We try new things in our garden each year. This year we have been experimenting with using buckwheat as a cover crop. It’s super cool because it chokes out weeds, adds nitrogen back to the soil, is quick to bloom (so loved by pollinators), self seeding, and creates the perfect habitat for beneficial and pest insects — you can also harvest it and make your very own buckwheat flour. You might even get froggy and make some tasty buckwheat pancakes on a rainy Saturday morning which happens to be my Papa’s favorite.
If you’re struggling with pesky insects like aphids or caterpillars, planting some buckwheat nearby or amongst your garden might be a life saver. Buckwheat attracts a number of beneficial insects like hover flies which feed on aphids. The female hover fly likes to lay her eggs close to an aphid infestation. After hatching, which only takes a few days, the larvae starts feeding on the aphids immediately. Now, it would be hard for us to know when this is all going down but say we did, we would be able to tell a difference in aphid population in just a few days. Resulting in happier and healthier plants.
Staggering your planting in almost any crop is smart (in my opinion). Especially if you’re needing continuous flow and to stay out of the grocery store. I mean who wants 20 heads of lettuce ready for harvest all at once (unless you’re running a CSA or something like that)? And for that matter we want a continuous nectar source for our honey bees and for our hover flies. If we provide them with the optimum habitat then they will stay. Its a win-win, for them, us, and our garden. So I guess a win-win-win.
When planning our apiary we decided buckwheat/wildflowers would be the perfect pair. At first we planted a 20’x50′ plot of buckwheat. A few weeks later, we sowed a 50’x 100′ plot. We also planted buckwheat around a lot of our trees, around our brambles, blueberry rows, and even around and in-between our potato rows. So far, although early, everything is looking good. It’s hard to give an accurate comparison from last year to this year with only having my memory to compare. I try to document things but lets face it… that’s really hard to do. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. BUT, it’s really smart to keep a garden journal and if nothing else log a garden blueprint. So you know what was planted where and what worked and didn’t for the next planting.
And did I mention that it’s one of the more affordable seeds and that its non-gmo? Check with your local mill. We purchased a 50 lb bag for around $45. If you’re new to cover crops or haven’t given your soil a break in a while… try your hand at buckwheat. It’s an easy to grow crop that gives back to the soil, your harvest, and you.