and move on to the next section which covers amending sandy soil.
However, if you’re planting a new lawn you’ll want to till the soil at least 8-10 inches deep to remove debris both buried and on the surface. Tilling this deep also helps to reach dead roots that might inhibit the grass’s growth in your yard.
Next, spray the area with a non-selective weed killer like RoundUp to kill any weeds and other undesirable plants you don’t want in your lawn.
Tilling the soil also makes it vulnerable, weak and easily washed away by the water if it rains. That’s why you need to create a rocky barrier around the yard to prevent soil erosion. These rocks also help to slow down the water entering the yard, hence limiting the damage. You’ll also want to make sure your lawn is level to prevent water from flooding into one area.
How to Amend Sandy Soil
Sandy types of soil have very few nutrients for any plants to thrive.
This is because the large sand particles create huge gaps and air pockets in the soil which allow water and other soluble nutrients to pass through fast and out of reach for plant roots.
In its pure form, sand has a neutral pH level of 7 and 2.1. However, these numbers can vary depending on the soil it’s mixed with and the percentage of sand in this mixture.
As mentioned above the target pH is between 6-6.5. If your soil sample test shows that you need to raise the pH of your soil you will want to add lime. On the other had if your pH level is too high adding citric acid, or sulphur can decrease it.
Amending the sandy soil to retain moisture will help to keep grass in your yard healthy and thriving. The easiest way to achieve this is by adding organic matter such as compost and manure to the soil. The trick is to add at least 2 inches of organic material to the top 6 inches of the soil.
Compost and manure are rich in essential nutrients that will keep your lawn happy. Organic matter also helps to build the soil structure and improve its ability to retain moisture.
The best time to add compost to the soil is during summer since it breaks down fast in warmer weather. Adding fertilizer is also a great idea, but only when you don’t have compost or manure to use. Repeat this process at least twice a year.
Seeding and Watering
Grass seed tends to do well when planted during fall and spring, depending on where you live.
The process of planting grass seed in sandy soil is the same as any where else, with a few exceptions:
- For starters, you need approximately 16 grass seeds to occupy one square inch. Planting too many seeds in close proximity will result in overcrowding and lead to weaker grass since the seeds will be fighting for nutrients in this area.
The best way to ensure proper seed coverage is to use a fertilizer spreader on it’s lowest setting to spread the seed. You should make multiple passes in different directions until you reach the desired seed density per square inch.
- To obtain good germination, make sure you bury the seeds an1/8th inch deep in the top soil and that they’re in great contact with the soil. This will allow moisture from the soil to enter the seed and induce the germination process.
- Once the seeds have been planted, cover the area with peat moss or seeding straw to maintain moisture. Water frequently and monitor closely to see if the grass is growing. You should expect to see results within 7-28 days, depending on the type of grass.
If your lawn is already established you will simply follow the steps for overseeding, while taking into consideration proper soil moisture management and fertilizing amendments needed for sandy soil conditions.
The Best Grasses for Sandy Soil
With over 12,000 grass species in existence, choosing the type of grass that thrives in sandy soil is critical.
Out of these species, only a few of them can handle growing on sandy soil and withstand all the conditions that come with it.
Grasses that grow on sandy soil are divided into two categories cool season and warm season grasses.
All the grass types listed below can be successfully grown in high sand content soils, the most important consideration is choosing a grass type the is appropriate for your climate.
For example, even though Bermuda Grass is probably the most common grass type used by golf courses and grows well in sandy soil, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, that would not be a great grass for you to choose.
This species of grass grows well in spring and fall, where temperatures range between 60-750F. It’s common to find this type of grass in the upper two-thirds of the US in areas such as the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, New England, and Upper Midwest. These grasses include:
- Tall Fescue
- Fine Fescue
- Perennial Ryegrass
- Kentucky Bluegrass
Tall and Fine Fescue grasses have a high tolerance for drought, heat, and cold. On the other hand, perennial Ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass have a medium tolerance for drought, heat and cold.
This type of grass species comes from tropical regions and has a higher tolerance for drought and heat. They can withstand high temperatures between 75-900F, making them perfect for sandy soil yards. This species of grass thrives in the Gulf States and Southern California where sandy soil types are naturally occurring and they include:
- Bermuda grass
- Centipede grass
- St. Augustine grass
- Zoysia grass
Since these grass species do well in warmer areas, you should expect them to turn brown and go dormant during winter once temperatures reach close to freezing.
They will only retain their color once the winter season has passed and the temperatures have started to rise. The good news is that if temperatures stay relatively warm all year where you live, you can expect to have a healthy lawn all year long.
Growing grass in sand is possible! Having sandy soil in your yard is actually ideal for providing a great substrate to keep your lawn. Sandy soil drains quickly and will prevent a muddy yard. Testing your soil will help you determine what is missing in it and the necessary steps you should take to improve it. By choosing the best grass seed and amending the sandy soil to add nutrients and retain moisture, you should be able to grow both cool and warm season types of grass in no time.
Sandy Soil FAQ’s
Can you lay sod on sand?
Sod can be laid on sand. It is important to make sure that the area you are going to lay sod is level and has minimal low or high spots. Most sport fields and golf courses grow their turf on sand.
What type of grass grows best in sandy soil?
Most grass types can grow well in sandy soil, so it’s really not an issue. It’s more important to choose a grass for your growing zone and to understand that you may need to water more often, especially in summer months, as sandy soils don’t hold water as well as other soil profiles.