Clever Gardening Technique
Plant a Warm-Season Cover Crop
If you have an unplanted area in your garden, or a weedy space that you'd like to turn into a productive garden spot next spring, plant the warm-season cover crop buckwheat to add organic matter and choke out weeds. First till the area to be planted and rake it smooth. Broadcast buckwheat seeds at the rate of 3 oz. per 100 sq. ft., lightly rake them into the soil, and keep the seedbed moist until the seeds germinate. Till the buckwheat into the soil within two weeks of the start of flowering, before it can set seed. Let it decompose for several weeks. The soil will be ready to plant with a late season vegetable crop, or you can follow with a more cold-tolerant cover crop for the remainder of the season.
Favorite or New Plant
Tall perennials with upright spires of flowers are always welcome accents in my garden, and those that don't need staking are especially appreciated. That's one of the reasons I like Culver's root (Veronicastrum virginicum). This graceful summer bloomer gets 4-5 feet tall and does best in moist but well-drained soil in full sun. (It will tolerate part shade, but may need staking.) Whorls of narrow leaves surround a flower stalk from which a candelabra of slender spires of small, densely packed white flowers arises in early to mid July. Blooming continues for a long period, especially if flowers are deadheaded back to lower lateral flower buds. A native of the eastern U.S., Culver's root serves as a nectar source for bees, butterflies, and a variety of other native pollinators. It rarely needs division, in my experience, but it can be divided easily in spring, if desired. I grow the straight species, but Veronicastrum cultivars with other flower colors are available. Lavender Towers (V. v. 'Lavendelturm') displays lavender blooms; 'Erica' has reddish pink flowers; 'Rosea' and 'Pink Glow' have pink.