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perennial N-fixing ground cover needed for zone 9

 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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We are trying to identify a perennial N-fixing ground cover for our location here in central Florida. A hardy perennial would be preferred, but even a tender perennial would be okay, especially since we don't have but a few frosty mornings each winter. Something mat forming would be excellent. Any suggestions?
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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just about any legume ..say beans, peas, lupines, baptisia, etc for herbaceous layer. Of course there are the shrubs too but they can be a bit overwhelming on smaller garden areas. I have a combination of both in all of my gardens...but I tend to stick to the autumn olive, baptisia, lupine, beans, peas, and a few others...but I'm in zone 4/5
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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http://www.floridawildflowers.com/categories/Seed-Packets/

looks like the buffalo clover, and i am going to try


http://www.plantsofthesouthwest.com/Sainfoin/productinfo/C1010/
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Thanks Morgan. That buffalo clover looks just like a clover I've seen nearby. If that's it, it forms a dense mat and it's just what I was looking for.
 
Ben Walter
Posts: 92
Location: Deland, FL
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Don't forget perennial peanut!
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Ben, where can I buy perennial peanut?
 
Ben Walter
Posts: 92
Location: Deland, FL
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I had info for a company I was going to use but I can't find it. I haven't planted any, but I do plan to use it in my pastures and between some fruit trees. This is the best I could find quickly...it's a little old but I'm sure some of the businesses are still around.

Perennial Peanut
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Ben, Is perennial peanut low and dense? I'm trying to find something that is very low and dense like grass, and perennial like grass, but cooperative rather than competitive. It needs to be able to prevent erosion on a sandy slope. We just got our second day in the last few weeks of 10 or more inches of rain in one day! Once I make the decision to take the grass out, I'll need something that can take its place quickly before the next deluge! Buffalo clover does look very promising. Since sweet potato is growing so well here, I'll use a lot of that too, but more in the flatter areas. My plan is to replace the grass in two steps - the first step being buckwheat this fall, then something like buffalo clover in the spring.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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It turns out buffalo clover is an annual, not readily available in bulk, takes 2-3 years to get established, should be planted in the fall rather than the spring when we'll be ready to plant, and the seeds have to be scarified.

Perennial peanut actually looks ideal for our location. I'm not sure how tall it gets, but it makes a 3 inch thick rhizome layer for soil stabilization and thrives in our poor sandy soil and heat. Good drought tolerance too and it is truly perennial with a 20 year old field somewhere in Florida. Once established, it looks like it is very good at preventing weed invasion. Thanks Ben.
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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3 inch rhizome layer. uh-oh.

If you can find some fuzzy thyme , it is my favorite in the heat. plugs only tho.
 
Jim Porter
Posts: 37
Location: USA, West central Florida
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I have the ornamental/perennial peanut planted here, as well as sunshine mimosa. Both are low-growing, thick, spreading ground covers that should do well for you. Each has a distinct look to it.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Jim, How tall do those two ground covers get? I'm assuming the mimosa is a N-fixer? I may have asked before, but about where are you located? If I'm ever your way, might want to see what they look like.
 
Jim Porter
Posts: 37
Location: USA, West central Florida
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Yes, s/m is listed as a nitrogen fixer. In my environment, I would guess maybe four inches for the s/m. The flowers of the s/m stick up to maybe six inches.

I think the p/p is slightly lower, maybe three inches, with flowers to four inches.

But maybe height is going to vary with conditions. Some sites list p/p at six to nine inches, which is strange to me. Similiar for the s/m.

The s/m is listed as a Florida native.

By the way, each of these propagates very easily. Unless you are in a hurry, and want to blitz an area all at once, you only need a few plants to get you started, and then just let it spread. And you can cut off bits of it to plant-out other areas or help it fill in an area more rapidly.

I'm in northeast Tampa, a few miles off I-75 (around exit 270).
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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3 inch rhizome layer. uh-oh.


Does this sound off? Here's our rationale: We now have bermuda grass, bahia grass, and several other grasses and rhizomatous weeds on one entire side of the food forest, as well as one area inside the food forest. There are also some areas with a lot of annual weeds. The grasses and weeds are providing one valuable service which is erosion control, and they are also adding a bit of biomass which is sorely needed. About half of the 13,000 sqft food forest is on a moderate slope and our soil is super sandy (Florida sand hill). I figure that if we can replace all those grasses and weeds with some perennial N-fixing ground cover that's so thick that it stabilizes the soil and keeps weeds down, that's a big improvement. 3 inches of rhizomes is also a good bit of biomass that we really need in our beach sand. I guess the question is will the nitrogen supply be enough to out-weigh the competitive effect of the ground cover? My thoughts on that are 1) we'll continue to mulch around the other plants for a while longer, so competition shouldn't be too fierce while the plants are getting established, and 2) later there will be enough shade that the sun-loving ground cover will not be that aggresive. Besides, a lot of our trees, shrubs, and mulch plants have deep root systems anyway, by design.

Does this address your concern? I'll take any input I can get, as long as it's free.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Jim, They are both nice and low which would probably also be the case where we are because our soil is super sandy and infertile. Some day, when the food forest is well established and dropping lots of leaves, it'll be better but that's a ways off. The plan was actually to blitz a large area next spring during the dry season, but I'm thinking maybe it makes more sense to do sections at a time and continue to mow the grass and chop/drop the weeds. I would offer to do a swap, but honestly our garden is only 3 months old and nothing is abundant enough yet to divide. I can offer future cuttings though.
 
Jim Porter
Posts: 37
Location: USA, West central Florida
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Nick, No worries; there's plenty of sunshine to go around. Next opportunity I have (once the rain eases up!), I will see if I can get a tray of four inch pots started of each. Now is the time to do it, since it's the growth season for them. Then, if our paths cross in the next few months and you haven't already found another source, they'll be yours.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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I'll definitely have to pay it forward.
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Buffalo clover is the only known species of Trifolium that has no apparent rhizobial association. Maybe because it is almost extinct and the population is so low the nitrogen fixing bacteria did go extinct? Either way, it isn't a nitrogen fixer.

PS The Hyacinth Bean MIGHT work though.
 
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