Irrigation Tips for Dry or Sandy Soil

It can be a challenge to grow healthy grass and plants in areas with dry or sandy soil. Whether your home is in a coastal area of you have soil with a light texture, it is important to take special care when watering the soil. Lawns in desert-like conditions must be watered effectively as well. When the weather is warmer and water supply is limited, it can be even more difficult to keep sandy or dry soil watered. This is why the right watering methods are necessary.

Which Watering Styles Should You Avoid?

Surface irrigation or flooding is not the best method for crops planted in sandy soil. This method could prove to be a waste of water since the water distribution is not even. Flooding can also waste water, which is not good for the environment. When you use surface irrigation dry soil, the top of the soil will infiltrate the head of the grass or plants, and this section of the plant can become overwatered, while the roots are not getting enough water. There is also a high level of evaporation on the surface with flooding, which means the overall water efficiency is less than 50%.

The Benefits of Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation is usually a better way to water dry or sandy soil. For this method, water is applied to the lawn through drops of water. The water is applied directly on the surface or right under the surface of the soil. For drip irrigation, only the root zone is watered instead of the whole soil volume. This watering method conserves more water and can improve the overall quality of your crops. Drip irrigation can also reduce erosion and make it easier for the soil to maintain moisture in the root area.

This form of irrigation is also ideal for adding fertilizer. The drip can be applied on the surface of the soil. Alternatively, it can be applied above or below the surface, and on a variety of terrains. Recent advances in the irrigation system have brought about new dripper designs. There is also some digital technology association with drip irrigation. You can even use a wireless soil or plant sensor to determine exactly how much water your grass and plants need. This allows you to maintain ideal conditions in the soil for growth and cuts down on water waste significantly. Planting grass, trees, or flowers that do not require much water and adding mulch to the lawn or garden also helps to save water when caring for sandy soil.

Organic Matter for Sandy Soil

It is important to remember when you are tending to sandy soil that organic matter can improve the health of the soil tremendously. Organic matter assists the soil in retaining nutrients and water. It improves the texture of the soil as well, since organic matter settles between the bigger particles and plugs in spaces in the soil. There are many open spaces in sandy soil, which makes organic matter the ideal choice.

You will have to apply organic matter to dry soil more than once. If you only apply the matter once, the matter will not make the ground more fertile in the coming years. Lawns are the exception to this rule, since the soil may be tilled and otherwise changed during lawn construction.

For smaller plots of land and gardens with dry or sandy soil, it is best to add humus annually. Do this a few months before each planting season in several application phases. This will stabilize the soil and allow it to be colonized by microorganisms that maintain soil health. Some of the beneficial microorganisms in organic matter include ecto- and endo mycorrhizae, which is necessary for 95% of all plants to thrive.

What Are the Best Sources of Organic Matter?

Green manure is the best organic matter source. This is especially true for plants that grow quickly, since these plants can also rot quickly. Plants that fit this description include oats, nettles, young weeds, vetch, and clover. When these plants are tilled and turned over, they provide the soil with necessary nutrients. Green manure can also include poultry manure, peat moss old sod or sawdust, peat, and compost.

According to the Extension Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst suggests that the application rate for green manure should be six or seven cubic yards for every 1,000 square feet. Therefore, there should be a coating of organic matter of about two inches that is spread over the topsoil. On the other hand, the organic matter should make up about five or six inches of the surface soil when mixed.

Mulch for Sandy Soil

Mulch will help sandy soil retain moisture, especially when the weather is dry and hot. For sandy soil, it is best to apply mulch after transplanting and when plants in your yard are already thriving. The layer of mulch should be about two inches deep and could be applied every year, in the latter part of the fall season. Once plant growth has halted for the year, it is best to add mulch, especially for shrubs and perennial flowers and plants.

Watering Methods

Sandy soil does not hold water well. Therefore, watering the plants more often and for shorter intervals is best for ensuring the soil stays moist. Drip irrigation is ideal, and soaker hoses can work well when it comes to using water efficiently.

For plants that need lots of water, like tomatoes, you could bury pine logs about three feet beneath the plants. Once the wood breaks down, water drainage will be slower. The decayed matter also makes the soil more nutritious.

The Best Plants for Sandy Soil

The best way to grow plants in dry or sandy soil is to find plants that are naturally tolerant to dry conditions.

Plants that grow well in dry soil include red cedars and eastern white pines. These trees also make your front or backyard, especially appealing. Shrubs that are best in sandy soil include Siberian pea shrub, gray dogwood, privets, the common smoke tree, and Japanese barberry. These plants serve as great border plants and have appealing colors that can increase curb appeal.