It’s easy to grow flowers and herbs for honeybees in the warm, fertile months of summer. Such a wild abundance of forage is available at that time of year, it’s almost too much for the insect kingdom to manage. But come autumn, even if the season is mild, fewer flowering plants are available for the remaining pollinators, particularly the bees. While other North American stinging insects, such as wasps and yellow jackets, who live in family groups are in large part dying off for the year, honeybees pull it together to survive the winter. Sometimes, this hinges on the fall forage. Whether you keep bees or not, planting buckwheat is a fabulous way to support them—and in many states in the continental U.S. there’s still time to plant.
Here are a few fabulous reasons to plant buckwheat:
1. Buckwheat Is a Fast Grower
Buckwheat goes from seed to flower in just about a month. One month! That’s a short time from bare soil to food for honeybees and other pollinators. It’s not frost tolerant, but it doesn’t need to be—with such a short growing time, simply plant about one month (five to six weeks would be better) before your region’s first fall frost date, and you’ll be good to go.
2. Buckwheat Is Easy to Grow
Buckwheat absolutely thrives in poor soil. It grows where most other plants won’t. It’s incredibly low maintenance as far as gardener care goes, and it has no major pests or diseases that threaten your crop or the bees’ forage. It loves any sunny site with good drainage, as most crops do, but it will also tolerate partial shade.
3. It’s a Wonderful Cover Crop
Gardeners and farmers know the value of a good cover crop. Cover crops are grown to maintain soil health, reduce soil erosion, and to provide food and winter habitat to native and important insects. They help to manage and maintain biodiversity in a thriving organic garden. In this way, growing buckwheat doesn’t simply feed bees—it houses and shelters the overwintering queens, larvae and other creatures that your garden will depend on during the following spring. Buckwheat is easy to turn over into the soil in the spring to add wonderful organic matter to the soil.
4. It Is High Quality Protein
If you grow buckwheat to support the bees and to consume it for yourself, you’ll find that as a grain substitute, buckwheat is wonderfully versatile and full of an exceptional amount of protein in the plant kingdom.
5. Buckwheat Makes Great Honey
Honey from this unusual (and underused) crop is incredibly rich and highly coveted among honey enthusiasts. Buckwheat honey is rather dark, packed with antioxidants and is known for being an excellent honey for coughs and colds, and for use in homemade syrups.
Whether you’re a novice gardener or a seasoned homesteader, consider growing outside the box by planting buckwheat. Your garden’s inhabitants will thank you, and in turn, you might support an ailing honeybee colony when it needs it most.