Cover Crops Gardening Tips

Buckwheat as a Cover Crop – Techniques to Simplify

Currently I’m planting buckwheat in the garden as a cover crop in beds that contained spring peas, lettuces, or onions this spring.

Although fundamental truths for success in gardening remain firm, techniques to obtain those can vary with each individual. In this post I’ll share techniques that may give you ideas about how to save time and simplify your plantings.

The post that tells you what I grow and gives you various pieces of information that might help you simplify things in your garden is still being written.

Rows of Peas to be Followed with Buckwheat as a Cover Crop

Click to enlarge pictures.

3 rows of peas in bloom on May 25.  The flowers are Sweet Williams (a Dianthus).

After the Peas Finish

When the peas finish I pull the vines and lay them on top of the bed.

You can also cut them and leave the roots to decay in the soil. And then sow seed over them.

Sowing the Cover Crop

It was mid-June before it was convenient to sow buckwheat in the beds. The dried pea vines I push to the side of the bed to finish decaying. (Seed can be sown over the dried vines if you leave them in the bed.)

Seed germinated within a few days.

June 30 – Buckwheat planted mid June in row #1 where peas had grown  (as indicated by the red #1  in the next picture). At the end of the buckwheat is a young cucumber plant. At the top left of the picture is a row of lettuce (planted last fall) that is setting seed. At the end of the row  between the lettuce and buckwheat are Tenderette green bush beans.  Top right of picture shows onion beds.  Some of the early onions have already been harvested. Late onions come in later; even into late July.


Another view of Buckwheat reaching maturity (on July 20) in the 3 rows that contained peas as shown in the first picture. (You’ll note the Sweet William has finished and Rudbeckia is now in bloom in its place.)

When to Cut or Pull the Buckwheat

The next picture is a closer view of the buckwheat just about ready to flower. You can cut or pull buckwheat any time after this stage until you see that it’s about ready to set seed.

Suppose it Sets Seed

If you allow buckwheat to seed without collecting the seed you’ll have a lot of volunteers whenever conditions are right for germination.

The good thing is – buckwheat is easy to pull up.  But it’s time you could spend doing something else.

Buckwheat just starting to flower.

What Do You Do with Buckwheat after Cutting or Pulling It?

I pulled the buckwheat the day I took the picture and laid it on top of the bed as shown in the picture below.

This took 5 minutes at most.

Buckwheat just pulled and laid on top of bed.

Now pea vines and buckwheat will replenish the organic matter in that bed after they decay.

(You’ll note I did this with a minimal amount of effort. No digging or turning under stuff.)

I like to top off these two layers with a layer of straw if I have enough.

Buckwheat Seed for Next Year

Before the season ends I’ll plant at least one row for seed saving.

Something to Keep in Mind When Planting for Maximum Benefit to Your Soil

All plants put a lot of energy into producing their fruit (in this case their seed). Thus, cover crops probably won’t add as much to the soil as they would before they set seed.

The Finished Lettuce Beds

Those tall stalks of lettuce shown flowering in the second picture of this post have finished setting seed.

I cut most of the stalks at the base and left the roots to decay in the soil. That day was a busy one so I didn’t cut up the stalks.  Just laid them on the bed.

Dried lettuce stalks laid on the bed over the straw that was already there.

Sowing the Buckwheat

Pushing the lettuce stalks to the side of the bed, I sowed the buckwheat seed over the straw that already covered the bed.

Yesterday it was starting to germinate.

Finished lettuce bed just planted with buckwheat over the straw already there. The dark brown to the right is the decaying lettuce stalks.

Onion Beds

Day before yesterday I sowed buckwheat in the onion beds that were empty. (The second picture in the post shows the beds with onions in them.)

Hauled in some more straw for another light covering on top of the buckwheat seed since straw was sparse in those beds.

Final Thoughts

Simplifying how you garden makes it easier and more enjoyable.

Things never have to be as complicated as many seem to think.

Suggested Reading:

A Reader Writes – If There Can be But One

Organic Gardening – Smarter and Easier


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  • I also like buckwheat but I don’t pull it all. I like the looks of buckwheat in full bloom so I let some drop seed where ever it will and next year have surprises at where it comes up.

    Happy gardening

    Ray Kent

  • Theresa, thank you for the reminder about the cover crops. I think I get so excited when I harvest anything I forget to give back to the earth! I hope you are doing well.

  • Hello Theresa! Good to see another post. I love my cover crops. This year I’m trying something new for the cover crop. 40% Annual Rye
    15% Crimson Clover
    15% Berseem Clover
    15% Avondale Lentils
    5% Dwarf Essex Rape
    5% Cover Crop Radish
    5% Purple Top Turnip
    I purchased this from an Ag supplier in Minnesota which has several different mixes to choose from that they sell mostly to farmers. Lots of efforts up here in the heartland to reduce ag run off into the streams. Most of us know all about big ag. and I know you have put up posts regarding that.
    It has been a challenging year in central Iowa. So far I have defeated the vine borer, caterpillars and right now squash bugs. I have also had minor damage from a possum and something….possibly a ground hog trimmed off the parsley. Today I discovered the birds have hit the aronia berries hard which has never happened before. I believe it’s because we are in a pretty bad drought and nature is doing different things. I decided to harvest the berries which is ok but may have waited another week or two. The berries ripened much sooner this year too. Life is good.
    Appreciate the post and the photos. All the best to you.

  • Thank you Theresa, very useful as always! And it reminded me to check my winter cover crops: I discovered I should cut them down as they are about to flower already!

  • What a helpful and simple post Theresa. A great reminder about simply incorporating cover crops. Thank you! You are a a gift! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. It is so valuable.

  • I always enjoy seeing your flowers in the vegetable garden! Do you have them for joy, pollination or something else?

  • Hey Theresa
    Good to get your blog again. I have been void of your posts for quite some time.
    Hope all is well.
    Steve Gillaspie

  • Yep, the buckwheat is the easiest for me. Ready to cut and I turn it under and then plant the start of my Fall crops, carrots, peas, beets, and turnips.

    A suggestion to those having trouble with birds eating your berries. I have a wren house in my blueberry area. They are bug eaters and very territorial so keep the mocking birds away.
    This year my blueberry plants were so loaded they looked like bunches of grapes! Needless to say, I have had my fill of blueberries which are still coming and my blackraspberries are beginning!

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