10 Plants That Boost Soil Nitrogen To Plant With Your Vegetables

Incorporating nitrogen-fixing plants into your garden is a fantastic way to naturally enhance soil fertility and support the growth of your vegetables. These plants have the unique ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can use, enriching the soil and promoting healthier, more vigorous growth. By planting them alongside your vegetables, you can create a more sustainable and productive garden ecosystem.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to ten amazing plants that boost soil nitrogen. Each plant has unique benefits and growing requirements, ensuring you can find the perfect companions for your vegetable garden. Let’s dive into these wonderful nitrogen-fixers and see how they can help your garden thrive!

Peas

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Peas (Pisum sativum) are not only delicious and nutritious but also excellent nitrogen-fixers. These cool-season legumes are perfect for spring and fall planting. Peas thrive in well-drained soil and full sun. As they grow, they form a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia bacteria in the soil, which help convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form the plants can use.

One of the reasons I love growing peas is their versatility in the garden. They can be grown on trellises, saving space and adding vertical interest. Peas are also great companions for many vegetables, including carrots, radishes, and lettuce. After harvesting, you can turn the spent plants into the soil to further boost nitrogen levels, benefiting the next crop planted in that area.

Clover

clover
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Clover (Trifolium spp.) is a fantastic cover crop and nitrogen-fixer that can be used as a living mulch. Both red and white clover are commonly used in gardens to improve soil fertility. Clover thrives in a variety of soil types and can tolerate full sun to partial shade. It’s an excellent ground cover that suppresses weeds and prevents soil erosion.

One of my favorite things about clover is its low maintenance and ability to attract pollinators. The flowers provide nectar for bees and other beneficial insects, enhancing the biodiversity of your garden. Clover can be mowed or cut back and the clippings used as mulch or composted to further enrich the soil. It’s a versatile and valuable addition to any vegetable garden.

Beans

green bean seedlings
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Beans (Phaseolus spp.) are another group of legumes that are excellent nitrogen-fixers. Whether you grow bush beans or pole beans, these plants can significantly enhance soil fertility. Beans thrive in well-drained soil and full sun. They are easy to grow and produce abundant harvests, making them a staple in many home gardens.

Growing beans alongside your vegetables is a great way to improve soil health. They are especially beneficial for crops like corn, which have high nitrogen needs. After harvesting the beans, you can leave the roots in the ground to decompose, releasing nitrogen back into the soil. Beans also help improve soil structure, making them an excellent addition to crop rotation plans.

Alfalfa

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Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a deep-rooted perennial legume that is highly effective at fixing nitrogen. It’s often grown as a cover crop or green manure to improve soil fertility. Alfalfa thrives in well-drained soil and full sun. Its deep roots help break up compacted soil and bring up nutrients from deeper layers.

One of the reasons I enjoy using alfalfa in my garden is its ability to improve soil health over time. It’s a great companion for vegetables that benefit from loose, nutrient-rich soil, such as tomatoes and peppers. Alfalfa can be mowed several times during the growing season, and the clippings used as mulch or added to compost piles. This process enriches the soil and promotes healthier vegetable growth.

Vetch

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Vetch (Vicia spp.) is a fast-growing legume that’s often used as a cover crop to boost soil nitrogen levels. Hairy vetch and common vetch are popular varieties for garden use. Vetch thrives in well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. It’s a vigorous grower that can quickly cover large areas, making it ideal for improving soil fertility.

I love using vetch in my garden because it’s an excellent companion for heavy-feeding vegetables like corn and squash. After the vetch has grown, you can cut it down and incorporate it into the soil as green manure. This process releases nitrogen and organic matter, enhancing soil health and fertility. Vetch also helps prevent soil erosion and suppresses weeds, making it a valuable addition to any garden.

Lupines

lupine
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Lupines (Lupinus spp.) are beautiful flowering plants that are also excellent nitrogen-fixers. They produce tall spikes of colorful flowers, adding both beauty and functionality to your garden. Lupines thrive in well-drained soil and full sun. They are great for adding nitrogen to the soil, benefiting nearby vegetables.

One of the reasons I enjoy growing lupines is their ability to attract pollinators and beneficial insects. Their striking flowers draw bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, enhancing the biodiversity of your garden. After flowering, you can cut down the plants and incorporate them into the soil to release nitrogen. Lupines are also great for improving soil structure and preventing erosion, making them a fantastic addition to any vegetable garden.

Fenugreek

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Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an annual herb that’s also an effective nitrogen-fixer. It’s commonly used in cooking, but it can also be grown as a cover crop to improve soil fertility. Fenugreek thrives in well-drained soil and full sun. It’s a fast-growing plant that can be used to boost nitrogen levels in your garden.

Growing fenugreek is a great way to enhance soil health while also harvesting a useful culinary herb. The plant’s roots form a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, enriching the soil. After harvesting the seeds or leaves, you can turn the spent plants into the soil to release nitrogen. Fenugreek’s quick growth and nitrogen-fixing abilities make it a valuable addition to any vegetable garden.

Red Clover

bumblebee on a red clover flower
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Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is a versatile and hardy legume that’s excellent for boosting soil nitrogen levels. It thrives in well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. Red clover is often used as a cover crop, green manure, or living mulch. Its deep roots help improve soil structure and bring up nutrients from deeper layers.

I love using red clover in my garden because it attracts pollinators and beneficial insects with its vibrant flowers. After the clover has grown, you can mow it down and incorporate it into the soil to release nitrogen. This process enhances soil fertility and promotes healthier vegetable growth. Red clover is also excellent for preventing soil erosion and suppressing weeds, making it a valuable addition to any garden.

Soybeans

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Soybeans (Glycine max) are not only a valuable crop but also an excellent nitrogen-fixer. They thrive in well-drained soil and full sun, making them perfect for summer planting. Soybeans form a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia bacteria, converting atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can use.

Growing soybeans is a great way to enhance soil health and fertility. After harvesting the beans, you can leave the roots in the ground to decompose, releasing nitrogen back into the soil. Soybeans are also beneficial for improving soil structure and organic matter content. They are excellent companions for heavy-feeding vegetables like corn and squash, helping to boost their growth and productivity.

Chickpeas

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Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum), also known as garbanzo beans, are another excellent nitrogen-fixing legume. They thrive in well-drained soil and full sun, making them ideal for summer planting. Chickpeas are relatively drought-tolerant and can improve soil fertility through their nitrogen-fixing abilities.

One of the reasons I enjoy growing chickpeas is their versatility in the kitchen and the garden. They are great companions for vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers. After harvesting the chickpeas, you can leave the roots in the ground to decompose, enriching the soil with nitrogen. Chickpeas also help improve soil structure and organic matter content, making them a valuable addition to any vegetable garden.

Cody Medina
Small Scale Farmer
Hi there! I'm Cody, a staff writer here at The Garden Magazine and a small-scale farmer living in Oregon. I've been gardening most of my life and now live on a quarter-acre farmstead with chickens, ducks, and a big garden.