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N-fixing perennial shrub or tree for zone 9?

 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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I see that Dave Jacke lists the Siberian pea shrub for only as far south as zone 7, so unless I hear otherwise, I'm ruling it out for us here in zone 9. Our pigeon peas are doing great, but I would really like to add at least one more perennial N-fixer species to our ecosystem, and preferably something a little larger. Ideally, something that lives for many years and is the size of a small tree. I could fit about a dozen in, and prune them if necessary to keep them from getting too big. It needs to be drought tolerant, yet okay with a long rainy season, too. Our soil drains quite well, so it is pretty rare for any plant here to have problems due to too much water. It needs to be okay with pretty acidic soil too.

Possibly an acacia species? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Or just where to look. Thanks. PS All of the native N-fixers here in the pine/oak sand hills are very small herbs.
 
Jim Porter
Posts: 37
Location: USA, West central Florida
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Nick,

A couple in the shrub category that might be helpful . . .

- Aeschynomene americana (American joint vetch)
- Erythrina herbacea (coral bean)

Also, lower-growing (more herb-like, as you said), but maybe . . .

- Baptisia alba (white wild indigo, white false indigo)
- Lupinus diffusus Nuttall (skyblue lupine)
- Crotalaria juncea L. (Sunn hemp)

Article titled, "Nitrogen Fixing Tree Start-up Guide" may be of some interest, though not specific to Florida. It also has a tree list, and can be found at this site: http://www.agroforestry.net/, under the link "Publications for free download."

Also, "Nitrogen Fixing Tree Species by Use and Ecology," again, not Florida-specific, but might provide some possibilities: http://www.winrock.org/fnrm/factnet/factpub/select/NFTUSES.HTM

Jim
 
J D Horn
Posts: 155
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Southern Waxmyrtle
http://www.treesusa.com/Plantinfo/Ornamental/myrtle,%20southern%20wax.pdf

Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/albjul/all.html

Any Lespedeza species

Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) - Its a low N-fixer but depending on your goal it could be more useful since it has a caterpillar that dines on its leaves and makes great fish food/bait. We harvested them for trotlines when I was a kid.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Thanks, guys. I'm leaning toward mimosa because there are many growing wild around here, and I should be able to get a dozen or so going without having to buy any plants. I'm not sure if the waxmyrtle could take the acidic soil. Yeah, JD - I spent many hours as a kid hanging out in a catalpa tree. The catalpa worms were the best bait you could find. We used them to catch big bluegill when they were bedding in the spring. We used shad and nightcrawlers for the trot lines and hoped for the big yellow cats, but usually had channel cats. Those were some good times.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
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I've got mimosa in several places around here. Always finding seedlings springing up. If you are up this way (Lake City), it may be worth stopping in.
 
Jason Matthew
Posts: 66
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I am using mimosa as my main nitrogen fixing plant in my food forest. I tilled an area for annual vegetables and the mimosa seedlings have sprung up and taken over half the plot. I am taking and transplanting the seedlings to areas between and around my fruit trees. I will end up coppicing some of them to keep them from overgrowing my fruit trees. My experience with them so far indicates that they can sprout in great numbers if the soil is disturbed.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Jason,

Thanks for the warning about the mimosa seedlings popping up everywhere. I had a feeling that might be the case. Once I get everything mulched, I hope it's not going to be too much of a problem. Mimosa may end up being the main weed I will have to deal with, but if it's not too crazy, it's not such a bad thing to have large N-fixers volunteering. I'll get Maypops climbing on them too. Like you, I am also planning to coppice them. That should accomplish at least 4 things - keep them small so they won't cast shade on the fruit trees, make the roots release nitrogen, capture seed pods before they are released, and make it easier to harvest the passion fruit.

Ken, I'll keep that in mind.

I sure appreciate this forum. Keep up the good work, folks.
 
Jason Matthew
Posts: 66
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I have only seen this happen in the area that I have tilled. Most of the ground has been in continuous pasture for years and the seedlings have never sprouted. I don't think that they will be a problem in a forest garden that goes undisturbed.

 
Alan Foster
Posts: 26
Location: St. Pete,FL
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Funny thing is, around here mimosa are called a noxious weed and everyone tries to eradicate them.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Of all the paradigm shifting ideas that come out of permaculture, I think the idea of embracing the weeds, using them to our advantage, is one of the most amazing. There are so many ways to do that, and I strongly suspect there are many others that haven't dawned on me yet. As for Mimosa trees, on top of everything else, I think they are quite beautiful, especially when in bloom.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Jim, coral bean looks like a possibility for us. Have you grown it? I'm wondering how drought tolerant it is, and how well it would do in sandy, acidic low fertility soil.
 
