Growing Buckwheat to Improve Soils

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This is the second crop of buckwheat growing in the area where we will likely add new garden plots next season.  Soon, this field will be blooming in white and buzzing with honeybees.

Gardeners have asked what does buckwheat do for us?

It improves it by providing quick cover and suppressing weeds, it attracts good insects,  and it makes otherwise unavailable phosphorus available.

“The roots of the plants produce mild acids that release nutrients from the soil. These acids also activate slow-releasing, organic fertilizers, such as rock phosphate. Buckwheat’s dense, fibrous roots cluster in the top 10 inches of soil, providing a large root surface area for nutrient uptake,” a publication of the Cooperative Extension system. Complete article: https://articles.extension.org/pages/18572/buckwheat-for-cover-cropping-in-organic-farming

We will be tilling the buckwheat into our soil to add organic matter. The nutrients will enrich and enhance what we have. In the meantime, honeybees and other beneficial insects  such as hover flies, predatory wasps, lady beetles visit the buckwheat and help maintain the garden’s health.

Buckwheat Planted To Improve Soil

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 3.39.57 PMBill Pitney and I planted buckwheat on the east side of the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens today.

The organic seed was purchased from Johnny’s Seeds and chosen because buckwheat is a quick summer green manure, meaning it improves the soil.

Here’s what it says on Johnny’s website: “Buckwheat is widely grown as a grain crop, bee pasture, soil improving cover crop and as wildlife cover. It is a warm season grain which grows rapidly during the summer and several crops per year may be had with proper management. This rapid and dense growth chokes out weeds and is used in crop-free fields in rotation with vegetables.

“Buckwheat is often grown to attract beneficial insects and as pasture for honey bees. Sow in late May through July and till in about a month later, when flowering has begun. For grain harvest, sow 3 months before fall frost. Harvest after killing frost. Planting rate: 2-3 lb./1,000 sq.ft. (60 lb./acre), one-fifth less when planting for grain harvest. Blue label/Certified seed. Organically grown. Avg. 14,800 seeds/lb.”

We should see germination in less than a week and flowers in 25 days.

The area planted is where next year’s raised beds and plots will be.  Using a cover crop not only helps the soil, but the bees will love it too.

Speaking of the bees, they are frequent visitors to our fountain in the butterfly garden.