How to grow stuff on sand/rocky soil, in temperate climate?

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I live in the west of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in the vicinity of an industrial/harbor area. My neighbourhood has a LOT of open/unbuilt/wasted area. A great part of it is laying fallow waiting to be built on (in a number of years?), a part is waiting for a company wanting to establish itself there, and large areas are unused in between office and warehouse construction. There's also an almost completely unused It's not a populous area, but does have a lot of traffic.

I'd like to beautify it, but I encounter the problem of not knowing what to sow on rocky sand. You see, Dutch construction companies have the habit of levelling an area out using construction sand. Great to build on, but afterwards the only things that grow (and at first, only very cautiously), are grass and thistles.

So there are literally acres waiting to be planted by an enthiousastic individual, but not much wants to grow there.

The climate: mild, with wet winters and somethings (near) freezing temperatures, warm summers with occasional dry-spells lasting up to a month. The sand drains away water quickly. Groundwater usually a meter deep.
The issue: how to make something of sandy rocky hard to dig in earth, that either drains water extremely fast (or hardly at all, if it's packed really tight). Preferably cheaply (seed?), since there's a large area to cover (one plant wouldn't make an impression), and I'm on a budget ;)

Image impression:
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/214/496200639_82eab7e462.jpg
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/213/496171438_c5f160c678.jpg
(yes, there's a local plant predator to be spotted in the pic ;))

Re: How to grow stuff on sand/rocky soil, in temperate climate?
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2008, 11:17:29 AM »
Go cacti and succulents, things that occur in sand naturally like the plants that grow on beachside dunes. As they grow and thrive tehy'll lay down organic matter that other plants will be able to utilise eventually.

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llj71

Re: How to grow stuff on sand/rocky soil, in temperate climate?
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2008, 04:28:22 PM »
There are many types of salvia that are easy to grow in poor soil. I have some that is doing well in a small plot that was dirt mixed with a lot of broken up asphalt. That was quite the shock when I stuck my shovel into the ground! All I got was a loud clank. 
Ice plant is something that spreads like crazy, but can be invasive in Mediterranean climates.