Farmer Kim is back on the blog in the second half of our two part series to answer more questions about home gardening and share her tips and tricks for nurturing healthy crops this season.

Get in touch with your green thumb and learn the ropes from Austin’s farming expert:

My soil is sandy and does not grow well, what should I do? 

How sandy is sandy? Some crops grow well in sandy soil (like strawberries, for example). Before digging in, consider if the crops you want to plant are well suited to your land capabilities and determine the timeframe for your intended garden. Are you in it for the long haul or only for the short term? That is, do you want to start a garden to cultivate this summer or do you want to rebuild the soil structure to support long-term vegetable production for years to come?

Once you’ve outlined your gardening goals, consider making the following adjustments to best accommodate your crops:

  • Build a Hugelkultur raised garden bed. This style of raised bed is smarter than your average planter box because it is sustainable for more than just one season of planting. Basically, you dig 1-2 feet of soil from where you want your garden to be planted. Then, fill the space with hardwoods that will break down over time and saturate them with water. Next, backfill over the hardwoods with the soil you just removed and form a mound shape. Top with six or more inches of compost and plant your crops directly into the compost. The plants will root down into the hardwoods for water and nutrients and the bed will be better equipped to regulate it’s own temperature and moisture.
  • Build a lasagna style raised garden bed with straw bales. This style of raised bed layers lots of straw and compost on top of your soil, and you plant into the raised layers. As the layers break down over time they feed the soil below and eventually can remediate damaged and depleted soils. There are many different recipes for effective lasagna style raised beds.

If you need proof that sandy soil can be rehabilitated, watch Geoff Lawton’s film clip From Desert to Oasis in Four Years to see how he developed the infrastructure for a sand dune desert farm in Wadi Rum, Jordan.