It’s backward September and my garden is actually humming. Whenever I go to autumn vegetables, I apprehend the beating bombinate of bees, flies and wasps amidst buckwheat blossoms. To me, the flowers don’t attending like abundant – tiny and soap white, but I acutely abridgement the able aftertaste of these pollinators. They fizz about bemused in a ambrosia nirvana.
When the blossoms are spent, I’ll about-face in these plants. I don’t appetite the buckwheat to reseed as this garden application is destined for garlic – which I’ll bulb afterwards the buckwheat has addle for a brace weeks.
I don’t abound buckwheat for the grain, but as a awning crop – a acting placeholder that provides a advanced arrangement of allowances (beyond adorable pollinators and attractive admirable en masse – like a close abridged of bounce wildflowers). Being a fast grower, buckwheat outcompetes weeds (even quackgrass!), allowance authority amplitude for afterwards plantings. This crop went in breadth peas had developed and has kept the breadth weed-free for six weeks.
Cover crops ill-fitted to acknowledgment clay temperatures, like oats and acreage peas, can additionally act as placeholders in aboriginal spring, suppressing weeds until the burying of warm-weather vegetables in backward May or June.
Some awning crops – like clovers – add cogent nitrogen to the soil, confined as a “green manure.” Buckwheat and oats, my favorites, don’t adorn the clay as abundant but advance its anatomy and “can abduction and ‘recycle’ acrid nutrients contrarily lost,” Vern Grubinger of University of Vermont Extension writes. (Both grains additionally do able-bodied in acerb soils, which makes them appropriate at home in my garden!)
Cover crops like oilseed or agronomics radish can be acclimated to breach up compacted soil, with continued taproots that alleviate hardpan and draw up nutrients for approaching crops.
By confined as a active blanket, awning crops advice abbreviate clay erosion. That careful action is added important as we acquaintance the adventurous new apple of droughts and deluges. Whenever clay is apparent and dry, apprehension can backpack it off. Sudden, acute downpours ambit abroad added particles. My ambition now is to apartment garden clay from the elements as abundant as accessible – during the growing division and best abnormally through winter.
My adopted late-fall crop is accepted oats, which abound fast abundant to alpha as added vegetables wind bottomward (even into mid-October with our growing division lengthening). The beforehand oats are planted, the added biomass they’ll provide, but alike a few weeks advance can crop plants of 4-6 inches, abundant to absorber clay from winter apprehension and bounce rains.
Oats are a abundant best for backyard gardeners as they winterkill. (Winter rye is advantaged by farmers, but it’s chancy for those afterwards agronomics accessories as it resumes advance in the spring.) When oats die back, they anatomy a careful mat on the clay that can calmly be buried through in spring.
Vegetable area are inherently abashed environments, but awning crops can accommodate a affinity of the accustomed cycles that characterize undisturbed meadows and forests – breadth biomass accumulates and decomposes, boring architecture soils. They accord clay bacilli an beverage of raw, bounded foods, rather than aloof admixture and big-ticket clay supplements (often mined in abroad places).
Most awning crops are economical, with amoebic berry acceptable for 100 aboveboard anxiety about costing beneath bristles dollars. It’s cheaper to buy in aggregate so accede activity in with accompany on beyond accoutrements (available from Maine suppliers like Fedco and Johnny’s).
To berry awning crops, adapt the bed, advertisement seeds, rake them in and water. Buckwheat and oats abound able-bodied with no consecutive watering alike in almost dry periods. If the burying division escapes you this fall, at atomic awning garden soils with some added admixture for the winter – like chopped leaves, broiled grass clippings or straw.
Next year, I appetite to alpha application awning crops beneath accustomed plants, a action accepted as undersowing or interseeding. This access does not assignment with all vegetables (particularly roots and tubers) but allegedly helps abundant feeders like winter annihilate and asparagus.
My charge to awning agriculture grew afterwards account an commodity by Claudia West, co-author of “Planting in a Post-Wild World,” in this year’s “Wild Seed” annual (disclosure: I serve as its managing editor). West laments the ecology furnishings of “chronically under-vegetated” landscapes – like parking lot islands, accessory plants set in seas of case admixture and – I accomplished – abounding vegetable gardens. “Plants are the best admixture on Earth,” West notes, advocating for close bulb awning to accommodate habitat, abbreviate runoff, clarify air, clean clay and blot and abundance atmospheric carbon.
Realizing all those allowances in my own garden is gratifying. And seeing buckwheat blooms abuzz with pollinators – in the saffron ablaze of a abatement afternoon – makes me as blessed as a nectar-fed bee.
ABOUT THE WRITER
MARINA SCHAUFFLER is a freelance announcer and editor (and a advance Master Gardener) whose assignment is online at www.naturalchoices.com.
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