Jeanine Gurley
pollinator
Posts: 1399
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Nick, Just a heads up on mimosa: The seedlings come up in a thick mat in my beds. I don't have a mimosa tree in my yard - they are brought in from birds and such. I chop and drop them but I'm not sure that I would want to have the actual tree right in my yard. They are pretty though, they are in bloom in this area right now.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Thanks Jeanine. I can appreciate how much of a problem mimosa and many other, shall we say, "overly opportunistic", plants could be for a lot of areas. Notice I didn't use the W word or the word "invasive". Our location is very atypical though, so I doubt it will be a problem here. Our poor sandy soil and long, hot, dry spring is actually very similar to where I used to live - in Phoenix. Here, as there, if you don't water something, it won't survive. There it was the case for about 10 or 11 months, here it's the case for about 3 months in spring. I anticipate that we'll be irrigating our food plants and most important guild plants a lot each spring. Anything else in the food forest will have to make it without much water during that time of year, and I'm trying to select as many draught tolerant plants as possible for that reason. If I do begin to see rogue mimosas or any other plants that are not wanted, I'll just need to make sure they are removed before the summer monsoon arrives. That shouldn't be too difficult. I do want to achieve a low maintenance garden, but I have to have something to do!
 
Jason Long
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
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Jim Porter wrote:Nick,
- Erythrina herbacea (coral bean)

Jim, coral bean looks like a possibility for us. Have you grown it? I'm wondering how drought tolerant it is, and how well it would do in sandy, acidic low fertility soil.


We use Erythrina herbacea on the farm here, as it is a florida native. It grows really well, takes great from cuttings, and can be a good trellis.

One note to keep in mind is the thorns/ hooks. We decided to plant "fluffy" high organic matter producing plants (tithonia diversifolia, lemongrass, fakahatchee grass, etc) to pile on top of the E. herbacea mulch

Jason
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Thanks Jason. Any idea where one might acquire some coral bean plants? Or should I plant seeds?
 
Jason Long
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
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Nick Garbarino wrote:Thanks Jason. Any idea where one might acquire some coral bean plants? Or should I plant seeds?

Yes, lets do a trade. I do not have a ton of seeds, but I believe I have some. I can also send several cuttings that will take off quickly.

I will PM you my number and maybe there is a way we can make the postage work by both sending little gift packs
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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And this just in.

Lichen and cryptobiotic soil as nitrogen fixers. talk about low water use....

http://phys.org/news/2012-06-algae-lichens-mosses-huge-amounts.html
 
                                  
Posts: 40
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Leucaena leucocephala, if you're prepared to prune.
 
chris cromeens
Posts: 61
Location: north texas 7b now 8a
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I can't believe noone has mentioned mesquite trees yet, food for people and livestock, coppices well, creates light shade, good firewood, good fuel for a gasifier (by-product is charcoal and mesquite charcoal is primo), does good in sand (deep taproot).
Redbuds do good in shade, and has some food and forage value.
P.s. I am in northern zone 8 and my peashrubs are doing fine so far but just put them in this winter
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Don't see mesquite here. Maybe we get too much rain the other 9 months of the year?
 
Ben Walter
Posts: 92
Location: Deland, FL
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Hey Nick,

I've got 4 types of acacias that I'm growing right now. I started with about 15 varieties and my poor care whittled it down to four. I know they are drought tolerant and can handle a freeze in a small pot! All the names washed off the stakes so I'm not sure which types I have. I'm going to watch them and I hope I'll be able figure which ones are N-fixing.

If you go to the seed search option here you can search for nitrogen fixers and other options like growing zone, etc.

Amorpha is an N-fixing shrub that i've seen grown in South Georgia and should do well for you. I visited a farm where they were growing it in between vegetable beds for mulch.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Thanks Ben. LOL on your acacias. I've lost track of where I planted which varieties of a few things too. About 80% of the comfrey has sprouted so far. Looking good.
 
Andrew Ash
Posts: 24
Location: Chuluota, Florida
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If it's not too late to make suggestions, what about the Goumi?
I heard about it from these guys, who are up in the panhandle. From what I've heard, it's a nitrogen-fixating fruiting bush, with fruits which are high in vitamins A, C, and E, though are incredibly tart until completely ripe, and which are absolutely LOVED by birds. Descriptions of flavor seem to always compare it to a tart pie cherry.

Some interesting trees you could look into is the Honey Locust, which bears seed pods with a sweet, edible pulp inside, or the black locust, which I've heard has extremely long-lasting, rot-resistant wood, bears profuse flowers which makes great honey, and, from what I've heard, the seed pods are a good high-protein fodder for goats. Both, however, naturally grow thorns along their trunks, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

These guys goumis and honeylocusts in bulk, plus more:
http://lawyernursery.com/productinfo.aspx?productSpecies=Elaeagnus%20multiflora&categoryid=155
http://lawyernursery.com/productinfo.aspx?productSpecies=Gleditsia%20triacanthos%20%27Inermis%27&categoryid=201
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Thanks. It's never too late for good info.
 
