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Southern Plains Regional Reports

Excellent Nitrogen-Fixing Plants

From cover crops to trees, these plants enrich your soil and look good doing it

Redbuds are known for their nitrogen-fixing properties. Photo: Jennifer Benner

Whether you have a front-yard garden the size of a postage stamp or a 100-acre hayfield, the use of nitrogen-fixing plants in your landscape can boost your soil fertility. Nitrogen-fixing plants, most of which are members of the legume family, are able to “fix” nitrogen from the atmosphere through a symbiotic relationship with specialized bacteria on their roots. Some nitrogen-fixing plants are used as cover crops and are incorporated back into the soil through chopping, mowing, or tilling, which provides a large boost of nitrogen at once. But even nitrogen-fixing plants that aren’t chopped and dropped regularly, such as trees, still return nitrogen to the soil. Trees return nitrogen more gradually as their feeder roots (with the associated nitrogen-fixing nodules) die off and are replaced as part of their natural life cycle.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are long familiar to farmers and ranchers, but even home gardeners (both ornamental…

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