BRIAN KIDD: How to get the best out of sandy soil
Thanks to David fromÂ Hayling Island who writes to say he has a very sandy soil which dries out during hot summers. He asks if I wouldÂ write about how to deal with this geology.Â It is good to know you enjoy these articles David.
Sandy soil is easy to work. It warms quickly and is excellent forÂ growing all root vegetables.
But it does dryÂ rapidly and nutrients in the soil often drain away in heavy rain. The same applies to city soils where the ground has been cultivated for years: itÂ becomes dark and light in texture. In fact these black soils are gradually turning to silt. Mother Nature can help. Work with her, perhaps over years, so the soil structure can be gradually improved.
For many years gardeners have used seaweed as a manure. This is what is needed to improve light soils. Seaweed isÂ gelatinous, full of jelly. If mixed with straw it's great forÂ improving light soils.
Here's an experiment. Imagine you'reÂ in the kitchen making jelly. Pop a cube inÂ your mouth. As the jelly dissolvesÂ put a drinking straw in your mouth and slide it across yourÂ tongue. NowÂ sprinkle sand on someÂ paper, take the straw from your mouth and roll itÂ in the sand. What happens? The sand sticks to the straw. ThisÂ is what we'reÂ going to do. Adding straw and seaweed to the groundÂ will make the sand bind toÂ the straw and seaweed.
Start another new composting regime using just straw and seaweed, but keep composting kitchen waste in it's own bin.
The method. Take a freshly-dug areaÂ and use a compostÂ bin, an oldÂ dustbin upside down or surround the area with boards ensuring there are no gaps between boards and no holes in the sides. If you can't do this,Â use a wire surround and inside peg old compost bags so as much moisture as possible isÂ keptÂ in the new heap.
OnÂ the soilÂ place a layer of straw. Strawy manure is OK but the layer must only be fourÂ inches deep. Add an activator such as Garrota orÂ sulphate of ammonia dissolved in water. This must be evenly sprinkled, not poured '“ two ouncesÂ per gallon of water orÂ use urine, diluting oneÂ part in sevenÂ parts water.
Add a four-inch layer of any kind of seaweed. You may gather this from any public beach without being told off! Add the activator again andÂ a four-inch layer of straw. After every layer add the activator. This is essential. After each layerÂ cover the top immediately with old carpet or plasticÂ bags to retain the moisture, ammonia gas and naturally-forming warmth.
Once the container is full, cover again and soak the heap with sulphate of ammonia, oneÂ gallon to each square yard surface, sprinkled slowly. Cover.
In twoÂ months you'llÂ have one of the finest mediumsÂ for sandy soil, justÂ like peat, andÂ you'll be able to fork it into the soil in spring. Work it into the top inches or scatter onÂ top because there'llÂ be no weeds.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Hosta buds are now poking through and it's the time tiny slugs eat through them so in spring, as leaves unfurl, there are neat holes in the leaves.
To stop this, crush lots of eggshells, using a rolling pin to produce fine chippings, and put a generous layer round the shoots or sharp sand or sharp grit over the soil. Vermiculite will also do the trick.