most peaches and plums kind of like sand we have a native plum we call sand plum the melons cucumbers even squash and carrots should be happy in sand. many things i have not mentioned as well. just look for plants considered to do well in sandy soil. I think sand is a bit easier to deal with than clay. you may need to water much more frequently as often as twice daily for say tomato or cuke. You can always try to find a patch of clay to trade some with as sand improves clay and clay improves sand organic matter improves all soil types.
There's the rub. I have sandy, gentle slopes that get little water. We get 25 inches per year (average) and, of course, most of that in the winter and spring. We can go two to three months without a drop in the summer (although this summer has been kind).
I have a spot that seems swale-ish and there is no great growth of stuff there. Two years ago I dug a 50 foot long swale, lined it with plastic and filled it back in with my sandy soil. No noticable change their either.
Permaculture appears to promise a great deal, but I'm slightly discouraged. I'm willing to try some more experiments, but would really like to hear some words of encouragement from somebody that has already travelled this path.
Your best bet would be to incorporate compost or peat into the sand in the areas you want to garden. Actually raised beds would solve the problem nicely for that situation as you could really control the soil in the beds and not worry about the other ground. You just need to adapt the permaculutre method to what you have to work with, the time you have to spend on it, and the $$ you have available to invest. Permaculture methods/system does not happen quickly and it is an ongoing project over a lifetime. Start small and work out from each area as you master each step.
A few spots are at the top of a hill and hardly anything will grow there. And then there are spots at the bottom of the hill (a sort of valley) where lots of things grow just fine. Makes me think that the soil has run downhill. Although the soil is so gravely, I think "down between the gravel" trumps "downhill"
Paul, is it too dry in your area to grow alfalfa? It does really well on pure sand here but we get about 40 inches per year. It roots down several feet and puts nitrogen into the soil. The ph level has to be high if it's to do any good, but that can be raised with Ag lime. Another possibility is growing Christmas trees. Most of these are grown on sand in Michigan.
We are on nothing but sand where I live here in Lexington County SC. We were a beach only a couple of million years ago if not less ... now we're about 90 miles inland as the crow flies. But the sand here is so fine and white we ship it all over the country to use in golf course sand traps.
Incorporate wood shavings into the sand ... you maintain the integrity of the land moreso than adding local clays, etc., for slight water retention qualities. After that just stick to common sense fertilizers ... we have a lot of poultry farms around here so my neighbors provide me with all the manure I can use ... usually mixed in with the wood chips from the poultry houses.
Blackberries, grapes, persimmions, peaches, cauliflower, strawberries, cactus, gardenias ... all love sandy dry rocky soils with little to no added nutrients. So do tomatoes. My wife and I are thinking of giving olive trees a try soon.
FWIW I hobby farm a little over ten acres here and do reasonably well - I keep the wife happy and I enjoy what I do byu mixing it in with my home based web site design business ... plus I own a rather large premium content web site of my own.
You can do a lot with sandy soil ... but you have to recognize it for what it is and that is that it is not much of a growing medium without a little help. Although, if you choose the right crops it will provide a nice little income for you and yours.
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