Growing Tomatoes in Sandy Soil: Do Tomatoes Grow in Sandy Soil?
Both heavy clay soil and sandy soil can be challenging for tomato growers, and although both soils can be improved, sandy soil is much easier to work with and can bring results faster.
Tomato plants differ in size and shape, but some indeterminate tomatoes may grow quite large with roots spreading wide and deep - with proper soil, such plants can provide a rich harvest for months.
Published: February 9, 2024.
Tomatoes prefer soil that is slightly acidic, rich in organic matter, that drains well, and that keeps the moist and nutrients well.
Some tomato plants develop roots up to 16-20 inches (40-50 cm) deep and up to or even more than 24 inches (60 cm) wide (from the central stem) - smaller, determinate varieties have much smaller root balls, but nonetheless, even they may significantly benefit from good soil.
Sandy Soil Features
Sandy soil is well-aerated soil that drains very well, even too well.
Because of that, sandy soil can't retain moisture and nutrients well, requiring gardeners to water and fertilize plants often - some of them even use a water-dripping system with liquid fertilizers added to the water.
But, if you have a garden with soil of sand-box consistency, such soil can be amended relatively quickly and easily, at least when compared with clay soil, although the methods are practically the same.
How to Amend Sandy Soil
The easiest method for growing tomatoes and other plants in sandy soil is to amend the soil of the whole garden patch:
- In autumn, spread a 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) layer of manure, worm casting, compost, dried manure pellets, and similar organic fertilizers, combined with some peat moss or similar material and rototill them in the soil, at least 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) deep.
- By spring, the organic matter will slowly seep down into the soil, improving the quality of the soil even deeper than the rototiller may reach.
- In spring, add a new 2-3 inches layer of organic fertilizers (aged manure, dried manure pellets, peat moss, compost, slow-release NPK fertilizers, good potting soil) and again, rototill them at least 8-10 inches deep.
After that, grow tomatoes as you normally would, just be aware that in the first growing season or two, the soil will still be very sandy below 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) and that it may still require frequent watering.
To improve the soil even further, it is recommended to add organic fertilizers regularly (autumn, spring, and as required), monitor pH at various depths, and add organic mulch - mulch protects the soil from sun and wind, prevents weeds but it also decomposes over time, improving the soil structure, refeeding the plants, and keeping the soil slightly acidic.
If you don't want to amend the soil in your entire garden patch but still want to grow tomatoes, there are a few other options, including:
- growing tomatoes in grow bags,
- growing tomatoes in pots and containers,
- growing tomatoes in raised beds,
- of growing tomatoes in holes and trenches in the sandy soil.
Making Holes and Trenches In Sandy Soil
Growing tomatoes in holes and trenches in sandy soil is very similar to growing tomatoes in holes and trenches in clay soil or in grow bags or pots, ...
Basically, one has to make:
- Holes in the sandy soil: 20-30 inches (50-76 cm) wide, 12-16 inches (30-40 cm) deep. The width depends on the type of tomato and the intended number of plants in a single hole. On average, a 24-inch wide and 16-inch deep hole is large enough for one large tomato plant or for 2-3 smaller ones. But, the larger the hole, the better.
- Trench in the sandy soil: dig a trench 20-24 inches (50-60 cm) wide, 12-16 inches (30-40 cm) deep, and as long as you please.
Now, fill the holes and/or trenches with a mix of aged manure, compost, peat moss, and potting soil, and add some balanced, slow-release NPK fertilizer.
When filling the holes and trenches, don't forget that the soil surface will settle down over time at least 1-2 inches - initially, make the soil surface in holes and trenches 1 inch higher than the surrounding soil.
Plant tomato seedlings, add support, add some mulch, water regularly, prune them, add some fertilizers when required, and enjoy a rich harvest.
Next year, make holes and trenches in the sandy soil where tomatoes and similar plants haven't been grown for a few years, and in current holes and trenches, plant veggies and herbs that grow well after tomatoes, like leafy greens, legumes, cabbages, alliums (onions), cucurbits (cucumbers, zucchinis, etc.), carrots, basil, oregano, thyme, etc.
Over time, the soil from your sandy garden will be completely amended and improved.