Homepage » Forums » Plants, Climates and Soils » Nitrogen fixing plants for cold climates

This topic contains 9 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  balkanecologyproject 2 years, 8 months ago.

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    Hi guys

    I’m trying to plan a food forest for my local community garden and I’m having trouble selecting nitrogen fixing nurse trees that will grow in my area. Advanced casuarinas will work but even most acacias get killed off by our frosts (we don’t get any snow cover most of the time). I’ve tried tagaste but it’s not frost tolerant enough either. Lucerne will survive if it’s sown at the right time of year but I’d love some larger nitrogen fixers.

    Can anyone recommend some plants that associate with nitrogen fixing bacteria which will tolerate down to at least -15 degrees C (5 F)?
    Any ideas would be very welcome.



    Maybe try Eleagnus? Either Russian Olive or Goumi… I live in Germany and I think they manage our winters so you could give them a try. Maybe also Siberian Pea Shrub (Caragana arborescens), and Alders. Best of luck!




    i heard that Phacelia tanacetifolia would be work to fix nitrogen and improves the ground (thanks to her root system). She’s resisting to -10°C and Less. Otherwise Sinapis alba could be use too.



    Symplocarpus foetidus



    Commenting here so I can follow this thread – I’m in zone 5b and we regularly get temps of -15C in the winter, plus heavy snow cover and punishing winds. Eager to hear suggestions!



    I second what Kimberlie said, I’ve been looking into plants that will survive in the Alps (French side) and the ones she mentioned all came up as hardy enough for my area. Also I’ve got some spanish broom growing beneath a plum tree here and have planted a bit more by a new cherry tree. The Spanish broom has survived-10C with no problem, which I found interesting because I was used to seeing it in Southern California! Also lupine–which is an even smaller plant, but just in case you were interested. . .



    Yes, Broom – what Trisha said… I forgot about that, but it’s planted along roadsides near where we are in northern Germany. It’s native to Europe and does survive our winters, that typically get down to about -15C for about a week or so. Can’t say much about whether what I’m seeing is “Scotch Broom” or “Spanish Broom”, but maybe they’re mostly the same?



    I’m in 5b (NH) and have a lot of black locusts (Robinia pseudoacacia) as a pioneer species along highways, disturbed areas, etc. It’s really an amazing tree, as I’m sure other locusts are, as it’s extremely rot resistant, great firewood, and fixes nitrogen. Easy to grow! But it can easily take over the garden if cut during the winter, as it sends out root suckers. Girdling or summer cutting is the best option.
    I also have been planting siberian peashrub.



    So glad this is a topic because I could really use input as well. The tree and bush I have been looking at as contenders are the red buds and the choke cherries. My arid climate gets down to -15 degrees F. occasionally. The choke cherry is found in the wild here (Farmington, NM, USA) and red buds are common as well in neighborhoods. However, I would prefer to find another legume friendly to Zoned 7 USDA that is interesting and not as dense a foliage as the red bud if there are any suggestions.


    The article linked below profiles four species suitable for Hardiness Zone 3-5

    Elaeagnus angustfolia – Oleaster, Russian Olive
    Elaeagnus commutata – Silverberry, Wolfberry
    Elaeagnus umbellata – Autumn Olive. Autumn Elaeagnus
    Caragana arborescens – Siberian Pea Tree


    Good luck with your garden.

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