How to Grow Grass in Sandy Soil

Sandy soils are made up primarily of sand particles, which are larger than the particles that are predominant in clay or silt soils. Because water drains away quickly from the relatively large spaces between the sand particles, sandy soils dry out quickly, and they also don't retain soil nutrients as effectively as denser clay and silt soils. In some ways, however, sandy soils have an advantage over heavier soils. Sandy soil is easier to work, and plant roots can more easily grow through the soil. Sandy soils drain quickly, so are also less prone to problems with standing water, which can injure or kill turf grass. The Montana State University Extension service suggests that the ideal soil composition for lawn turf grass consists of 70 percent sand, 15 percent clay and 15 percent silt. Any soil with sand content above 50 percent is considered to be "sandy soil," so many sandy soils are actually well suited to growing turf grass.

Sandy Soil for Grass

Grass Varieties for Sandy Soils

Some turf grass species are especially well adapted to growing in sandy soil. Several warm-season grasses, which are most often used in lawns in warmer climates, are able to grow well in the sandy soils prevalent in much of the South. These species include bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum), centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides), carpetgrass (Axonopus affinis) and St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secondatum). Bahiagrass is winter hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 10 , centipedegrass in zones 7 to 8, carpetgrass in zones 8 to 9, and St. Augustine grass in zones 8 to 10. Among cool-season grasses suitable for lawns in colder climates, Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), which is hardy in USDA zones 2 to 7, is able to grow in sandy loams with sand content above 50 percent.

Soil Amendments

Sandy soils can usually benefit from the addition of organic material, such as composted manure, ground bark or peat moss, which will help the soil to retain both moisture and nutrients. Incorporating 2 inches of organic material into the top 6 inches of the soil before seeding will significantly improve the texture of soils with a high sand content.

Fertilizing Sandy Soils

Turf grass grown in any type of soil will benefit from the regular application of fertilizer, but sandy soils may require even more fertilization to make up for their lack of nutrient-holding ability. In general, you should fertilize new turf once a month with a balanced dry fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn, so, for example, a 10-10-10 fertilizer should be applied at a rate of 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Sandy soils should get an additional pound per 1,000 square feet of nitrogen-only fertilizer in between applications of the balanced fertilizer.