Thursday, March 02, 2017

Buckwheat Volunteers

Today's a fine, spring-like day, but a bad back is keeping me away from the plot. I'd best take some time off and not provoke it - I need a strong and supple back this year.

Been planning the cover crop regime. The idea is to follow the crop rotation already half begun: vetch where the peas and beans would be (no.5 bed); mustard for brassicas (no.4 bed), more vetch or maybe alfalfa in the putative chicken bed (no.2 bed this year); yet another legume to follow the brassicas in what would be this year's roots and onions, where I'm only growing 6 rows of garlic, (no.3 bed); something neutral, such as phacelia or buckwheat, where the tatties would be, (no.1 bed).

The usual advice on buckwheat is to cut it down when the stems are still soft, and on no account to let it go to seed because it will produce "unwanted volunteers" next year.

But here's the plan. It's going in no.1 bed. That's second on the schedule for riddling, and with a bit of luck will bed done by late May. I'll leave it to its own devices, and it should start to flower in August. This will attract all manner of pollinators. There is some research from New Zealand which could suggest that allowing it to flower can attract parasitoids, which would be good, but attracting as big a variety of invertebrates as possible is important, and flowering plants will help.

And then just leave it. Maybe collect as much seed as possible if I can. Let the frost get it over winter. And then next year, the ground will spring up again with buckwheat volunteers. That's ok. Just let them get so high and hoe them down, giving yet more mulch as I plant next year's crops, (which will be peas and beans).

Or I might treat this bed as the chicken bed in next year's rotation, and plant it with a voracious weed smotherer: No.1 bed is the most infested with perennial weeds, and I think that despite riddling they will be ready to make a comeback this time next year.