I'm planning to boost my tired raised beds this year with green manure based on peas.

The idea is to seed the peas as soon as weather allows it. Once they have grown I would dig them under.

Here are my three questions:

  1. When is the right moment to dig them under?
  2. Can I profit from the peas and the manure-effect?
  3. Is there a variety which I should prefer over others?

I do this every year in a portion of my raised beds (I rotate them in and out of production). It works well. I grow a mix of fava beans, oats and an annual vetch. Here's the kicker, though - for your soil to get the nitrogen boost from the legumes, you are supposed to till them under before they produce, so you really wouldn't benefit from the peas at all.

I see you are planning to fork dig them in. That is what I do as well, and it works fine.

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  1. Short Bean Fava, aka Bell Bean or Horse Bean
  2. Austrian Field Peas
  3. Common Vetch
  4. Buckwheat

You may have issues with vines winding around the tines on that Universal Gardener Agravator Device™ some people call a rototiller.

A BCS rotary plow chops right through cover crop, rototillers try to make rope or straw bundles.

So basically for timing, small, fragile, green and fresh is good. Matured, fibrous and woody bad.

If it matures out too much, it's sickle time and put it all in the compost heap. The root systems become your manure and the rest becomes compost fodder to reapply by different means.

Scarlet Clover straw is the worst for fouling a rototiller something ferocious. As is ryegrass.

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  • For my case it will be pure muscle power in combination with a fork for the digging part. – Patrick B. Feb 24 '14 at 12:07
  • Get them turned in green before they put much of any nutrients into the seed pods. You'll get the full effect of any nitrogen while they're at their lushest and greenest. Plants are by design a nutrient transfer system to strip themselves dry and put all the protein and starch into the seeds for the next generation. With forking your green manure in, you exchange sweat equity for aggravation, a fair exchange that keeps you healthy and the ground healthy. – Fiasco Labs Feb 25 '14 at 2:44

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