Sandy soil is not always easy for gardening but there several vegetables that not only tolerate sandy soil conditions but actually thrive in them. Come see which ones you can grow.
10 Best Vegetables for Sandy Soils
This list from High Value Veggies by Mel Bartholomew is provided by Cool Springs Press.
Which food crops do best in sandy soil?
Crops with deep taproots love light, loose, and well-drained sands.
These soils drain so rapidly, however, that even in water-abundant climates, vegetables suited for sandy soils must thrive in low-water and low-fertility conditions.
This list comes from the book, High Value Veggies by Mel Bartholomew, author of the infamous Square Foot Gardening series.
- Carrots do best in loose, sandy soil that allows for straight growth. If your soil is less than ideal, consider growing a “ball” variety”.
- To get the most nutrition out of your carrots, scrub them clean but do not peel them. Most of the vitamins reside close to the surface and peeling carrots removes nutrients.
More Tips: How To Grow Carrots Indoors
- Parsnips are woodier than carrots and have a complex, spiced sweetness.
- Use fresh seeds: parsnip seeds rapidly lose their viability after just one year.
- While we tend to focus on the roots, the tops of beets are the most nutritious part and can be steamed or sauteed.
- Fresh beets can be refrigerated for up to five days.
- Radishes are fast-growing and ready in 4-6 weeks.
- Sow radish seeds every other week for a continuous harvest.
- Rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano are all candidates for sandy soil.
More Tips: Getting Started With Herb Growing
- Onions can be planted from seeds, seedlings, or “sets”—small bulbs.
- If your cool-weather growing season is short, it is best to plant sets.
- Bulb onions are ready to harvest when the stalks turn yellow.
More Tips: Growing an Onion That Has Sprouted
- Plant garlic in fall after first frost.
- Softneck garlic is the type commonly found in the grocery store. Be sure to choose a cold-hardy variety.
- Hardneck garlic is cold hardy and has a straw-like center stem—the bulbs form off it.
- Elephant garlic is not technically garlic and has a milder flavor.
- Potatoes are their own seed source.
- Use only certified disease-free seed potatoes to ensure success.
More Tips: How To Harvest & Store Potatoes (and what to do when they’re green)
- Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, meaning it will regrow each year.
- Choose varieties such as Jersey Giant for maximum productivity and disease resistance.
More Tips: How To Plant Asparagus
- If you love turnip greens, overplant. Crowd the plants together when seeding, and wait for the greens to get just big enough to pick, and then harvest the entire plant to thin out the plot. It’s a great way to have abundant greens and plenty of turnips.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is sandy soil?
When we say soil is “sandy,” we are describing the texture of the soil.
The Soil Society of America defines soil this way:
“Soil is a mixture of minerals, dead and living organisms, air, and water.”
Soil texture, which is formed by mineral particles, has three groups based on relative particle size from large to small:
Most soils are some combination of sand, silt, and clay.
Sandy soil can be quite challenging.
But not all sandy soil is the same, of course. Your garden may be moderately sandy or extreme like mine is—much like sand on a beach.
While it sounds counter-intuitive, sand particles are the largest particles—much larger than silt or clay particles.
This is why sandy soil is typically fast-draining and low in organic matter. Those large particles allow lots of open pathways for water and compost to flow right through it.
Silt and clay soils are better able to trap and hold water and nutrients.
What can I do to improve sandy soil?
Before you do anything, it’s really helpful to know exactly what you’re working with.
- Test Your Soil Composition
Do a basic home soil test to get an overview of your soil type. This shows how to test the basic composition of your soil.
- Get a Soil Test
A professional soil test from an accredited lab can provide a good baseline understanding of what you’re working with. We compared a home soil test kit versus a lab test and did not find the home kit useful. Our local lab is geared toward agriculture but we still found the test results informative enough to make it worth paying for.
If possible, test several locations in your growing space since there are very likely variations.
Once you’ve confirmed your soil is sandy and (likely) low on organic matter, there are several ways to successfully grow.
- Choose Plants That Like Your Conditions
Learn which native and non-invasive species do best in your existing conditions. It’s far easier to work with existing conditions rather than trying to change the nature of the beast.
- Amend Your Soil Ongoing
Use your soil test results to determine which amendments are needed. My garden is extremely sandy with very low organic matter so I add compost to the soil surface ongoing. I used to dig it in but I see better results with a no-dig approach. Plus, I can only produce so much compost each year so I apply it where I think it’s most needed.
Amending the soil might sound like a contradiction if you are choosing plants that like the existing conditions but that’s because it’s a spectrum. Every plant species is different and there are always some that will benefit from the ongoing application of compost and the rest won’t mind it.
- Use Containers For Special Crops
If you want to grow vegetables, fruits, or herbs that do best with richer (not sandy) soil, use containers like raised beds, flower pots, and window boxes. This will allow you to buy quality soil and compost and put it exactly where you need it.
I prefer growing all crops in containers because it’s easier to manage and cuts down on how many seeds wash away after sowing.
Square Foot Gardening: High-Value Veggies
Homegrown Produce Ranked by Value
by Mel Bartholomew
High-Value Veggies is an easy-to-use reference book that will help you choose edibles that make the most financial and spatial sense for your space. Explore the thought processes and math behind growing vegetables and herbs in order to craft the best plan for you.
Seed Starting for Beginners
Sow Inside Grow Outside
by Melissa J. Will
NEW EDITION | Everything you need to get started with indoor seed starting for indoor and outdoor plants. Grow what you want—any time of year!
This ebook is a digital file (PDF format) you save to your device. It is not a physical product.
PayPal, Credit Card, Apple Pay
Available for Canada & United States only.
Other Soil Types
Free Online Soil Calculator Tool
Estimate how much you need and what it will cost.
- Garden beds
- Raised beds
- Window boxes
- Flower pots or urns
- Potting mix
Garden Soil Tips
Soil | The upper layer of earth in which plants grow, a black or dark brown material typically consisting of a mixture of organic remains, clay, and rock particles.
Mulch | Placed on soil, organic mulch can protect soil, retain moisture, and gradually fertilize the garden.
Leaves | Finely chopped fall leaves make excellent mulch.
Leaf Mold | Decomposed fall leaves beneficial to soil structure.
Compost | Decomposed organic matter providing nutrients for the garden.
Potting Mix | Contains no soil: designed to optimize plant growth in pots.
Seed Starting Mix | A lightweight potting mix for sowing seeds in containers.
Soil pH | Knowing your level (which may vary) is informational, not a call to action. Most soils fall in the range of 5 to 8 and accommodate a wide range of plants.
Free Soil Calculator Tool | Estimate how much you need and what it will cost
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