Buckwheat - 1 pound bag cover crop
Summer is the perfect time to focus your attention on building new garden space and building up soil fertility. To complete the cycle of soil care and gardening year round you may want to consider planting a cover crop in your garden this summer. Cover crops are varieties of crops that are planted during your non-production season (winter in the north, summer down here) as the part of your crop rotation where your soil can rest and be rejuvenated. Cover crops are planted primarily to manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in an agroecosystem, and can also be used to produce food, feed, or fiber or nectar for pollinators. Each region has different cover crops that are popular based on weather and climate, our one of our most used varieties is Buckwheat.
Buckwheat is a very common grain that makes a good heat tolerant quick cover crop. the plants grow quickly and remain tender until you till them in (about 30 days later) so they are also quick to be composted and incorporated into your soil. We use buckwheat to fill in areas of beds and gardens that arent being used for producing food to keep the soil active and suppress weeds, but you can also use it on your entire garden.
Having something planted in your raised bed in the summer will provide a few complimentary benefits for your soil. We always say that "nature hates bare soil" and if you think about it its pretty true; prairies are covered in perennial grasses, forest floors are strewn with decomposing leaves, and languishing construction sites soon end up covered in "weeds" and natives being brought in by birds and the wind. If left bare your garden will be subject to erosion from extreme rainfall and nature will eventually cover it with weeds for you. Also, the complex web of soil life that you've been nurturing and tending to in your garden with your homemade compost and organic fertilizer all need roots to use as a home and a food source, and so without homes those microbes, worms, and other life forms will likely die, leaving you with less alive and undernourished soil come fall.
To use buckwheat sprinkle it densely in your garden and "jiggle it" into the soil lightly with a hand tool. Water it daily as it germinates and establishes itself (about 10 days) and then if it starts to rain a bit you can leave it be. When flowering buckwheat cover crop makes a beautiful blanket of white flowers that pollinators like bees love! Because buckwheat is so tender you can cut it down very easily even just by pushing it over with your hand or stomping on it (this is called crimping when done on a large scale on a farm) or you can leave it be to dry up on the surface of the soil or you can just cover it with topsoil & hay until its time to plant fall crops.
Our 1 pound bag of buckwheat is a good amount to cover one 4x8 foot raised bed. If you'd like to mix buckwheat and sunn hemp together in your garden you definitely can! As the sunn hemp matures it will shade out the buckwheat and kill it, but thats ok, since its a shorter crop anyways.