Because most of Perth sits on ancient sand dunes, much of our soil is made up of sand, which is not ideal for gardens and lawns.
First things first – you need to be realistic! A lush tropical oasis or an English cottage garden is possible with the right reticulation and maintenance, but likely to cause nothing but headaches if not done properly in our hot climate – which involves some work!
Perth Soils – how to get the most from your sandy soil.
Selecting hardy plants more suited to our climate and local environment is important. This plan will allow you to spend more time and effort on improving the soil structure of smaller areas for plants such as vegetables and fruit trees.
Having a sandy soil isn’t all bad news; this type of soil is typically well-aerated, easy to dig and free draining, however the problems are that it has limited to no capacity to hold nutrients and moisture.
Check your soil for nutrient deficiencies to make sure you are giving it what it needs to be the right support for your plants and lawn.
Sandy soil like, we have in Perth, is often water repellent or non-wetting. In fact, Perth has some of the most hydrophobic soils in the world. A solution to this problem is to apply a surfactant-based*, high-quality wetting agent in order to break down the waxy coatings on the sand particles helping water to penetrate. After applying a wetting agent, it’s important to then apply organic matter in order to help the soil to retain nutrients and water.
You may also like to add a soil amendment such as ground rock dust. This will add trace elements to the soil which, in turn, aids to plants’ productive, reduces the risk of disease and eliminates stunting otherwise found with sandy soils.
And lastly, apply mulch – it will keep the soil nice and cool, protecting microbes from our harsh UV, reducing evaporation, and suppressing weeds – read more here for the benefits of mulch in your garden.
Sandy soils will always require ongoing effort to maintain fertility and build the soil structure but by following these tips, grouping plants together that have the nutritional and watering needs, and focusing on smaller areas, it is possible to improve the soil structure and have a healthy garden.
*For vegetable gardens, also regularly apply a mix of seaweed solution and fish emulsion to help them thrive.