How to Grow Grass on Sandy Soil

Growing Grass in Sand is Difficult

To grow grass anywhere requires not only soil and water, but nutrients, air, sunlight and reasonable soil stability. Attempting to grow grass in sand or upon very sandy soil can be more than challenging if these essential requirements of plant growth are not met.


Sandy soil is often a difficult growing medium for three primary reasons:

  • Most sand offers little nutrient value.
  • Sand alone does not offer stability for roots
  • Sand does not retain moisture long enough for plants to absorb it.

Growing Grass Successfully in Sand

The best time to plant new lawns is in spring as soon as favourable conditions allow, or alternatively, in the very early autumn which still allows new grasses time to develop substantial root systems before going dormant for the winter.

  • Remove detritus from the lawn surface area, level and fill in holes. Always remove tree roots with care, and only as necessary to avoid killing the trees.
  • Cultivate the soil by hand or with a mechanical rotary tiller or cultivator to a depth of four to six inches. Cultivation aerates the soil and encourages natural flora and fauna. If the top layer of soil is pure sand, digging deeper may also mix some underlying clay or loam into the sand which will be beneficial.

Ray’s Expert Tip: Test the sand content of soil by placing a cup in a clear glass jar. Add a quart/liter of water and shake the mix thoroughly, then let it settle undisturbed for a day or two. The various soil components will separate into layers with the sand at the bottom and the lightest organic materials at the top. If the test shows few components other than sand, a substantial addition of organic content will be required.

  • Spread peat moss and other organic material evenly over the surface and rake, working it into the soil. If peat moss is unavailable, use other organic materials on hand such as chopped hay or straw, well-composted manure, leaves, compost, old sawdust, or grass clippings.
  • Add three inches of rich compost and another inch of top soil to areas that are all sand. Add commercial fertilizer at a rate of two to three pounds per 100 square feet of surface area. Excessive fertilizer will damage newly-sprouted grass seedlings, so use sparingly. Work the nutrients into the sand with a shovel, tiller, or cultivator and finish by raking the area smooth and level.
  • Seed the area uniformly with a mechanical seeder or by hand in two separate applications–the first application in one direction and the second application at a right angle to the first–the main objective is to seed uniformly. Use four to five pounds of grass seed for each 1000 square feet of area.

Grass seed germination rate declines as it gets older; use fresh seed for best results.

  • Rake the surface lightly to encourage the seed to settle into the soil.
  • Roll the surface with a weighted roller to press the seed firmly into the soil. Contact of seed with the soil is essential for uniform germination. Tamp firmly where a roller will not go in small areas. Tamping can be accomplished with a flat trowel or a suitable piece of dimensioned lumber.
  • Lay out a single layer of burlap, clean straw or coconut fiber over steeply sloped areas to stabilize the soil until the grass is rooted. The burlap or other organic material will slowly decay and add its nutrients to the soil
  • Water the surface with a fine mist. Avoid watering so heavily that water accumulates on the surface and begins to flow and carry the light grass seed with it.
  • Water daily, increasing the amount of water as the grass develops.

Growing Tips

  • In extremely dry weather, sprinkle a thin, even layer of grass clippings or chopped straw over the new grass seeding to help maintain moisture in the soil.
  • Instead of seed, plant grass plugs, stolons, or cut grass “sprigs” in a uniform pattern as recommended by the supplier.
  • Prepare soil for sod the same way as for seeding. Unroll the sod and stagger the joints between pieces. Roll the sod with a lawn roller and water it daily.
  • Begin cutting the grass after it reaches a height of about three inches. Using a lawn mower that has a sharp blade set at least two-inches high for the first cut will help avoid damage to the young, delicate root systems.
  • Leave the grass clippings on the lawn for the first two seasons to help build the sandy soil into a rich top-soil that supports a lawn to be proud of.
© Raymond Alexander Kukkee
 

Raymond is a freelance author and writer who practices traditional and experimental gardening using natural, sustainable methods in the challenging Zone 3 environs of Northwestern Ontario. Read more articles by Raymond.

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