Sandy loam!?

jitsmith(5)March 26, 2014

Starting 2 flower beds this year, goal is a "crammed full" mix of perennials and annuals. Decided to get a soil test - 1 evergreen shrub grew well in the area, 3 roses not so well.

CSU says I have sandy loam, deficient in Nitrates and Organic Material, low in lime. Phosphorous and Potassium are high. They recc compost for 3 years, apply .3lb N per 100 sq ft, and beware of quick draining.

I'd planned to use mulch around perennials and Alyssum as a goundcover all through the annuals this year, accepting a need for a lot of handwatering and caring. I really wanted to avoid a whole year of plants standing anti-socially amidst mulch that's turning more unattrractive by the day. Now it sounds as if I need to mulch the whole beds to retain water, blocking the groundcover idea - Alyssum isn't going to grow over mulch, is it?

I thought clay soil was norm around here; I've been busily reading up on how to grow in it, improve it - and now I don't have a clue what to expect from this soil. Searched "Sandy Loam" on GW - lots of stuff about trying to get it clay-ey, lots of folks pissing and moaning about it.

Anyone with experience with this soil in this area? Is an inch a week a bad estimate for watering in it? Anything else you might recommend adding, this year or down the road? Any plants I can expect to be more difficult than normal?

I Wintersowed (Springsowed?) a lot of alyssum this morning along with some tender annuals, just before getting the e-mail from CSU. Sorta spinning in place now, seeking reassurance.

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Just found out that we used to be in the Cherry Creek floodplain before it was walled. That helps explain why we have sandy soil. I didn't even think of that, the Creek has been walled since I've lived here.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 2:13PM
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OK, I've taken a deep breath. Several, in fact. And realized I've seen just about everything I want to plant this year, growing somewhere in my neighborhood.

If a plant needs well-drained soil, I'm ahead of the game. If it needs moist, well drained I'll need to pay close attention, water and mulch well. Maybe I'll put a few more in containers - I need some height, anyway. Some will do well, some won't. There's nothing really different there from what I was expecting. These first years are going to be about experimenting and learning. CSU should be a reliable guide for the soil.

As Gilda put it, never mind. Excuse the doom and gloom newbie gardener. Well wait a minute, what about over-watering . . .?


    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 5:43PM
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gjcore(zone 5 Aurora Co)

I also have sandy loam though if I dig down more than 6 inches it's more like beach sand. Needless to say it drains quickly. Compost certainly helps a lot.

An inch per week is approximately what I water the vegetable areas. The flower and herb areas get maybe 1/2 to 2/3 as much sometimes less. Once those areas get a bit more established I'll try cutting the water back further. Usually run the irrigation twice per week. I doubt that my sandy soils can be over watered. During the September monsoons I noticed that some of my beds organic matter seemed to disappear and returned to sandy soil. Not sure where the loam part went.

All in all sandy loam is easy to work with.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 8:04PM
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Thanks for the advice gjcore, real good place to start with mine. Are you using drip irrigation?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 12:09PM
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gjcore(zone 5 Aurora Co)

I use some drip hoses. From what I can tell by digging around after the drip hoses run is that the water does not spread out but goes directly down. Mostly I have gear driven sprinkler heads.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 6:34PM
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