Eureka Myrica! And Other Nitrogen Fixers

While our checklog beds are all cozy for the winter with their cover crop, compost, and mulch keeping them warm, wet, and nourished, we’ve been focussing on some other planting. Even though it’s winter, we’re giving our pollinator garden, silvopasture, and food forest some special tending. To clear a space for the food forest, we’ve been gradually taking down the invasive Eucalyptus trees that grow like weeds around here. Now we can start to plant native species. One of my new favorites is Myrica Californica, otherwise knows as the Pacific Wax Myrtle.

We were looking for some fast- growing native pioneer trees to establish the canopy layer of our food forest, and the local nursery recommended the Pacific Wax Myrtle. It can grow 2-4 feet a year, reaching a height of 10 to 30 feet, and is hardy, tolerating drought, flood, and our sandy soil. It’s a pretty evergreen, with berries in the fall that attract birds. I’ve read that tinctures or powders made from the root or bark have medicinal uses to sooth inflammation and combat cold and sinus issues. My favorite thing about this merry myrtle is that it has nodules on its roots that contain nitrogen-fixing microorganisms. These allow the myrtle to not only survive in poor soil, but to improve the soil.

Improving soil health is a major focus of ours, since soil is the foundation of the flourishing ecosystem we seek to cultivate here. Our cover crop mix this year is full of nitrogen fixers too, including a nitrocoated seed mix of Blando Bromegrass,  Annual Ryegrass, Crimson Clover, Rose Clover, and Nitro Persian Clover. Common nitrogen fixers are in the Fabaceae family and include legumes, clover, peanuts, lupins, and alfalfa. Our soil tends to be sandy and low in organic matter, and so we get excited to see the lupin and clover come up in the rainy season. So thank you to the nitrogen fixing plants, and the microorganisms on the root nodules, and your complex chemistry that is improving our soil health, and thereby  improving our health.

I love this concept we find in nature where a symbiotic relationship between plant and microorganisms creates a more nutrient-rich environment for each, while improving overall soil health. Here we find a version of competition that is also cooperative, because what gives the plant a competitive advantage to survive is also what allows its local ecosystem to thrive. Perhaps it is a false dichotomy, in the human world, that we can be either competitive or cooperative. We at Terra Cultura are excited to explore models where what benefits us (economically, socially, environmentally) is also what benefits our plant, animal, and human communities. We look forward to creating thriving plant, animal, and human ecosystems with you in the new year.



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