Goumi Berries – A Great Nitrogen Fixing Berry
In this episode, we’re going to look at goumi berries and how to add them to your growing areas. These great edible berries also fix nitrogen. Nitrogen-fixing plants like goumi berries can help your other plants grow by increasing the amount of nitrogen in the soil through their interaction with soil microbes on their roots. So let’s look at how you can grow goumi berries.
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Planting nitrogen-fixing plants around your other plants is one way to help them grow and thrive. I always try to add some to my planting areas.
This is a great alternative to using nitrogen fertilizer that causes runoff pollution that damages water quality.
Often, I plant native nitrogen fixers like lupines and alders.
But I can’t eat those plants. And that’s where goumi berries come into play.
We’ve planted them in both of our food forests and I plan to add more in the future. Goumi berries can be mixed in with your other plants as part of a polyculture.
Polyculture is where you plant a mix of different types of plants together. This can help you deal with pests and increase the productivity of all your plants.
Especially if you mix in nitrogen fixers like goumi berries.
So let’s dive into what growing conditions goumi berries need and how to mix them in with your other plants.
But first I do want to give you a quick update on the status of this podcast. If you’ve been following us then you know we haven’t released an episode since early January.
We’ve decided to switch from weekly episodes to releasing one episode per month.
This will give us more time to focus on our family and other priorities in our lives. While I love working on this podcast and running Growing with Nature it does take a lot of time.
And I still have a full-time job and I have a lot of restoration and food growing projects on our property to manage.
That’s a lot to balance so we’ve decided to pull back a bit on our podcast to give more time for everything else.
But Growing with Nature isn’t going anywhere, and we will still be releasing a new episode each month.
Okay—let’s get back to goumi berries.
Further Listening and Reading: Growing with Nature episodes and blog posts with more information about the topics covered in this episode.
Books and Other Resources
Plant List: More information about some of the plants covered in this episode.
Growing Goumi Berries
In my experience goumi berries (Elaeagnus multiflora) are really easy to grow. Though they can be slow their first year and may not grow much.
But all of mine have taken off during their second year.
Like a lot of nitrogen-fixing plants, goumi berries do great in fairly poor soil. In natural areas, nitrogen-fixing plants tend to be some of the first plants to show up after a disturbance like a fire or a mudslide.
Especially if the soil is poor.
Quick growing nitrogen fixers like goumi berries fill in these areas and help to create the conditions other plants need to thrive.
Over time these first plants are replaced by the later plants while their seeds wait for the cycle to repeat with the next disturbance.
This characteristic makes goumi berries a great option in new growing areas since they can help make the soil more productive.
If you’ve got poor soil, plants like goumi berries can be a great option.
Goumi berries are also very cold hardy. They can handle temperatures down to -25° F or -32° C.
They tend to prefer well-drained soil and are happiest if they get roughly a half-day in the sun. And they cap out at about 5 to 6 feet in height.
The berries are a mix of sweet and tart but can be astringent if you pick them too early. But when fully ripe they’re great-tasting and my kids enjoy eating them raw. Make sure the berries are all red before picking them.
They do have a single large seed but it’s soft enough that you can just chew and eat it.
And while goumi berries are partially self-fertile they produce the most berries when 2 different varieties are planted.
Info on Goumi Berries – Elaeagnus multiflora:
Adding Goumi Berries to Your Planting Areas
So are you ready to plant some goumi berries? While you could plant them by themselves I think the best option is to mix them in with your other plants.
If you’ve got fruit trees or other berries you can plant goumi berries between your other fruits and berries.
You could plant an apple tree, followed by a goumi berry, and then plant another apple tree or other fruit tree or berry.
Just make sure to space the fruit trees and other berries out enough so the goumi berries can get a half-day of sunlight.
If you’ve already planted your fruit trees or other berries you can still mix in goumi berries. You might just need to plant them on the sunny side of your trees/berries depending on how much room there is between your existing plants.
You can also mix goumi berries into your vegetable and flower areas. Just space the goumi berries out enough to leave plenty of room for the small plants so they can still get enough sun.
A great final option is to combine this all together.
Plant some fruit trees, berries, flowers, and vegetables along with a bunch of native plants, and then mix goumi berries in between them all.
This is what we did in our food forests and the result truly is abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.
Finally, I just want to end with one note of caution.
Goumi berries along with other related plants like Russian olives can be invasive causing problems for native plants and the wildlife that rely on those plants.
Here in western Washington goumi berries don’t seem to cause any issue and I’ve never had to deal with it in my restoration work.
But Goumi berries have been reported growing wild in parts of eastern North America and is on some invasive plant lists. So while it doesn’t seem to cause any issues where I live you might want to double-check if you live somewhere else.
Your local conservation district or other similar group is a good place to get local help.
It’s always good to be careful when introducing non-native plants to your area. Most won’t be invasive but the few that are can cause a lot of problems.
There are always other plants to try if one plant isn’t a good option where you live.
And if you need new plants to try out make sure to stay tuned for our next episode next month where we will look at 3 perennial vegetables you could plant this spring. And don’t forget to check out the show notes for more links and resources related to this episode.
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