Sandy Soil Natives

This is my first foray into sandy / loose soils.  Up until this year, most of my gardening has taken place in mature suburban yards.   Places with some pretty ugly clay when you dig down.  Thank goodness for the class I’m taking.  I have learned about sand as a soil and how to work with it, and where possible, improve it.

There is a plant for every place.  You just gotta know where to find it, and try not over love it. 🙂

For me I want my efforts to support more than low maintenenance or a pretty face.  I want it to be a mother to everything that it can.  May I introduce: Keystone Plants for food webs.  This is a concept I just learned from the Cheyenne Habitat Heros workshop I’m attending this week.

A Keystone plant is one that supports the most interactions between plant and animal and more importantly – how food energy is transferred between plant and animal.   Examples of this are bees using pollen and sucrose secreted from herbaceous flowers to produce honey for bee babies.  Catepillars eating leaves to provide energy to pupate and become butterflies.  And going up the food chain catepillars provide a food source for hatchling birds.  These birds then become food for predators.   So how do you get such abundance of wildlife in your yard?  You must feed the things convert plant energy.  To learn more see:   Habitat Assessment Guide for Pollinators in Yards, Gardens, and Parks

Visit your local garden center to see what they sell for sand loving plants.  Since I do not live in the area I’ve looked online.  Here are my favorites I’ve found so far.

  • Butterflyweed (Keystone)  – Its NOT a weed!  Asclepias tuberosa boasts being a banquet for many.
  • Helianthus (Keystone) — sunflowers make everyone happy especially the Silvery checkerspot
  • Goldenrod (Keystone)  —
  • Dill — easy to find, easy to grow, and hey – look at this lovely catepillar.


Other plants

Dalea Purpurea  – in the legume family and can provide smalll amounts of nitrogen back to the soil.

Koeleria macrantha

Yucca Glauca – purchased seeds of these.

Amorpha canescens – leadplant. This nitrogen fixing plant will help provide nitrogen needed by trees. 

Lanceleaf Coreopsis

Lupine -still looking to see if there is one for the eastern plains.  In the southwest its a low growing plant, good in dry sandy soil.  Palmate foliage.  Lupine is the only host plant for the rare Karner Blue butterfly. Habitat loss has led to the decline in Lupine plants in the wild, and put the Karner Blue on the endangered species list. Leaves that have been fed upon by Karner blues have distinctive transparent areas where the caterpillars have selectively eaten the green fleshy parts. Lupine is also a host plant for the Frosted Elfin and the Eastern Persius Duskywing butterflies.

Trees for sand

Found at site for xeric landscapes.

Robinia pseudoacacia
Purple Robe’ locust
35 x 25
Compound leaves emerge with purple tint. Dark purple fragrant flowers in May to June. Very susceptible to locust borer.

Robinia pseudoacacia L. black locust  This high nitrogen fixing tree can grow up to 60′ with spring blooms.  High drought tolerance.  Will see if this is recommended in

The Homestead’s Plan

Weld County Colorado.  The native restoration efforts in a sandy soil is at the Homestead.  A family farm whose been without a guardian for a decade.  A place tenderly balanced on the verge of desertification. Much of the moisture producing farms to the west are now open mined sandpits.  And land is being converted to warehouse.   To stave off this decline, its ever more important that the farm be a front to the encroaching heat syncs.

So with the additional pressure of less potential moisture, the need to best utilize available water is ever more important.  In comes a two prong approach.

  • An irrigation plan (Read more)
  • Plants for Sand

The USDA CRP program is  grasslands.  Their mixes lack the abundance a natural environment might have when it comes to feeding birds and the animals needed to raise young.

I am looking into an opportunity to test a certified gardeners knowledge to create a food web in harsh conditions.

The homestead is an 11 acre plot with a farm house and a few outbuildings.  In the past year, efforts focused on eradicating invasive weeds.  Multiple passes of herbicides including a pre-emergent for seeds have left bare ground.  This is sand on top of sand. The goal?  To replenish and introduce food sources for the bird population that finds itself on an island.  There is so much space here to share.

With the need to get a good grass/wheat matrix planted, most of the herbaceous plants will be in select areas added after seeding has taken place.



Other nice plants:

Astragalus crassicarpus Nutt.  groundplum milkvetch- nice looking – but don’t know if this is available commercially.

Lupinus argenteus  silvery lupine – wide spread but you can only get seeds from less known suppliers.

They say legumes have innoculant bacteria that is specific to the plant- so does that mean many of these will not survive outside soils they currently grow in?

Psoralidium tenuiflorum (Pursh) Rydb. slimflower scurfpea .  This looks very similar to plants growing in openspace near home.

An amateur gardener who loves to watch the garden grow.