Planting Nitrogen Fixers Near Fruiting Plants?

xentar_gwMarch 15, 2010

Some Internet searches have come up with planting nitrogen fixers, such as the elaeagnus family near nut trees, to give them "Free" fertilizer. I know that Autumn Olive and Russian Olive are considered invasive, but some consider Goumi plants as less invasive in certain areas, because of its difficulty to propagate from seeds.

I understand that you wouldn't want excessive nitrogen near trees that are not blight resistant, like apples, pears, quince, and you probably wouldn't want them near persimmons or elderberries, where excessive nitrogen causes a combination of tree growth and fruit drop, but what about peaches, chestnuts, chinkapins, blueberries, blackberries, plums, grape vines, citrus, passiflora, figs, pomegranates, or kiwis?

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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

I hoped you might get a more explicit answer from a pro who knew more about these specific plants, but that hasn't happened. Here's what I know.

'Nitrogen fixing plants' cover a *huge* spectrum, and their ability to do more than somewhat augment their own growth with the assist of their symbiotes also varies wildly.

In the research you have done, you may be conflating a couple of different processes/problems. Nitrogen fixing plants will contribute some to the soil nitrogen, depending on growing conditions. "Excess nitrogen", on the other hand, rarely has *anything* to do with neighboring nitrogen fixers. Their effect is just not that strong. "Excess nitrogen" generally has to do with too much added fertilizer.

You're thinking too hard...

Nitrogen fixing plants may make a difference in a vegetable bed where you are rapidly succession-planting, or planning on same-season rotating crops. These are very short-term pluses and minuses.

When thinking of planting shrubs and trees, or berry bushes, or fruiting vines, any nitrogen fixers are most likely to be a 'little blip' at very most. Their mutual compatibility and health will depend *far* more on sun/shade conditions, soil quality and water availability.

Don't worry about nitrogen fixing in these conditions. Just don't throw a lot of commercial fertilizer on your lawn adjacent to those trees and shrubs.....

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 8:42PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

My Goumis are getting quite large, over my head. I am trying some native legumes this year for potential nitrogen fixing plants, like Amorpha, Dalea, and Psoralea. Some are hard to germinate. Runner beans might be nice growing up into a tree, especially with the red flowers that attract hummingbirds.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 10:18PM
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chills71(Zone 6b Mi)

excess nitrogen can cause fruiting plants to grow at the expense of fruiting. I have Autumn Olive and Goumi next to a bunch of trees and I cannot comment on the effect on fruiting because all the plants next to the Eleagnus sp plants are much younger. I can tell you that my nectarine next to the goumi seems to have grown much better than either of the nectarines or peaches not next to a goumi.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 9:47PM
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I just planted two autumn olives under two of my dunstan chestnut trees, and I'm trying to root more autumn olives and goumi plants as we speak. I'll probably plant one near my hybrid chestnut/chinkapin trees when some of these take root.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 7:25AM
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brotherjake(5A UT)

I read somewhere that nitrogen fixers, Autumn Olive specifically, are commonly planted in nut orchards. Evidently they help with both growth and production. I can't say for sure with fruit trees, but they are supposed to help with nut trees.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 3:08AM
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I wish there were more comments in this thread. I spent hours researching (looking up online) this topic and I was hoping to find my answer in this thread. I like what Linda wrote: I hope it's valid. I would think that, perhaps, that answer is correct for native nitrogen-fixing shrubs like Shepherdia (buffaloberry) spp. Yet, I might imagine that shrubs like Hippophae spp. (sea-buckthorn, H. rhamnoides) might produce way more nitrogen then is beneficial for the neighboring fruit tree - in some cases: i.e. pear, mountain-ash, etc. I think that would promote fire-blight for these two crops, in particular.

Another concern I'm considering is: will the excess nitrogen delay winter dormancy in some marginally hardy plants (i.e. Black mulberry, hardy selections of pomegranate, etc.) Again, I think you might be ok with native Shepherdia spp., but I think some of the non-invasive and invasive exotics would enrich the soil enough, if not to harm fruit trees - still not sure on that one, but definitely to encourage the recruitment of exotic invasive weeds. Autumn-olive, it is believed - or fact[?], is responsible for rendering soils which are less fertile - to which native flowers and graminoids are well-suited - and, after enriching the soils with nitrogen, make them ideal for the recruitment of alien invasive weeds: where I see Autumn-olive I see many weeds and few native herbs; not sure, though, which: chicken or egg, in these cases.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 3:13AM
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still no replies lol?

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 10:10PM
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Southern peas are a good plant & you can pick the peas, before cutting the vines for mulch.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 8:18PM
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Have you read Toby Hemenway's book "Gaia's Garden"? He has a website that might answer many of your questions. Don't have the link handy, but you can google him and find it. The name is something about patterns.
Your local library might have the book, and it's well worth buying as well.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 1:36AM
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The fixed N is stored in root nodules. You would have to destroy plant to have these nodules to degrade and release the stored N the fixing plant has not used. That is how legumes are used in a rotation in an annual vegetable garden. As Linda mentions if used as a long term succession planting the N fixers would improve poor soil but growing next to another plant comes to no or very little good. The fixed N is simply not released by fixing plant into surrounding soil.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Following along Mike's comment - in your climate, you might be interested in growing some peanuts if the area gets enough sun. They will die every winter, releasing the stored N, but will also plant the seeds for next year by themselves! I have some peanuts scattered in my raised beds. Sometimes I pull some to harvest, other times I don't. Even when I've harvested all the plants, a few still come up the following year from pods that broke off underground.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 10:59AM
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