Natives, Nut Trees & Nitrogen Fixing Plants
Complete your permaculture guild with these plants! Of course, the more the merrier, but if we had to choose only one to add to your orchard, Comfrey is the star of the show:
A customer recently told us about two Bartlett pear trees they planted years ago. They were planted about 30 feet apart. One was planted near comfrey, one was not. The tree that had comfrey nearby grew faster, produced fruit sooner, and to this day, has higher quality and quantity yields. Both trees are virtually neglected aside from that. We think that is a pretty convincing argument!
What is Nitrogen Fixation?
Certain plants and trees such as locusts, peas, clover, sea buckthorn, and legumes can fix (or hold) nitrogen in the soil. They nearly always have visible root nodules (but not always) which form a symbiotic relationship with a strain of bacteria called rhizobia. The rhizobia transform atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen compounds (nitrates and ammonium), so that plants can actually use it, as nitrogen on its own is not much use to a plant. Plants do need nitrogen to grow though, and 'nitrogen fixation' (what the rhizobia do) is the principal way nitrogen gets 'fixed' or held, in the soil. Without rhizobia or the root nodules, we would be in quite a pickle. So instead of spending time, energy, and money on fertilizer, consider studding your orchard with nitrogen fixing plants. There are many annual options, but if you want a lower maintenance nitrogen fixer, trees and bushes are an excellent long term investment of space and money.