I have clay soils and am running cover crops this year in a few sections. Currently have a mix of beans, peas, and mustard that is quite vigorous, 6-8 ft tall and a very full stand, a lot of biomass
My plan was to broadcast buckwheat seed a week or two before cutting all this down with a string trimmer. My question is, I am imagining how thick this mulch layer will be, will the buckwheat come up enough to form a thick stand?
Any experience? Any summer cover crops that come up through anything?
It would be better to overseed the buckwheat about 3 weeks prior to doing the chop and drop.
Buckwheat is considered a "smother" crop, it grows like wildfire and keeps all sunlight from the soil, this is when it is planted as a first cover crop though. It doesn't have really strong stems so it probably would not be able to fight its way up through a heavy, thick mulch layer.
The best would have been to start the buckwheat about 4 weeks after the initial covercrop seeding, but it is too late for that.
doing it this way allows the taller, stronger plants to shoot up before they are covered over by the buckwheat.
You do have the option of chopping and doing a double cut of what is there now, that way you would be better off buckwheat wise than cutting the current crop right to the ground.
I've done this a couple of times, I come through and only cut to half height then reseed and once that is sprouting enough that I can see the new plants I come back through at just above the new crop height.
It works but it is also a pita because you have to pay attention to the height of your cutter both times.
The buckwheat plant will (done this way) come up and lay over the stubble left from your first cut of the initial cover crop.
When I want to use multiple covers I usually make sure the secondary is something like yellow (sweet) clover, it grows as an understory plant until you cut the first crop (overstory) then it shoots up, fixing Nitrogen in its nodules.
I have buckwheat growing wild in my garden. I have not found anything that buckwheat can not overcome. It is invincible and indestructible. I am looking forward to the fall release of the action blockbuster movie Buckwheat vs. Kudzu.
My experience is a bit different. I find that buckwheat readily germinates and grows quickly, but that it isn't that difficult to suppress. I've been doing "Back to Eden" style wood-chip mulching/gardening for years, so my soil is pretty easy to pull weeds and other plants from. If I get a rogue buckwheat plant popping up, its pretty easy to give it a tug and out it comes.
My guess is that a thick mulch (4" or more of biomass) will suppress 90% or better of any buckwheat seed that is still laying under it.
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posted 2 years ago
My only real goal is to keep a living root in the ground all summer, I chose buckwheat because it'll crowd out weeds with a thick stand, is pretty, and will feed the bees.
Is there any other warm season summer crop that looks tidy, and is better at punching through mulch?
posted 2 years ago
Update- Ive decided to till to help establish the area. All of the green manure will be incorporated, along with a heavy gypsum application. The resulting seed bed will be sown with buckwheat for summer weed control.
Tilling may not be a good solution, as it will destroy what your trying to achieve with healing the soil. Is rolling a viable option? If you can roll it, the buckwheat should be able to germinate if drill or broadcast seeded, especially if you run some cattle over the ground after broadcast seeding, to get good soil contact. You can graze your cover crops too, just before you roll them. Living Web Farms, YouTube channel has some great information on annual mixed cover crops, and restoring or creating healthy soil. You need a good mixture though of legumes and good companions for those legumes. Up to 9 different carefully selected annuals in the mix, work well, and you can do cool season or warm season mixes. The legumes carefully selected companions, will actually cause the legumes to fix even more nitrogen then usual, increasing you biomass. The biomass there roots generate underground is what encorperates carbon into your soil, and the vegetation rolled down feeds from above while providing protection from the sun and heat which help hold in moisture. If you want to fix up your soil quickly, don't till, because it will destroy much of what you created with your last planting. Worms can till the soil without harming it, and they do it serveral times per year.
Hopde that helps in some way!
posted 2 years ago
Hi R Steele,
Hmm, that would be good to know about buckwheat. It seems like it is in most summer mixes - I use groworganic.com, their summer mix is buckwheat and cowpeas. I assumed Id be able to get through the summer with it if I irrigated. I watch Living Webs on Youtube, agree they are great. I just dont have access to some of their means like a crimper/roller, or drill. Im relying on broadcast, and unfortunately only have chickens for disturbance. I could drive my jeep over it, or pull some chain link behind it. I terminated my crop this weekend with a brush mower. Was going to let it decompose for a bit and see how things look. I am not in love with tilling, I have pure clay and not sure Ill get the timing right anyway.
posted 2 years ago
I think your right Micheal, I just edited my post because I relised I may have had it backwards with the buckwheat.
posted 2 years ago
I did a litte research for you Micheal, that may help you out with this warm season planting, and it should hit all the high notes for you. I didn't quote the sorceress or referances, but they are some of the first hits on a Google search.
First off a few facts about buckwheat : Type: summer or cool-season annual broadleaf grain
Roles: quick soil cover, weed suppressor, nectar for pollinators and beneficial insects, topsoil loosener, rejuvenator for low-fertility soils.
Buckwheat is the speedy short-season cover crop. It establishes, blooms and reaches maturity in just 70 to 90 days and its residue breaks down quickly. Buckwheat suppresses weeds and attracts beneficial insects and pollinators with its abundant blossoms. It is easy to kill, and reportedly extracts soil phosphorus from soil better than most grain-type cover crops.
Buckwheat thrives in cool, moist conditions but it is not frost tolerant. Even in the South, it is not grown as a winter annual. Buckwheat is not particularly drought tolerant, and readily wilts under hot, dry conditions. Its short growing season may allow it to avoid droughts, however.
First, the crops that will work this year may not next year! It is pretty cool, the first year I mowed early summer (mostly broomstraw and chives - crappy clay like you are talking about) and seeded 50# buckwheat/acre. That stuff just crushed it! It did two generations that summer, super cheap cover crop. I did daikons and annual rye along with crimson clover over the winter, and then mowed in the spring and planted the buckwheat and cowpeas- and almost nothing. The grass is now in charge. Literally I would see a few buckwheat flowers here and there, and an occasional cowpea plant, but mostly the grass and red clover has become a viable summer crop in two years.
So it depends what you want from your field. I didn't see why you were cover cropping in the first place. I will probably not do summer biomass planting next year at all, the field is now pretty much taking care of business.
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