Finally I Thought Ahead!

by Cynthia

I have mentioned more than once here that my husband, kids, and I recently put in a new vegetable garden. I am so pleased with myself because I finally thought ahead for when it comes to planning what I plant. We tilled and amended the entire new garden and then planted it with things like corn, tomatoes, pole beans, basil, etc. We filled the entire new garden to the brim minus a 15’x4′ section. That section is cut off from the rest of the veggie garden by the trellis we put in for the pole beans. Instead of planting some more veggies in that area we decided to sow it with buckwheat to act as a cover crop.

I decided I wanted to plant that area with garlic this fall and since I still have several months until it is time to plant the garlic we decided it was a perfect opportunity to squeeze a few cover crop plantings in.

I am really excited about this (and I think my fellow gardens out there are the only ones that are going to understand my excitement here!). For years now I have wanted to try growing cover crops. Perhaps I am a little nuts, and it may be the frustrated soil scientist in me, but I think cover cropping is so cool and fascinating. The concept of growing a crop strictly for turning under has always intrigued me. Not only do you get the benefit of adding organic matter to your soil but the cover crop also smoothers weeds and can add nutrients back to the soil. Especially if you grow a legume for a cover crop since legumes fix nitrogen from the air.

I am hoping to get at least 2 if not 3 plantings of the buckwheat in before it is time to plant the garlic. Earlier this week I cut it all down and will turn it into the soil in a few days. Buckwheat is ready to be cut down and tilled under when it is in flower. You do not want to let it go to seed as it will be everywhere. Two weeks after it has been cut down I am going to sow that section again with buckwheat.

Buckwheat is actually a rather interesting cover crop. It is a good indicator plant because if your soil is low in organic matter and nitrogen the buckwheat will be small and have yellow leaves. (Note the front section of my sown buckwheat. You can see how stunted the growth is there. I found that interesting considering the rest grew so lush.)

Buckwheat beginning to flower in my garden.

When in bloom buckwheat makes an awesome plant for attracting beneficial insects. I have read that numerous times but witnessed it first hand this past week. I almost felt guilty cutting it down as the bees where beginning to fall in love with its flowers and I was finding 5 or 6 ladybugs on it at a time.

Buckwheat in flower

Although it does not add nitrogen to the soil it does do an excellent job of boosting the organic matter which my soil, being that it is a new garden, desperately needs.

I will continue to post on this with updates for anyone that might find this as interesting as I do. Perhaps there are some other frustrated soil scientists out there like myself that actually get into this.

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