As a gardener, you can’t have a thriving garden without healthy soil that balances mass and drainage. Otherwise, garden plants will be feeble and may die early. Knowing how to make sandy loam soil is not as easy as it may sound, but if you invest your time and energy, you will surely be rewarded with the healthy soil you need for a pleasant and productive garden.
Characteristics of Sandy Loam Soil
The typical components of soil are sand, silt, and clay. Each part is beneficial to plants, but you need the right balance of all three to have a productive sandy loam soil mix. Plant roots live in the ground. They dig into it to find water and nutrients. Delving deep in the soil also enables the plants to remain upright and stable in the garden. Clay is a compact and thick type of soil. It contains nutrients for plants and works well to stabilize them. However, water can’t pass through it very easily, so your soil mix also needs to have sand and silt in it.
Although other plants thrive in water or marshlands, most garden plants do not do well in wet soil, so adequate drainage is essential. Sand, with its large particles, doesn’t give plants stability or nutrients, but it drains water exceptionally well. Silt loam has smaller particles than sand, which is why it helps if it’s mixed with clay and sand.
What Is Sandy Loam?
Loam usually has about 43 to 50 percent sand, less than 50 percent silt, and about 7 percent clay. But any reasonable mixture of these components can serve as sandy loam potting soil.
Sandy loam balances the different soils to make the perfect garden soil. It is well-draining and porous. This means that water flows right through it, avoiding watery soil. Adequate water passes through the soil, slowing down to let the plant roots to get the nutrients they need. Sandy loam is both crumbly and loose, allowing more room for air, which is also necessary for plant growth. Some gardeners prefer this type of soil as it will be easy for them to bury wires through the soil with the use of wire burying tool.
How to Make Sandy Loam Soil
- Test your soil to determine its components using the jar method. Place 1 inch of soil into a clear jar and fill it about two-thirds with water. Shake the jar for about a minute, then place it on a smooth surface. Keep the jar in the same spot for two days without moving.
- Using any market, mark the levels of sediment that have formed after one minute then mark it again after four hours. After two days, check the final soil height. The bottom layer is the sand, the second layer is the silt, and the third layer is clay.
- Estimate the distances between each layer and the overall height of the soil. This process will help you determine the percentage of sand, silt, and clay. It is necessary to know before altering the soil as it provides your starting point.
- Shovel the soil that you will use into 1-gallon containers, then pour it into a large container for mixing. Get rid of any debris, rocks, or roots from the soil and break up any large masses before measuring.
- Based on the soil test, determine how much sand and organic matter you will need to add to produce sandy loam soil. Sandy loam is usually made up of 50-70% sand, 20% clay, and 10- 50% silt or organic matter. So, if you have 40% clay, you will need to add more sand or compost to cut the percentage down.
- Mix the soil thoroughly until all of the new soil components are distributed evenly.
- Do another jar test on your new sandy loam soil to make sure that it has the correct amounts of each component.
You might think that the process ends when you mix the correct percentages of clay, sand, and silt; however, that is not the case. You need to improve your sandy loam soil slowly but surely, building it up over time.
In addition to your mixed sand, what turns clay soil into loose, loamy fertile soil is organic matter. Combining organic matter into the soil year after year will add nutrients and make it more porous. It can also attract beneficial insects and other organisms to help make your soil healthy. Organic compost works best for this.
You can make a DIY organic compost by beginning a compost pile in your backyard, adding kitchen peelings, and dry garden wastes, letting them compost over time. Alternatively, you can opt to buy organic fertilizer. Add a layer of your organic compost – 2 or more inches – to the top of your soil and before planting. For heavy clay soils, you may need to do this at least twice a year. In a few years, your soil will be sandy loam. Get more tips about plant soils.
Sandy loam soil is ideal when planting garden plants because it has a light, airy texture and rich, medium-dark color. The composition of sandy loam allows enough oxygen to reach the roots of the plants. The sand enables adequate drainage, while the loam preserves moisture for plants to use later. By knowing how to make sandy loam soil, the average gardener can improve the overall health of his garden. Learn more about preparing soil for gardening with Garden Fan.