Planting a Buckwheat Cover Crop
Since we harvested the rest of the garlic and shallots last week and we are not going to be planting our next crop until early August, we have a unique opportunity to grow a cover crop in our Demonstration Garden this year!
Cover crops are typically grown for a number of reasons: prevent soil erosion, increase soil nutrients, suppress weeds, improve soil organic matter content, and provide food for beneficial insects. They can also help with soil compaction & drainage, suppress diseases, and break insect cycles. With such an impressive list of benefits, you wonder why we haven’t done it before!
The challenge with cover crops is that they need a certain amount of time to grow, which can interfere with other things you want to grow. In our case, we had a large area that was otherwise going to be empty. Enter the buckwheat!
Buckwheat grows fast, tolerates drought, and can scavenge phosphorus from the soil. It is also excellent as a weed suppressor, and the flowers provide habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects.
The first step was getting the soil moistened in the areas where we wanted to plant the buckwheat. Except for rain, most of those areas hadn’t been watered in a couple weeks while we were drying down the garlic and shallots. As you might imagine, the soil was quite dry! We watered and worked up the soil to ensure even moisture. Then we scattered the buckwheat seed (about 1/4 lb per 100 sq. ft.) and raked it in.
This is the buckwheat seed. It is rather triangular (well, pyramidal) seed that almost seems like it has wings on the edges. It is actually related to rhubarb, and isn’t even a grain (like wheat), but rather a seed (from a nutritional standpoint). We should have some germination by next week or maybe even the end of the week.