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Some Thoughts about Desert Soil and Fertilizing

By Glenn Flyer, 6 March, 2011

Desert soil is a lot different than the soils back east, or the mid west farming soils. Desert soil tends to be very high in calcium, which also makes the soil alkaline. It can also make the soil very hard.

Plants can take up minerals and elements much more readily in an acidic soil than an alkaline one. The calcium hampers the uptake by bonding with the various minerals, and sitting in the soil.

Sometimes desert soil is also high in sodium. Sodium is toxic to plants. Fortunately, sodium can be washed away with a good rain or watering.

There are 16 elements/minerals in the soil that plants need. If 15 are present, and one is lacking, that one lacking becomes a limiting factor to plant growth.

For example, a citrus tree may be exhibiting chlorosis, an iron deficiency. One can give the tree nitrogen to help green it up, but that isn't going to help the iron deficiency. An iron chelate would be what is needed.

As for the nitrogen, it does tend to be lacking at times. It is used up most quickly from the soil and needs to be replenished. Nitrogen works best in the proper form.

When one adds ammonia to the soil, it is not readily useful. The ammonia must first be turned into nitrates by the soil organisms, and then can be used for greening up the plant.

If one adds nitrate, it will green up the plant immediately. For example, fertilizing with ammonium nitrate. The nitrate portion is used immediately, but the ammonia part will get used sometime down the road, after it is turned into nitrate.

When fertilizing, it's best to use smaller amounts more frequently, than a large amount once. Plants can be burned with too much.

Since we do not always know what may be lacking in the soil, use of a good general fertilizer is helpful. It doesn't have to be a fancy, expensive brand name.

During spring, when plants are beginning to grow, is a great time to apply fertilizer.

Time to Fertilize?

By Glenn Flyer, 13 Feb, 2011

Time to Fertilize Soon...

Hopefully the freezes are over as we head into spring now. As trees, bushes, shrubs, groundcovers begin to grow again, it will be time to start fertilizing again. For the evergreens out there, we don't fertilize over the winter because the ground and roots are too cold to absorb. If the plant is dormant, it won't absorb for that reason.

The exception is winter rye grass that needs to be fed during the winter. A medium nitrogen fertilizer works great.

Citrus can be fed now, in Feb, before the white blossoms start blooming. If you feed citrus during the bloom, the flowers may fall. If the flowers fall, there goes the season's fruit with it. After the citrus bloom is over, they can be fed again.

Queen Palms should be fed also. Being native to the Amazon, and its nutrient rich soil, it will very easily develop a nutritional deficiency in our nutrient anemic soil. Regular feedings, with the right fertilizers, are important to keep them looking good. And, of course, Queen Palms need lots of water. The Amazon gets a lot more rain than we do in the deserts.

Anything else that is growing should be fertilized, too.

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