The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

September 12, 2019

Growing buckwheat to improve your garden

I’m a big fan of cover crops both on the farm and in the garden. Cover crops are not harvested, instead they’re used for other purposes such as preventing erosion or improving soil tilth.

One of my favorite cover crops is buckwheat, the same plant that gives us grain for buckwheat pancakes. It is very fast growing, so fast in fact, that it will beat out most weeds in a race to the finish.

For use as a cover crop, buckwheat can be planted any time during the growing season. If planted early, it will mature quick enough that you’ll be able to till it into the soil and grow a second crop if need be. I often grow a late crop of buckwheat that gets tilled into the soil. I then follow that with a crop of winter rye. Growing buckwheat as a grain to harvest is a different story.

This time of the year I’m growing buckwheat for a few reasons. First, it makes a fine placeholder in the garden, a kind of living mulch. If I have a large spot that is not going to be planted, I’ll sow it with buckwheat. It keeps the area from being overrun with weeds by overpowering and smothering them.

Buckwheat helps maintain soil fertility. While it grows, it picks up and holds minerals in its leaves, stems and roots. Later, when the plant is eventually tilled into the soil, those minerals will be released back into the soil for the next crop to use. Plus, plenty of valuable organic material from the roots and tops will improve topsoil.

Buckwheat’s flowers produce an enormous amount of nectar making it a valuable plant for honeybees and other pollinating insects. For example, an acre of buckwheat can provide enough nectar to allow honeybees to produce as much as 150 pounds of honey. Less than a month after planting, buckwheat will begin to flower and not long after, seeds will appear. It will continue producing flowers and seeds until frost. Its flowering habit provides honeybees with a source of food when few other plants are flowering.

Buckwheat produces nectar only in the morning, you won’t see bees in your buckwheat during the afternoon.

Buckwheat produces nectar only in the morning, you won’t see bees in your buckwheat during the afternoon.

 

Seeds are available online and at rural farm supply stores. Plant buckwheat by scattering the seeds over the surface of a freshly tilled area so that the seeds end up being around three or four inches apart. Then rake the area to cover the seeds with soil.

Buckwheat can re-seed itself and sometimes become a minor annoyance the following year. If you find that’s the case in your garden, mow or till it before it produces too many seeds.

Bob

 

 

September 5, 2019

Be careful not to introduce invasive plants into your garden

 

It’s surprisingly easy to introduce an invasive plant into your garden. It often happens when gardeners share plants with one another.

We have a few examples of that happening in our garden. One of those is Pinellia tripartita a plant native to China and Japan. I’ve heard it called Japanese jack-in-the-pulpit, although there’s another plant goes by the same name. Crow dipper is another name. One website refers to it as green dragon, another calls it voodoo lily. Botanically speaking, it’s closely related to our native jack-in-the-pulpit.

Pinellia is a smallish plant only eight to twelve inches tall and can grow in a variety of environments as long as the soil is well-drained. In our garden it is growing as a weed in full sun. Actually, it is growing in the shade of taller sun-loving plants, it is flourishing under the peonies that we brought in from another garden.

It was present as a persistent weed in that original garden too. We thought we were very careful to remove any trace of the Pinellia when we dug the peonies – apparently that was not the case. Now six years later we are still fighting it.

Unlike the other weeds we’ve accidentally brought in, these we have been able to keep confined to one relatively small spot in our garden.

Pinellia is very well adapted for reproducing itself and is quite competitive growing among other plants. It produces both tubers and numerous seeds, making it doubly sure it will reproduce one way or another.

You can see the small tuber growing on the root. Each piece of plant will have at least one.

You can see the small tuber growing on the root. Each piece of plant will have at least one.

This past week we re-dug the peonies along with the infested soil they were growing in. The peonies we saved and replanted; the soil we bagged up and set it out for disposal in the landfill. Home composting will not destroy all of the seeds or tubers.

In some parts of the country people are planting it as an ornamental, it really is an unusual looking plant. Either it behaves itself in certain climates or it hasn’t become a big enough problem in those areas. People on gardening chat sites marvel how well it spreads without any effort on their part. In some states it is officially classified as a noxious weed.

Even though you can find reputable plant sources online extolling its virtues, I highly recommend against planting it. People say, “I’m a conscientious gardener and would never let it get out of control”. That may be the case but what happens if you move and sell your house, would the new owners be as vigilant?

There is a purple cultivar of Pinellia tripartita that is supposed to be non-invasive, I would never take a chance on that one either.

Bob

 

 

Powered by WordPress