Growing plants in sandy soil presents challenges. Also known as light soil, it does not contain sufficient nutrients or hold water well. However, using Wakefield BioChar, you can amend and improve it so your plants, gardens, trees, or lawns can thrive. Our biochar is a plant-based, all-natural soil conditioner made entirely from recycled wood that keeps your soil healthier year after year.
What is Biochar?
Modern biochar results from organic biomass heated at a high temperature in an oxygen-free environment, known as pyrolysis. This soil amendment, used thousands of years ago by indigenous people, turned poor soils into areas of high fertility in the Amazon jungle. Called terra preta, it was made by adding charcoal, bones, compost, and manure to the soil and still exists today.
Further, using biochar on your sandy soil does more than improve fertility and provide you with flourishing plants. According to NASA, human activities have raised the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide content by over 50 percent within the past two hundred years.
However, the biochar manufacturing process reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by converting decomposing biomass to a fixed carbon that is sequestered into the ground. Once added, biochar remains in the ground for decades, if not centuries.
Identifying Sandy Soil
Of all soil types, sandy soil is probably the most easily identifiable. Pick up a fistful of it. If it feels gritty and quickly runs through your fingers, you are likely dealing with sand. Conduct a settling test using a large glass jar, a cup of soil, and water. Place it in the jar and add water to fill it. Shake the jar well and leave it for at least eight hours. If the water is clear, you are dealing with sandy soil.
Sandy Soil Composition
Sandy soils are formed by the erosion and weathering of rocks. It consists mainly of silicate minerals, such as quartz or feldspar. On a micro-level, sand contains calcium, potassium, and sodium. Small quantities of heavier minerals, such as tourmaline or zircon, are also present.
Biochar and Sandy Soil Conditions
As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), sandy soil must contain at least 85 percent sand and no more than 10 percent clay or 15 percent silt. There are five categories:
- Very fine– 0.05–0.10 mm in diameter
- Fine– 0.10–0.25 mm in diameter
- Medium– 0.25–0.50 mm in diameter
- Coarse– 0.50–1.00 mm in diameter
- Very coarse– 1.00–2.00 mm in diameter
Sandy soil has the biggest particles. It also is the most porous as there are large empty spaces, or pores, between the particles. That is why water moves through it so fast and ranks among the lowest for organic matter content. Plants are especially vulnerable to drought because sandy soils do not hold water well. In addition, it is prone to compaction, another disadvantage. Certain pests and diseases are found more often in sandy soils.
On the plus side, sandy soil characteristics include:
- Good aeration
- Good drainage
- No stickiness
- A long growing season, starting in early spring
Biochar improves sandy soil in several ways
The “Role of Biochar in Improving Sandy Soil Water Retention and Resilience to Drought,” published in Water, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal in 2021, states that “Incorporating biochar into sandy soils could result in a net increase in the surface area, a stronger hydrophobicity at a lower temperature, and an increase in the micropores to maximize gap spaces.”
It also aids in nutrient retention and preventing runoff and fertilizer leaching. By using biochar on sandy soil, there is less need for watering or extensive use of fertilizer. The overall workload is reduced while soil productivity is increased.
Challenges of Sandy Soil
Sandy soils present various gardening and agricultural challenges. These include the following:
- Rapid water drainage–Sandy soils dry up quickly after a heavy rainstorm. For some purposes, that is an advantage, but it’s not the case when growing most types of plants.
- Nutrient leaching–Sandy soils are relatively low in plant nutrients. The same ability to drain water quickly also means that nutrients in sandy soil leach out fast.
- Wind erosion–Sandy soil is more susceptible to wind erosion due to its coarse texture and weak aggregates. Because sandy soils do not hold water well, the vulnerability to wind erosion is greater than that of more moist soil types.
- Acidity–Sandy soils are usually acidic, making growing plants that prefer an alkaline environment difficult.
Amending Sandy Soil
As noted, biochar is a sustainable solution for amending sandy soil. In Catena, An Interdisciplinary Journal of Soil Science, a study published in 2022 revealed that sandy soil amended with biochar had its available water capacity increased by 28.5 percent. Adding biochar reduces the space between soil particles, boosting water retention.
At the same time, biochar helps to reduce the rate at which nutrients leach from sandy soil. It is usually applied to soil along with compost to add nutrients. Using biochar for sandy soil also increases the number of beneficial microorganisms while decreasing soilborne pathogen development.
Learn More from Wakefield BioChar
At Wakefield BioChar, we offer premium biochar, a compost and biochar combination, and premium compost for consumers. Choose the right biochar for your soil’s needs. Improve and amend sandy soil for higher productivity in your garden.
Better Soil. Better World.