The success of a garden depends on one of the most vital elements for plant development, Nitrogen. It’s what gives plant a green color and most importantly, it’s a key component of chlorophyll. If your garden soil cannot provide sufficient amount of this element, your plants won’t be able to develop well and will most likely weaken and die.
Although 80% of our air is made up of nitrogen gas, plant does not use them as gas directly. But there are certain types of plant that can draw nitrogen from the atmosphere. One such nitrogen loving plant type is called legume and is classified as nitrogen fixing plants. Legumes work symbiotically with a bacteria known as rhizobium, to convert nitrogen gas into a plant ready nitrogen, which are stored in nodules around the plants root. As the legumes grow, small amount of this stored nitrogen is released into the soil, but the best part here when these plants die and decompose, they release all the stored nitrogen in the soil. This process benefits other plants that cannot get nitrogen from air.
Here are some of the best legume you can plant as a crop:
This is an annual plant and moderately winter hardy. It thrives well in temperate condition. Hairy vetch is effectively used for soil improvement due to its high nitrogen fixing ability, supplying the soil of 60 to 120 lb per acre of nitrogen. It can be planted and allowed to grow its full season and later on plowed down before planting your main crops. This assures your succeeding crops a maximum supply of nitrogen from the soil. Mowed legumes can also be tilled into the soil as green manure that will add nitrogen and organic matters and thereby reducing the need for fertilizers.
An annual climbing plant of the fabaceae family. They are usually grown for its edible pods and seeds. This legume has been an important vegetable in Africa, Asia and in parts of the Americas. Cowpea is heat tolerant and drought resistant making them adaptable in many areas. It can develop taproots that allow the plant to get moisture deep down even in poor quality soil.
This vegetable of the pea family is considered as one of the most important sources of food and animal feeds. A very versatile plant capable of producing abundant supply of oil and protein. It thrives well in temperate and tropical climates. Its ability to grow even in extremely low quality soil makes it a very valuable grain legume. Soybeans can produce an excellent number of nitrogen nodules in its root enough to sustain its high nitrogen requirement.
So, why use commercial nitrogen to your soil when you can just grow legumes and let nature take over.
Go organic. Grow your own food. Have fun gardening.