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Indigo bush aka false indigo  RSS feed

 
Diego de la Vega
Posts: 39
Location: Central Virginia, USA
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I farm in central Virginia.  I am planning on planting the native false indigo bush in my food forest/permaculture orchard as a nitrogen fixer, pest deterrent, and pollinator attractant. Have any of you used this native legum before?  If so how lose do the fruit trees like it to be?  10 feet?  Closer? How often do you chop and drop it and are it's branches fine enough to not smother things in the herbaceous layer Like chives and thyme?

If you have not used false indigo what other nitrogen fixers have worked well?  I am planning on planting it around apples, cherries, peaches, etc.  I want to support the trees in the healthiest way possible to give them the strength to fend off pests and disease.

Thanks!

Diego
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1474
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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I grow mine next to espalier, which have very different requirements on things like spacing and light needs. But I will say that as a plant it has a very upright growth habit. Lower plants can grow very close to the base without being shaded out in my climate.  I the whole plant down to about 12 inches after it goes dormant in the fall and it's come back well, so far.

I somewhat accidentally discovered this year how very well lupins work as nitrogen fixers. I was working on a stand of bluebonnets in my front yard. After their strong showing last year, the grass grew so thickly over that corner that hardly any managed to sprout this year. We're actually going to have to actively try to discourage the grass next fall to get the flowers back. Our bluebonnets are annuals lupins, but there are also a lot of perennial varieties. I think you'd have more success with them in Virginia than we do here. They're spring bloomers, too; so the timing might be right to draw pollinators to your fruit trees.
 
Diego de la Vega
Posts: 39
Location: Central Virginia, USA
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Casie Becker wrote:I grow mine next to espalier, which have very different requirements on things like spacing and light needs. But I will say that as a plant it has a very upright growth habit. Lower plants can grow very close to the base without being shaded out in my climate.  I the whole plant down to about 12 inches after it goes dormant in the fall and it's come back well, so far.

I somewhat accidentally discovered this year how very well lupins work as nitrogen fixers. I was working on a stand of bluebonnets in my front yard. After their strong showing last year, the grass grew so thickly over that corner that hardly any managed to sprout this year. We're actually going to have to actively try to discourage the grass next fall to get the flowers back. Our bluebonnets are annuals lupins, but there are also a lot of perennial varieties. I think you'd have more success with them in Virginia than we do here. They're spring bloomers, too; so the timing might be right to draw pollinators to your fruit trees.


Great idea with the lupine.  How far do you have the espalier trees from the indigobushes?  What type of espalier trees do you have?  Thanks!

Diego.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1474
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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I have them at the most 24 inches away from the trunk. I made sure the roots of the trees and the shrub were intermingled so that when I cut back the indigo each year the nitrogen from the root die back is right at the tree roots. I think with anything but espalier I would be shading out the indigo with this close spacing. If you look very closely you'll see what looks like a group of sticks stuck into the ground, that's the dormant false indigo bushes after they've been cut back. They're one of the last things to come out of dormancy in my gardens. I may change my pruning time to late spring if I don't see any flowers this year. I think I should actually be pruning right after spring bloom. I think I've been pruning off the developing flowers, good for the plant to establish itself without wasting extra energy on producing seed, but I want flowers now.

There are a total of four peach trees arranged in a Belgian fence, with two and a half feet between each tree. They've been selected to produce the peaches over the course what I hope will eventually be at least three months. That one tree being so many weeks ahead of the others is a good start.
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Diego de la Vega
Posts: 39
Location: Central Virginia, USA
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Casie Becker wrote:I have them at the most 24 inches away from the trunk. I made sure the roots of the trees and the shrub were intermingled so that when I cut back the indigo each year the nitrogen from the root die back is right at the tree roots. I think with anything but espalier I would be shading out the indigo with this close spacing. If you look very closely you'll see what looks like a group of sticks stuck into the ground, that's the dormant false indigo bushes after they've been cut back. They're one of the last things to come out of dormancy in my gardens. I may change my pruning time to late spring if I don't see any flowers this year. I think I should actually be pruning right after spring bloom. I think I've been pruning off the developing flowers, good for the plant to establish itself without wasting extra energy on producing seed, but I want flowers now.

There are a total of four peach trees arranged in a Belgian fence, with two and a half feet between each tree. They've been selected to produce the peaches over the course what I hope will eventually be at least three months. That one tree being so many weeks ahead of the others is a good start.


Thanks for the photos! They are very helpful.  I see what you mean about shading.  I have never tried to grow them before, but I have read that they require a lot of sun.  Perhaps I could plant them a bit closer than I had thought originally and just plan for succession as they get shaded out by the maturing fruit trees.  Thanks again!

Diego
 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 262
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Diego, I ordered some indigo from Virginia Forestry as an impulse buy and I am planting them like Casie is suggesting, basically nurse plants. I also am auditioning caragana and bicolor lespedeza and redbud for the same role. You unfortunately cant get caragana from the dollar tree seedling sale but seeds are cheap. I saw Craig Dobbelyu selling some after I had bought them this winter. Germination is basically >80% and they sprout easily. I think I have 50 caragana seedlings going right now and will let you know how they fare here, this is a little south for their territory. I am auditioning four species for each major role and I am right on the 7a/b border.
 
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