I’m trying something new this year. I’ve never grown a cover crop or “green manure.” A cover crop is a plant that you grow that will be tilled into the ground before it sets seed. The benefit of cover crops is that they can choke out weeds, prevent erosion, trap nutrients and prevent leaching and, when tilled into the soil, increase the amount of humus in the ground.
I’m growing a cover crop to add more organic matter to the soil. I already add a good amount of organic matter to the garden in the form of straw mulch and chopped leaves in the winter. But when it comes to organic matter in the ground, more is better. I’ve often read about cover crops and this seemed like a good time to give them a try.
I decided to grow buckwheat. I wanted a plant that was easy to till into the ground and also one that grew quickly. Buckwheat is usually grown as a summer cover crop that planted in the spring but I figured that planting it in August would give it enough time to grow before I tilled the garden in late fall.
After the determinate tomatoes had stopped producing fruit, I tilled the ground where they had been growing and then scattered the buckwheat seed on the soil. I used a rake to mix the seeds into the ground.
We had a rainy week after the buckwheat was sown and it germinated quickly. Right now the plants are growing well. I’m waiting to see if rabbits like buckwheat – if they do I might not have a very good cover crop!
Also, it’ll be fun to see how this plant grows. Buckwheat is grown as a crop by some farmers – that’s how we get buckwheat pancakes. While it’s harvested for its seeds which are used to make flour, buckwheat is called a pseudocereal because true cereal crops, like wheat, are grasses. Buckwheat isn’t a grass but is instead related to rhubarb. I was surprised to learn this but it makes sense because the buckwheat seeds look like large rhubarb seeds.
Cereal or pseudocereal, I won’t be letting the buckwheat set seeds. Instead, when it starts to blossom, that’s when I’ll till it into the soil in order to add more humus to the ground. It’ll be interesting to see how this works!