by Jennifer Poindexter
Are you considering raising buckwheat as a cover crop for your garden? Cover crops provide an array of benefits. They can protect your soil from erosion or weeds which seek to invade your grow space.
Plus, they’re a great way to naturally add nutrients back to your soil. If your garden could use this type of boost, buckwheat could be a great solution.
I’ll tell you how to grow, care for, and utilize buckwheat as a cover crop. Here’s what you should know if you’re trying to decide if buckwheat is the right cover crop for your growing space.
Growing Conditions for Buckwheat
Buckwheat is an annual crop which is typically started in the cooler portion of spring and grown through the summer. This crop must be planted where the soil is well-draining and where it receives adequate sunlight. One of the biggest things to consider is moisture retention in the soil.
Buckwheat must have consistent moisture when growing. This helps it to combat fluctuations in the temperatures.
Be sure the soil can drain the water away from the plant quickly, yet still hold onto moisture surrounding the plant. This allows the crop to tap into more moisture if it’s needed.
If you can provide the right soil and sunlight, buckwheat should grow well for you in your gardening space.
How to Plant Buckwheat
Buckwheat cannot tolerate frost. Therefore, it shouldn’t be planted until all threat of frost is over. In many cases, the gardener will plant early spring crops.
Once those crops are finished, they plant buckwheat to replenish their soil before planting their late summer and fall crops.
Buckwheat only takes one month to reach a mature enough state to serve its purpose as a cover crop. When you choose to plant buckwheat, kill off any weeds in the garden plot at least a week before planting
At the time of planting, ensure the seeds don’t penetrate further than an inch and a half beneath the soil.
You can sow the seeds in rows or till up the soil to cast the seed. If you use the casting method, be sure to lightly cover the soil after planting is complete.
It should take the seeds approximately five days to germinate. Ensure the soil is warm and dry before planting.
If you plant buckwheat in cool, wet soil, the seeds will rot. Once your seeds have germinated, it’s time to learn how to care for your buckwheat crop.
Caring for Buckwheat
Buckwheat requires very little care. The main things to understand about this plant is how much water to provide the crop, in the appropriate way, and how to utilize it as a cover crop.
As discussed earlier, buckwheat doesn’t like frost but prefers cooler temperatures and consistent moisture. When the temperatures become too dry or too hot it can have a negative impact on this plant.
You can combat this by providing adequate amounts of moisture. The best method for watering buckwheat is the deep watering method.
This means that you’ll water for longer periods of time over fewer days of the week. By watering this way, it allows water to reach the roots during the initial watering session.
It also drenches the surrounding area. This will encourage the buckwheat to develop deeper roots to tap into more water. In turn, it creates stronger plants and should combat wilting issues.
The next steps are important to using buckwheat as a cover crop. You should terminate the crop approximately two weeks after flowering has started.
It only takes one month for the plant to flower. If you wish to prolong the time buckwheat is growing in your garden, you can mow the crop down prior to flowering.
This works like pruning and will encourage it to regrow. At the same time, what you cut will decompose into the soil and add nutrients.
Mowing, prior to flowering, is a way to multiply the amount of nutrients the cover crop adds to your garden space.
However, you must be sure to terminate the crop at the appropriate time once blooming starts. Otherwise, it will reseed.
If you aren’t planning on using the grow space until the following year, you could allow the buckwheat to reseed and grow a second batch in the same area. This will depend upon when frost moves into your region and how much time the plant has to grow.
You can terminate buckwheat by mowing it down, using a weed eater to cut it down, or by tilling it into the soil. The crop breaks down quickly, so it should start adding nutrients to your soil almost immediately.
These are the few steps you must take to care for buckwheat when growing it as a cover crop. It’s now time to discuss how to protect this crop while growing in your garden.
Pests and Diseases That Could Impact Buckwheat
Most plants face threats in any grow space. Cover crops are not an exception to this rule. Buckwheat has only a few threats you must pay attention to.
In general, buckwheat isn’t threatened by many pests because it invites beneficial insects into your garden.
Aphids and mites like this crop, but the beneficial insects tend to take care of them before they cause too many issues.
However, you must be aware of fungal leaf spot and competitive weeds when growing buckwheat. Fungal leaf spot can be treated with a fungicide.
You should also make sure the soil is well-draining, there’s adequate airflow around the crops, and water your crop earlier in the day.
This gives the plant time to dry before the cooler night temperatures move in.
Weeds, which compete with buckwheat, can also cause issues because they can choke out your plants. This is why it’s good to plant buckwheat with a secondary cover crop such as clover.
Clover has many benefits to bring to your garden and will stop weeds from taking over your buckwheat.
Take these things into consideration when raising buckwheat as a cover crop.
Benefits of Buckwheat
We’ve discussed what you must know to grow buckwheat as a cover crop in your garden. Now, it’s time to discuss why you should even consider it.
Buckwheat has many benefits. It’s an excellent way to get rid of weeds. When a garden space is left unplanted for a certain period of time, weeds tend to take over.
By planting a cover crop, you have something else growing in the area which can make it more difficult for weeds to take over your garden space.
This also reduces the number of diseases and pests which can harbor in this area because something is growing there and complicating things for the unwanted visitors.
Buckwheat will also invite pollinators to your garden space and other beneficial insects. This will protect your cover crop and hopefully, help your garden vegetables thrive in the upcoming growing season.
This cover crop is also great at aerating your soil and adding nutrients to the area. Buckwheat loves phosphorus.
Therefore, it collects as much of it as possible when growing. Once the crop is terminated, it should be left in the garden to decompose.
This will add phosphorus to the soil while also serving as a mulch. It helps with water retention and continues as another layer of protection against weeds for your next round of crops.
Remember, you can typically mix cover crops to provide double the impact on your garden. It’s wise to mix taller grains with a cover crop that grows lower to the ground.
They can provide a mix of nutrients, aerate your soil even more, and protect your garden plot from weeds.
This concludes our discussion on buckwheat as a cover crop. Hopefully, this information has prepared you to either grow this crop in your garden, as a cover crop, or to at least have a better understanding if this is the right cover crop for you.
Cover crops are wonderful if you’re trying to garden organically, but they also work well for those who grow in large garden plots. They can help you amend large areas while sticking to a budget.
Whatever your reason for desiring to grow cover crops, hopefully buckwheat will meet the desires of your garden.