Most cover crops are a fall affair. Planting seed like crimson clover or rye can be depressing because it means winter will soon sequester the barren land for three months.
Still, not all cover crops need the fall fixture for optimum growth. Buckwheat, also known as the “phosphorous pump”, is a beautiful and beneficial addition to a summer garden.
Buckwheat is unique in its ability to mine phosphorous from the soil into its roots. Buckwheat planted alongside phosphorous lovers like tomatoes can greatly increase the tomato’s propensity for fruit production. It’s also a phenomenal weed suppressor despite its hollow shoots.
Best of all, it attracts a wealth of pollinators and beneficial insects (especially aphid enemy, the lacewing) into the garden.
Here’s some more info on buckwheat and beneficials by gardening expert, Paul Allen Smith:
Buckwheat seed is cheap and prolific and can grow in even the most dismal of soils. Plan out how you want to spread the seed. You can either plant them between your rows of veggies or in a new empty garden plot in need of phosphorous. Simply broadcast the seed. Rake in gently, add water, and within a few days, the seeds will sprout.
Once buckwheat is a month old and flowering, go ahead and rototill or hand till back into the earth. This gives the area a nice green manure of phosphorous goodness. Plus, if buckwheat goes to seed, the gardener can be overwhelmed by the spread of buckwheat everywhere!
If the season is still warm, go ahead and plant another batch. And if you have a plot of just buckwheat, rototill the last batch during the fall, and then add your fall cover crops. The next season, you will have a plot full of both phosphorous and nitrogen rich properties. In fact, fertilizers can be kept to a minimum with this sort of green manure planning.