In many parts of the Coachella Valley, sandy soils and rock-and-sand soil combinations are common. They have excellent drainage, but tremendous amounts of water must be applied frequently to keep plants alive when temperatures soar. Rapid soil drainage and frequent irrigation leaches (washes) plant nutrients, particularly nitrogen, away from plant roots. This results in a need to replenish these nutrients more often.

Because of the rapid leaching of nutrients from the root zone, it is best to apply fertilizers more often and in smaller doses.

The availability of fertilizers packaged for specific plant types and uses reduces the need to do your own mixing of nutrients. Commercially available citrus food, rose food, palm food and lawn fertilizer help make fertilization programs simple.

After many years of testing in commercial projects and in nursery growing operations, slow-release fertilizers have become useful products for the home gardener. They can be added safely to the soil mix at planting time in close proximity to plant roots. They provide proper nutrients over many months, reducing time and expense, while improving plant growth.

Liquid organic fertilizers are easy to use. The reaction period is fast and safe, and they can be applied more often. Groundcover plantings and newly planted annuals and perennials respond favorably to liquid fertilizers. As with all fertilizer products, read and follow product labels carefully.

Here in the Coachella Valley, there are three key reasons not to overuse fertilizers. First, the accumulation of salts will weaken both plant health and soil structure. Second, too much fertilizer will promote new growth flushes and increase insect damage. And third, rapid growth means an increased need for water – something we definitely want to avoid given our current drought situation.

Sources: Lush & Efficient and