Tim Eastham
Posts: 52
Location: USDA Climate Zone 9, Central Florida
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Florida specific goumi
http://www.justfruitsandexotics.com/NewExotics.htm
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Thanks Tim! I just happen to be making a trip to Tallahassee soon, so I'm going to stop by there and pick up a few goumis. Really appreciate it. Are you anywhere near Hernando county? Are you growing a food forest?
 
Tim Eastham
Posts: 52
Location: USDA Climate Zone 9, Central Florida
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Nick Garbarino wrote:Thanks Tim! I just happen to be making a trip to Tallahassee soon, so I'm going to stop by there and pick up a few goumis. Really appreciate it. Are you anywhere near Hernando county? Are you growing a food forest?


I live in Orange County (Orlando area). I am jumping in this fall when trees ship. Last year was observation, this year is soil building and planning, and this fall (when they start shipping fruit trees) is the beginning of my transition.

Here is a great blog to follow to see someone doing great things in Central Florida:
http://centralfloridagarden.blogspot.com/

Tim
 
Nathan Selikoff
Posts: 4
Location: USDA Climate Zone 9b, Central Florida
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Hey all, I'm also in Orange County (Orlando). I've read that Moringa, classified as a legume, has some nitrogen fixing capabilities, although it is not considered a nitrogen fixer. It has a lot of other desirable characteristics, however (good for animal fodder, chop & drop, edible nutritious leaves, grows fast, living fence, drought tolerant, responds well to pruning and coppicing).

Also, I'd recommend digging in to some of ECHO's Technical Notes (http://www.echocommunity.org/?tech_notes) if you haven't already. There's one called Nitrogen Fixing Tree Start-up Guide (http://www.echocommunity.org/resource/collection/E66CDFDB-0A0D-4DDE-8AB1-74D9D8C3EDD4/N-Fixing_Tree_Start-up_Guide_[NFTA].pdf) that includes tropical, semi-tropical, arid lists with some overlap of what's been shared here.
 
Adam Old
Posts: 18
Location: Miami, FL - Zone 10b
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I recently found out about this mimosa groundcover, which is pretty beautiful, as well as a nitrogen fixer.
Sunshine Mimosa
 
Kathy Burns-Millyard
Posts: 75
Location: Arizona low desert
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I'm near Tucson so climate is similar with less rain. We have primarily mesquite and creosote wild on our land, with a couple of what look to be young palo verde. I just planted an acacia willow last month and hope to have pods from it to spread around eventually. Does anyone know if creosote is n fixing? I assume it's a pioneer and I know is slightly allopathic. I've used a few like nurse trees to break up some of the intensity of the sun on seedlings
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1271
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Nathan Selikoff wrote:Hey all, I'm also in Orange County (Orlando). I've read that Moringa, classified as a legume, has some nitrogen fixing capabilities, although it is not considered a nitrogen fixer. It has a lot of other desirable characteristics, however (good for animal fodder, chop & drop, edible nutritious leaves, grows fast, living fence, drought tolerant, responds well to pruning and coppicing).

Nitrogen Fixing Tree Start-up Guide (http://www.echocommunity.org/resource/collection/E66CDFDB-0A0D-4DDE-8AB1-74D9D8C3EDD4/N-Fixing_Tree_Start-up_Guide_[NFTA].pdf) that includes tropical, semi-tropical, arid lists with some overlap of what's been shared here.


Here is the new link for the echo link:
http://www.echocommunity.org/resource/collection/E66CDFDB-0A0D-4DDE-8AB1-74D9D8C3EDD4/N-Fixing_Tree_Start-up_Guide_%5BNFTA%5D.pdf

I can send "Chamaecytisus palmensis" seeds, tagasaste (mentioned in the pdf above), if some like it and you cannot find it. Widely used in Australia in dry areas. Almost non invasive as the seeds sprout after fires! It lives long, loved by goats, light shade, 2meters (taller than Paul...) since I planted them last year.

I also have moringa, and yellow leaves problem, that went out (the problem, not the leaves!) with pee... I supposed it lacked the right rhizobium bacteria....
So, fixing nitrogen is not so sure with legumes!
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1271
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:I also have moringa, and yellow leaves problem, that went out (the problem, not the leaves!) with pee...
I supposed it lacked the right rhizobium bacteria....
So, fixing nitrogen is not so sure with legumes!


I am very sorry for my mistake,
moringa is NOT a legume, it is of the radish familly (hence the taste...)
It is a brassicaceae.

Moringa loves nitrogen I think.
And it loves water. It can stand drought but will shade it leaves. Not good for a veggie...
I wait for the pods to try them...
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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