Snow peas for early cover crop?

Coconut_Head(5b)March 8, 2012

Hi anyone who is reading.

I have a couple questions, will snow peas be a suitable cover crop for a couple raised beds? I started the raised beds last year and bought dirt from a local sand and gravel place and the dirt was ok. I grew tomatoes and some other veggies in the two beds last season and they did fine with no chemical fertilizers.

My compost is not ready and I did topdress them in the fall with shredded maple leaves. I had planned to plant both beds full of snow peas as a spring cover crop until the end of May when the majority of our plants are safe to plant out. I thought I could #1 get a harvest of peas in, and #2 help the beds by fixing nitrogen with the peas. And then #3 cut the plants down and just lay them as a green top mulch for whatever I plan to plant in those two specific beds.

Will this be beneficial to the bed? If I just cut the peas down at the base of the stem and lay them down will they provide a decent mulch for the bed? As long as I don't till them in I am hoping to keep the soil food web alive and strong. I will also be topdressing with my finished compost right after I plant the beds out. Should I put the cut pea plants on top of the compost or below the compost?

I'm trying to not till or disturb the soil as much as possible and this next fall instead of just a shredded leaf mulch, I will plant a fall/winter cover crop. Maybe not snow peas but something else I can just chop down and leave it where it lies.

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Well, if you're in a Zone 5 climate, you probably won't get a harvest of peas by the end of May. Here in SE Michigan, a marginal Zone 6, peas planted in late March will yield in very late June through about mid July (depending upon the heat, of course, could be a week or two earlier).

So, I'm not sure if it's realistic to think they'll be gone by late May, but otherwise, I'd say your plan is sound.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 4:16PM
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Thanks for the response. I guess I'll just try it out and see. The main reason for planting was to cover crop them, I was just hoping for a bonus pea harvest out of it. I wasn't going to wait till late march though, I was going to plant this weekend. Also my Zone 5 is a warm zone 5. I'm in a nice protected valley, we are on average 10 degrees warmer than on the hilltops around here, which I would consider a true zone 5.

I'm using avalance snow peas which say 59 days to harvest. So maybe I'll get at least something out of them.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 4:44PM
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I am planning to use a bunch of pea seed I threshed out of a field last year as an early-sown cover crop in late april. I think I might mow them with a scythe as they reach flowering stage and then plant into the roots which will be hopefully well-nodulated, in mid-june or so. This ground is freshly turned sod over the winter, so really my best plan would be to let those pea roots rot out over the summer and then plant a fall crop into it like garlic or wheat. I'll do that on part of it.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 7:01AM
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