Do I need to remove sand before putting soil down where above ground pool was removed?

Asked May 7, 2015, 12:38 PM EDT

We just removed a 24' round above ground pool. I am left with about 1" of sand over the area. Can I just put top soil on top of the sand or must I remove the sand? (I have no place to dispose of the used sand.)

Westmoreland County Pennsylvania master gardener program

1 Response

I would till the sand into the soil underneath. You have terrific soil compaction because of the weight of the pool. If you put top soil on without loosing up the compacted soil, you will create a hard pan that will be very difficult for plants and water to penetrate. Rain water will sink down to the hard pan and then run off carrying your plant nutrients into the creeks and streams. The best way to proceed is to till down as deep as you can and mix in your sand and some soil conditioner like peat moss or composted leaves and wood chips. Once you have a good foot of soil that is loose and can hold water, you can add your top soil. Vegetables like a foot of good topsoil to spread out their roots. Then I would top dress your soil with a couple of inches of good compost to increase the microorganism activity. Finally, mulching with wood chips, shredded newspaper, and straw will cause those microorganisms to rot down the wood products into the soil as a natural fertilizer for your plants.
If you don't want to amend your existing soil, you can create a raised garden and fill it with good top soil. Over time, the soil and mulch in the raised bed will act on the subsoil by organic acids that leach downward. This is a slower method of breaking up the compacted soil, but will give you good results in your vegetable patch.