Sugar Snap Peas & Nitrogen-Fixing

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Sat, May 24, 2014 - 3:54pm

Just harvested these babies from the garden:

Few tastes mark the arrival of summer like fresh snap peas...

I recently planted corn in the same box as these peas, with the idea that the peas will provide a nitrogen boost to help the corn grow.

My understanding is that the nitrogen doesn't really get released until the pea plants die and their roots start decomposing. Apparently its this root decomposition that creates the nitrogen burst.

To the experienced gardeners out there: is this understanding correct?

And if so, once the pea plants start dying, should I just cut the stalks off at the root, toss the stalks in the composter, and leave the roots in to decompose?

And how long after death will it take for the nitrogen burst to occur? Is the burst an immediate event, or does it play out over time (days? weeks?)

Thanks in advance for any answers!


1 Comment

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
peas and nitrogen fixing

Adam, the bacterial nodules on the roots of legumes usually fix most of the nitrogen - but the above-ground plants have some nitrogen, too. I've been told that he best way to release that nitrogen into the soil is to actively turn the plants--especially the roots--into the soil. The release is still gentle and gradual as the roots decompose, but this breaks up the roots a bit and makes it better for the next thing you plant there.

Parts of the the stalks can woody, so they are better allowed to break down in your compost pile. Remember - the stalks and leaves will add nitrogen to your compost.

Bear in mind that neither will release nitrogen into dry or overly-acidic soil.

If you want to increase the amount of nitrogen your legumes emit, use a bacterial inoculant on your seeds before planting.

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