Hi all,


Having been exposed to  the world of food forests ( friend has a Geoff Lawton dvd).   I  had a "light bulb" moment  and down this merry path my feet carry me.


Our  land  was stripped of  natives (mostly puriri)  and has been in pasture for near 70 years. Reforestation  and creating  sustainable food gardens/orchards is the order of the day.


Sheet mulching  & planting N fixing + fast growing bio mass trees is  where I'm  starting. I already have  a number of  fruit & canopy  trees.


Many publications/dvds   are   european/ usa/ even australian in their plant species.


Ground cover/ shrubs / trees  esp  Nitrogen fixing  ...............  lets start a NZ  list.


- Kowhai (N)

- Tree Lucerne (N)

- Kakabeak    (N) thanks Kali

- Whau  (fast grow bio mass)








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Hi John   great to hear about your land 

Think it a great idea to make a list of nitrogen fixers for NZ-  Once we have all our ideas in I will make it into a download-able fact sheet attached to this site,

Of the top of my head:  ( can post photos of any of these if requested)

There is a lovely native broom that has purple flowers

Carmichaelia flagelliformis - NZ broom, maukoro   - there a a few others in this family.

We use lupins a lot as they are good shelter at the same time when you are getting new areas established.
The coastal Yellow one works great here on the South Coast 

White lupins are a great green crop and you can make an edible flour out of the seeds apparently but I have yet to try making the flour.

The vetch family  ( we have common and hairy varieties but there are heaps of others)  they naturally grow in wateland areas and are a really attractive fine leafed little plant.  Very easy to gather the pods.
Clover is great-  we have recently discovered crimson clover which is a fantastic looking plant with a huge bright red elongated flower-  looks great in the herbal lay.

We also use lots of different peas and beans.

Tic beans are a real productive green crop)

Not a plant but we encourage males to 'water'  the plants in our forest- not so easy for girls  but this is a great resource that is usually flushed away.

Some compost toilet systems collect the urine separately which can then be diluted for the garden.


as far as natives go i've also got  coprosma as one to 'chop and drop', i think someone recommended it to me originally - the 'robusta' type, as it grows easily from cuttings, and doesn't seem to mind being chopped back severely.

The Coprosma family are also nitrogen fixers. They have little hollows in the axils of the veins that contain nitrogen fixing bacteria.

Like you Nicholas, I also worked on the basis that coprosma is an N fixer but that idea turns out to have come from a single paper that was looking at some other properties and mentioned in passing that the axils bore a resemblance to those on N-fixing plants and might do the same. However, more recent research on exactly that has found they are not fixers. 

The study is called Reinvestigation of Coprosma for ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen and the paper is here. Click the "look inside link to get the summary and results.

Nevertheless, I love coprosma, the cows love it, the birds love it, its a great pioneer plant and it doesn't care too much about the soil and it holds it together.

Hi all,


we have had good results form native broom. We planted them when we first did the garden, amongst other natives. Now we have cut most of them down and planted fruit trees next to the spaces vacated by the broom. Now we're triyng annuals under and amonst them for the first time. The annuals (tomatoes, strawberries) and fruit trees under the natives in soil that has had broom on it seem to be doing better than those planted at the same time in soil recently converted from lawn and even the veg garden. My conclusion is that the broom and the quality of the soil under the trees has helped everything planted there subsequently.

Its only the first year mixing the natives with fruit and veg, but results so far are encouraging.

kind regards




Hi John,  I've documented my own research on Tree Lucerne, or Tagasaste as it is often called, online at http://piginthemud.com/content/tagasaste  While it's not a NZ native it's often referred to as a friendly exotic as it can be used as a pioneer for reforestation and regeneration projects.  I've used it in the past in the same way to shelter orchard trees while conditioning the orchard soils.  It's has so many uses :)  Cheers tim

Count another vote for tagasaste. As well as the above, it flowers in August so we have bee fodder from then until the Houhere finishes flowering in May. Throw in plenty of calendula and you have almost year-round flowers, the cows love it too. They don't live too long and when they go they make good firewood.

BTW, a warning, it hates too much water. I made the mistake of planting a couple in unsuitable places, they greww like fury for about 18 months, flowered and podded like crazy and dropped dead.

Hi there

I made a handout a few years ago for our permaculture courses which i'm currently updating but i'll attach then. Whether or not things are invasive depends where you are but i guess you're thinking of things like gorse. You've listed tree lucerne, which i've used extensively but it's not a NZ native, guess you were aware of that, it originates in the canary islands which is why it does well in hot dry hawkes bay i guess. We also have a list of N-fixing plants which we sell on our website. This is not as extensive as the list on the handout which i'll attach later - someone remind me if i forget! Though eventually we hope to propagate more. For example we hope to add sulla next year, that's another very interesting plant which is doing well here. See http://kahikateafarm.co.nz/plants-nitrogen-fixing.html

Hi John,

I'd suggest multi-function plants and trees that both fix nitrogen and provide a yield. For example for both nitrogen fixation and food (depending on your local climate) you could try Inga Bean, perennial runner beans, pigeon pea, Siberian pea shrub, common sea buckthorn, clovers, peas, beans. For both nitrogen fixation and firewood you try a small acacia such as Acacia floribunda which also provides great bee fodder. Some weedy nitrogen fixers (such as Paraserianthes lophantha) would spread quickly, but also be quickly succeeded once they've done their job.



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