Friday, June 25, 2010

Buckwheat: some for me and some for the bees

When I tilled up the plot of land I'm using there was one section that was still pretty wet, so having been worked while wet, turned into hard clods. By hand, I was unable to break the clods with any efficiency, so decided to just run the seeder full of buckwheat seed over the section. I had no idea if the seed would germinate as it fell down through the clods of hard soil.
Well, it did germinate and less than 1 month later I have this:

Buckwheat is used as a quick summer cover crop, usually planted early in the summer and tilled in before a late summer crop planting. It provides excellent organic matter since it grows very tall very quickly. I plan to just allow this planting to re-seed itself (maybe 3 times?) and hopefully improve soil structures for next Spring. Possibly, even Fall planted garlic. In the meantime, it is also attracting bees and other pollinators as well as providing shelter for a new family of killdeer birds.

The bees LOVE buckwheat, but beware it drives them a little crazy. While working on the farm in Maryland I was able to take a bee keeping course and attend to the hives on the farm. I learned that while Buckwheat is in bloom, your bees will be more irritable. I do not know why this is, but it may have something to do with frustration that this delicious flower only provides them nectar in the morning. I love watching bees and feel a necessary, but beneficial calm come over me when I am in a hive. The order and intelligence with which they work to provide for their society is awesome. And so important that we spread the word about bee health. A major issue in the news the past few years has been this idea of "colony collapse disorder". I believe the accuracy of this term is disputable, but there is certainly a decline in bee populations.

One cause of this may that the bees are stressed, and for a number of reasons:
            * Most of the "raised" bees are overworked. They are shipped from one mono-crop farm to another on massive trucks expected to pollinate whatever is in season at the time. So it could be a month of strawberries, to a month of apples, to a month of blueberries. They are not allowed the diversity they (and we) expect for nutrition.
            * In some regions of the US "wild" hives of bees are surrounded by "mega" farms, providing them with limited options at the same time as overwhelming them with pesticides. Some beekeepers will even say it is the development of the genetically modified seed with pesticide and herbicide right in it that is poisoning the bees.They say this new strain of seed is producing plants with systemic insecticides, and this concentration is putting too much stress on the bees.

So, lets start gardens EVERYWHERE and raise bees in them. Lets raise bees in urban gardens and on city rooftops! Most states have regional bee keeping associations that give classes and assistance with getting started.


  1. EVERYWHERE! Love the spirit/passion!

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  3. There is a fun article in the June 2010 issue of Wired Magazine to help people get started and think about the space they have:

  4. get thee a beehive for thy farm too! i'm gonna have chickens and a bee/honey co-op in VT. you've convinced me.