When a farmer I know mentioned a couple of years ago that he uses buckwheat alongside his crops, I was intrigued; I peppered him with lots of questions. I’d never heard of this tactic, one he claimed would help deter pests. So of course, I had to try it. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried something completely new and had it work so well.
Buckwheat deters pests
Scattered alongside newly sprouted vegetable seeds or starts, buckwheat seed quickly takes root, reaching its 12-15″ height in just a couple of weeks. Flying pests find it difficult to maneuver through the lush growth of buckwheat to reach their intended target. What this has meant in my garden is that cabbage moths can’t lay eggs on my kale plants (image below), giving them a chance to really get established before they outgrow the buckwheat. I’m hoping that similar holds true as my summer squash starts to bloom. If I can prevent the night-flying moths that produce pickleworms from reaching the flowers, I might just have a shot at growing cucumbers and melons, too.
Buckwheat attracts beneficials
Honeybees have become a rare enough site that spotting one calls for excitement. Since my buckwheat started blooming, honeybees appear in multiples alongside hover flies and other pollinators. And while they’re here enjoying the plentiful buckwheat flowers, you know they’re helping to pollinate my veggies, too.
Buckwheat makes great animal fodder
If it looks like some of my plants are too shaded by the buckwheat, I clip some to allow a bit more sunlight in. Those clippings go straight to the chickens — they love the greens!
Buckwheat is edible
In and of itself, it can be a crop for gardeners who have the patience to process it. Ripe buckwheat seeds easily fall off the plant. Once the chaff is removed, use a grain mill (like this) to turn the seeds into flour.
Buckwheat reseeds itself
If you’re organized about it, you can collect the seeds to control where it pops up next. If you’re a little more casual about things, like I am, you can let Mother Nature do her thing and just let the seeds fall. To get started, you can buy basic cover crop seed or—if you’re planning to harvest a crop—choose an heirloom variety for better taste.
Buckwheat is a great green manure crop
If you want to juice up your soil a bit, scatter buckwheat seeds on a fallow garden bed or planting area. When it’s about a foot high, use the “chop and drop” method or till it in. Buckwheat is also great at extracting phosphorus from insoluble sources, helping to improve the soil.
Buckwheat keeps weeds at bay
It grows so quickly that the plants shade out many weeds before they have a chance to take hold.
Buckwheat seeds are handy little buggers
Buckwheat is pretty
Even if it didn’t deter pests or help build soil or feed my chickens, I’d plant it. The soft green is a beautiful way to fill in bare areas.