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Root types and minerals provided

 
Sergio Santoro
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Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Hi,

I think I already started rambling about this in a previous thread, but, as much as permaculture is about observing and imitating nature, I have no idea what type of roots most plants have so that I can plant them together or apart. Also, it would be kind of handy to know what plants fix calcium, nitrogen (ok I know that one), sulfur, and phosphorus, well, and everything else.

Is there a handy source for me to find all that out? Or a way to tell, say by the kind of plants (legumes=nitrogen), or shape of leaves or whatever?

Thanks.

 
John Polk
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For info regarding dozens of vegetable plants, check this book:

http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010137veg.roots/010137toc.html

And, yes, all legumes (including clover  & alfalfa) are N fixers.
 
Jonathan Byron
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John Polk wrote:
For info regarding dozens of vegetable plants, check this book:

http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010137veg.roots/010137toc.html

And, yes, all legumes (including clover  & alfalfa) are N fixers.



Most legumes fix nitrogen. There seem to be some species of Cassia and Senna that do not - still some debate. 

There are non-legumes that fix nitrogen. Alder is one example, it associates with Frankia bacteria (not Rhizobium). Not as much nitrogen as most legumes, but 30-50 pounds per acre per year is possible, giving Alder an edge over other tree and scrub species.
 
Paul Cereghino
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The tables every seems to cite are in Robert Kourik's Designing and Maintaining your Edible Landscape Naturally.  It is unclear where he gets his data. 

Fixation usually means turning a gas into solid... Nitrogen is relatively unique, as we have a nitrogen atmosphere, where it is mostly inert, and it is rare in soil, only in organic matter. 

The phenomena is called 'hyperaccumulation' in the science literature, and 'dynamic accumulation' in agricultural literature whereby plants forage for and absorb more of an element than necessary for metabolism.  It may be a poor substitute for importing that nutrient when it is deficient in the mineral soil.  By hyperaccumulation the element is absorbed and brought into organic matter cycles where it is more available, but is not 'increased' in the literal sense.
 
Jordan Lowery
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not 100% accurate but pretty damn close, heres a list of dynamic accumulators and what they grab.

http://www.oregonbd.org/Class/accum.htm
 
John Polk
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The legumes actually absorb the nitrogen from the atmosphere with their leaves. the N is then transported to the roots/nodules where it is converted to a form that the plant can use, and then transported back through the stalk to the rest of the plant.  Any excess N that is accumulated is exuded into the soil.

In the above list of accumulators, the listing for "Fat Hen" is not the species most of us are familiar with (Chenopodium album).

 
Jordan Lowery
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the bacteria on the roots fix the N, not the legume.
 
Sergio Santoro
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Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Thank you all for the links.

So, going back to my gardenia situation, if I planted garlic all around it (just the thought...) the sulfur would keep the pH down and spur the gardenia to become all lush and happy?
I really can't think of anything else. I am growing mustard already, but it gets really tall. Maybe once I harvest the seeds I could mulch the gardenia with the mustard leaves. God, it's gonna take forever. And on top of that I've got the leaf cutting ants that eat the hell out of it, leaving just the wannabe buds. Sigh.
 
Salkeela Bee
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hubert cumberdale wrote:
the bacteria on the roots fix the N, not the legume.


Yes... however nitrogen is soluble.  As we breath we take in N2 gas and it circulates in our blood stream.  It is not however "fixed" as it has not been incorporated into a biological molecule and is thus just as unavailable as nitrogen gas in the air.

It would therefore be possible for the plant to absorb nitrogen gas from the air into the water in its leaves, and for that dissolved nitrogen to pass to the roots where the bacteria in root nodules could then fix it.

I have to admit though I always assumed most of the gaseous nitrogen came from the air spaces round the roots.  Yet there seems no reason that it couldn't also travel from the leaves.  The sugars from photosynthesis do so - so the pathway is there!
 
Leila Rich
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Sergio, not sure what your 'gardenia situation' is,  but I'm assuming with gardenias and sulphur in the same paragraph, your ph is too high for them?
To be honest, I think gardenias are one of the most picky, demanding plants around. Smell nice though!
I wouldn't bother unless my soil was pretty acidic naturally. What's your ph?
 
Sergio Santoro
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Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Yes, I was writing elsewhere that my gardenia, besides being periodically picked clean by leaf-cutting ants, has had these small buds that are not developing. It did have a blooming period last year. I was giving it water with vinegar, yogurt whey and what not to increase the acidity. Then just whey from cheese making, but I suspect that as acidic as whey may be, it may not have a low pH after all (I could never figure that out. How can lemon juice be alkaline and used to cure stomach acidity??).
Then I thought it was too little P, so I mulched it heavily with chicken manure. Nothing. In the last two months I even stopped watering it, because the ants were driving me crazy, and here in Costa Rica it was the peak of the dry season, so we were short on water.
Now it's raining. I really don't know about the pH of that soil in particular; it's conditioned with so much stuff now. I do have those cheap test kits, but in general we have an alkaline soil, I heard from the ministry of agriculture, with high Al. I don't quite understand how red clay (iron) can be alkaline, but it's probably the amount of volcanic ashes over the centuries. And as you may know, temperature is critical for gardenias, too. Anyway, it did bloom last year as long as it lasted, and I'd love to recreate whatever caused it. In Hawaii it blooms all the time, no? That'd be awesome.
 
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