The Q&A Archives: Replacing Soil Nitrogen

Question: I have a small graden in my back yard, approx. 25 x 25 , and for the past seven years I have grown vegetables. I always rotate the crops, and I try to be as organic as possible, however I do use a little 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring and lime in thefall. My question is this: next year my wife and I want to give the soil and ourselves a little break and plant flowering annuals in this spot. It gets full-direct sun almost all day, has rich, very slightly sandy soil and is well watered. Do you have any sugestions which flowers would be the best to plant that would give back nitrogen to the soil?

Answer: Members of the legume family--including peas, alfalfa, vetch, clovers, lupines, and beans--have the unique ability to "fix" atmospheric nitrogen. (Actually, it is a bacteria that lives in association with the roots that does the "fixing".) One method is to plant the whole area in a cover crop like white clover; however, a more interesting and attractive option might be to plant any annual flowers you like and plant the paths with a low-growing white clover. Or you could plant the whole area with a plant like Blue Annual Lupine (L. succulentus). <br><br>If you want to go the cover crop route, you might check out Peaceful Valley Farm Supply's catalog (PO Box 2209, Grass Valley, CA 95945, ph# 916/272-4769). They sell a variety of nitrogen-fixing cover crops.

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