After you have been gardening for a while, you can learn more advanced ways of creating a healthy garden. One of these is buckwheat, which serves as a crop cover and provides beneficial nutrients to your soil. Learn when to plant buckwheat and how often you can grow it.
When to plant buckwheat: Buckwheat only takes a few weeks to grow so you can plant it anytime from spring to summer. The first planting should take place a few weeks after the last spring frost date and the last planting should happen well before the first fall frost date. Buckwheat does not do well with frost and below-freezing temperatures will quickly kill the plant.
What is buckwheat?
Trapped somewhere in limbo, buckwheat is not grass nor a grain. Instead, it is a sort-of cereal that acts as a seed.
Buckwheat seeds are edible and can be used to make flour. You can also use the seeds for functional tasks, such as pillow fillings.
As for the foliage of buckwheat, it is edible for some animals but not for humans.
Planting Buckwheat in Different Climates
Buckwheat can grow in a tropical climate. The warm air and moisture will help it thrive.
You should be prepared, however, for the plant to continually re-seed itself. While buckwheat will naturally die off when exposed to frost, in a tropical climate it will simply keep repeating its life cycle.
You should be able to grow buckwheat in a dry climate. While it does need water after you first plant the seeds, once the plant is established, it doesn’t need too much. Just be prepared to hand water as needed.
A temperate climate is great for buckwheat. If you plant in the spring, there should be enough rainfall to sustain it and the mild summer weather means less maintenance.
Another beneficial area for buckwheat to grow is in a continental climate. You will have a shorter growing season, however, as any exposure to frost will kill the plant.
You may be able to get one cycle of buckwheat in a polar climate. The plant only takes a few weeks to grow, so at the height of summer, it should be warm enough to plant and grow buckwheat.
Reasons to Plant Buckwheat
You can plant buckwheat in large patches or sporadically, depending on your purpose. If you have a vegetable garden, you can actually plant buckwheat along its edges to deter pests from the area.
Buckwheat grows very quickly and in just a matter of weeks it will reach up to 12 inches tall. This tall, lush plant will then deter pests from flying too close to your vegetables. As a result, they aren’t able to lay their eggs which perpetuates the pest problem.
Although buckwheat can prevent pesky insects from getting too close to your vegetable garden, it will actually attract beneficial insects such as bees. The blooms of buckwheat attract healthy pollinators, which will greatly benefit any fruit or vegetable plants in the area.
You can eat it
Yes, buckwheat is edible although not many backyard gardeners take advantage of this fact. The reason is that it can be quite labor-intensive to collect and mill the seeds.
If, however, you are looking for a new hobby, you can indeed turn your buckwheat seeds into flour.
Gardening is a labor of love so when shortcuts present themselves, it’s important to take advantage of them. You can collect buckwheat seeds for the next year or, you can simply let Mother Nature take over and spread the seeds herself.
Most gardeners are aware of the benefits of manure. Another form of this is called green manure. When you have a crop cover, such as buckwheat, you can cut it all back, and then the green stems and foliage will naturally break down and can be mixed back into the soil.
Again, this can take a bit of effort on your part but you can actually make use of your buckwheat seeds. They make for a great filling in pillows or you can create your own heating pad.
We feel like buckwheat is too often seen as a utilitarian crop. In addition to its many uses, buckwheat is actually a really nice plant to look at.
With small white flowers and green foliage, if you have a bare spot in your garden, buckwheat is a great addition.
How to Plant Buckwheat Seeds
You have a lot of options when it comes to planting buckwheat. Although it is annual, there is no preferred time to plant it.
The planting season for buckwheat can be any time from spring to late summer. Start at least two weeks after the last frost date and plant well before the first frost date.
Buckwheat will die off naturally as soon as there is any frost on the ground, so keep this in mind when deciding when to plant it.
Buckwheat can be used for many reasons but it will only grow in full or partial shade. So, even if you want its benefits for a shady area of your garden, it, unfortunately, won’t grow very well.
Buckwheat is very adaptable and you do not need ideal growing conditions. In fact, it grows similar to weeds, in that as long as there is some soil available, it will grow.
You can try to amend the soil for a stronger crop but this is usually not necessary. As buckwheat is often grown as a crop cover or to help other plants in your garden, the soil you plant it in should be decent enough as it is.
Buckwheat seeds should be sown at a depth of 1 ½ inch. The easiest way is to spread the seeds out and then add a thin layer of soil over top.
If you just want buckwheat for a small area of your garden, hand sowing is the easiest. However, if you want it to help rotate crops or to fill in a dormant part of your garden, a seed spreader can help speed up the process and ensure more even coverage.
How to Water Buckwheat
After you plant buckwheat seeds, you should give them good watering to start the germination process. For the first few days after planting, try to keep the soil and the seeds moist so they don’t dry out.
Buckwheat grows quickly and doesn’t need too much water for it to grow. However, if you plant it at the height of summer, you will need to add extra water so that it doesn’t droop or wilt.
How to Grow Buckwheat
Let it be
Growing buckwheat is incredibly simple. Just let it be. While you should water it if it is warm out, you don’t have to worry about doing anything else to it.
Most gardeners use buckwheat as green compost. This is when you grow a crop for the explicit use of cutting it down to provide nutrients to your soil.
The only tricky part about buckwheat is knowing when to cut it back. Timing is important but once you figure it out, it becomes quite easy.
The trick is to not let the buckwheat bloom and go to seed. If it goes to seed, the seeds will fall and sow themselves into the ground, which will repeat the cycle. While there are some benefits to this, for the most part, having a cycle of buckwheat can impair the planting of different crops.
You can cut your buckwheat back within 10 days of blooms happening. If you wait too long, you may inadvertently allow seeds to fall.
After you cut back your buckwheat, you have a few options. The simplest option is to let the buckwheat foliage decompose on its own.
One of the benefits of growing buckwheat is that it will break down easily and return to the soil. This means a lot less effort on your part.
If you are in more of a rush, you can till the soil and get the buckwheat foliage back into the ground faster. For smaller areas, you can use a garden fork.
If you have a large area that needs more nutrients in your soil, you can plant successive crops of buckwheat to repeat the process. If you choose to do this, simply wait two weeks for the buckwheat to decompose thoroughly and then plant the seed again.
How long does buckwheat take to grow?
Buckwheat grows incredibly fast. In just two weeks you can have mature buckwheat that is up to 12 inches tall.
The growing cycle of buckwheat is also short. If you let it go to seed, this whole process takes about a month.
There are many benefits to growing buckwheat. In smaller areas, it can help deter pests and in larger areas, it can decompose and add nutrients to your soil. Plant buckwheat any time between mid-spring and mid-summer as frost will naturally kill this annual plant.