Nitrogen Fixing Plants for New Zealand Food Forest Gardens

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Nitrogen fixing plants are a very special type of plant that lives in symbiosis with nitrogen fixing bacteria. The plants form nodules on their roots and release nitrogen in to the soil.

With many of these plants, they only release the nitrogen when the roots die, so it is good to have some of these plants that you chop and drop before they form seeds – plants will send the nitrogen up to the seeds which is why animals like chickens that eat large volumes of seeds have high nitrogen poop!

You can grab the PDF of nitrogen fixing plants here

Benefits of increasing nitrogen in the soil

The benefits of having more nitrogen rich organic matter in the soil include:

  • higher general productivity, especially in fruiting plants
  • richer and more diverse soil life
  • more available phosphorus
  • higher availability of various other nutrients
  • higher capacity to hold nutrients

What type of plants fix nitrogen?

Generally speaking, legumes are what you are after if you want to fix nitrogen in to the soil. There are other nitrogen fixing plants, but not all of other families of other plants are nitrogen fixers. So if in doubt, plant a legume! Otherwise there is quite a substantial list of nitrogen fixing plants below.

What are the best nitrogen fixing plants?

The most commonly used nitrogen fixers are clover, beans, peas and lupins. This is because they are easy to obtain, the grow fast and tolerate most climates and they make great chop and drop mulch in a food forest garden setting.

There are however, many many other plants that fix nitrogen in the soil. These range from cover crops, to herbs, to flowers to whole trees!

The best Nitrogen Fixing Plants to grow in your Permaculture Garden or Food Forest

Here are the best nitrogen fixing plants for your garden or food forest, they are split in to plant types, then listed alphabetically.

Nitrogen fixing trees

Autumn olive
Black Locust
California mountain mahogany
Cape Broom
Cherry silverberry
Chinese Yellow Wood
Chinese licorice
Evergreen laburnum
Golden chain tree
Inga tree (tropical)
Japanese Pagoda
Kentucky Coffee Bean
Laburnum trees
Locust tree
Mesquite trees
New Jersey Tea
Persian silk tree
Purple Coral Pea Shrub
Redbud/judas tree
Russian Olive
Siberian Pea Shrub
Silverberry (Elaeagnus x ebbingei)
Silverthorn/thorny olive
Silver wattle
Tamarind (tropical)

Nitrogen fixing cover crops / green manures

Alfalfa (perennial)
Asparagus pea
Bean, Fava/Bell
Lespedeza, Annual
Lespedeza, Serciea (perennial)
Pea, Field
Pea, Winter
Peanut, Perennial (perennial)
Sun Hemp

Nitrogen fixing flowers

Bladder Senna
Californian lilac
Chinese wisteria
Dyers greenweed
Earthnut pea
Glandular senna
Indigo (all Indigofera genus)
Purple Coral Pea Shrub
Spring pea
Tree lupin
Wisteria, American
Wisteria, Japanese
Wisteria, Kentucky

Nitrogen fixing edible food plants / vegetables

Beans, Bush
Beans, Garbanzo
Beans, All Others (black, anasazi, lima, kidney, etc.)
Beans, Snap
Beans, String
Breadroot (Prairie Turnip)
Peanut (Groundnut)
Peas, Green
Peas, Snap
Peas, Snow
Peas, Sweet

Nitrogen fixing herbs

Licorice, American
Licorice, European

Nitrogen fixing vines

Bean, Scarlet Runner
Bean, Wild Groundnut
Groundnut, Fortune’s
Groundnut, Price’s
Hog Peanut
Kudzu (Japanese arrowroot)
Pea, Beach
Pea, Butterfly
Pea, Earth-Nut
Peas, Vining Garden Peas
Vetch, American
Vetch, Bitter
Vetch, Tufted
Vetch, Wood
Wisteria, American
Wisteria, Japanese

Nitrogen fixing plants pdf list for food forest

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