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Taking a Breather

By Laurena Mayne Davis

One of the great joys of summer roadtrips, when you’re not the one driving, is the chance to catch up on some reading. Recently, during a 1,700-mile roadtrip through the desert Southwest, I finished reading this useful and inspirational organic gardening book given to me by sister-in-law, Carol. It was written by her friend, Peter V. Fossel:

I’d scanned it before and committed myself to not only rotating crops more often, but to planting “green manures,” or crops that are turned under in their green state to add nutrients to the soil. So earlier this summer I planted a crop of buckwheat barley in a patch of ground that has been heavily planted in vegetables for several years.
 

I bought the seed from Greenfields and just tossed it on the ground. With a little straw cover and water, it sprouted easily, tolerates heat well and is setting beautiful white blooms.
 

Because this part of the garden was due for a break, and because it is becoming more shaded by maturing apricot trees, I have designs to plant strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus there next year. In addition to adding nutrients to the soil, buckwheat has allelopathic properties, which means it suppresses weeds chemically, doing double duty.

Next year I think I’ll plant buckwheat where the super-sweet sweetcorn is this year, then I plan on resting and restoring with buckwheat a different section of the garden every year. The garden gets a break, I get a break and, with a little more free time, maybe I can catch up on some more reading.
 

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