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Thread: Buckwheat

  1. #1
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    Default Buckwheat

    Hi everyone!

    I plan on starting two hives, from two 5-frame nucs, in a rural area of NC. I have approx an acre of fallow land. Rather than gamble on quality/quantity etc of letting the wildflowers grow out, I have decided to try to plant a bit of buckwheat, approx 1 acre.

    I got really interested in growing it as a honey crop after reading about buckwheat honey, and had an opportunity to try some last night at the beekeepers meeting, and just fell in love with it. I found locally sourced seed as well, so I am super anxious to try it out.

    I plan on planting quite a bit of Golden rod as well, for a fall crop to help my girls with winter stores.

    So my questions:

    First off, is this enough land for primarily buckwheat honey? I understand it would probably take much more land to isolate the hives enough to make it "pure", but I figured a relatively small plot would add quite a bit of unique character, hopefully helping me sell my unique local honey.

    What kind of yield can I expect with two 8-frame hives from nucs? Does your answer give me surplus, or total?

    One of the "oldtimers" (not to sound derogatory) told me that it would take only three weeks to bloom. He also said that I can chop 'em down and get another bloom from them when they finished. Does anyone with experience growing buckwheat know if this is possible?

    Can I use the mowed buckwheat as hay for my chickens?

    As far as the goldenrod, I figured if I left a bit of the "buckwheat" honey behind, and just had some supplemental goldenrod growing near by, it would help build stores for the winter, I plan on leaving 2 medium supers, as I am told this is a good amount for my area, and goldenrod blooms in the fall. We have rather mild winters here.

    Also, if anyone sees any problems, or tweaks to my plan, I'm all ears!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Absoultly not enough ground to get much flavor at all of buckwheat honey. I run 5 acres and put a hive in the middle and can't tell its buckwheat. those bees need more area.

    Buckwheat does indeed bloom in about 3 weeks, and keeps blloms for about another 3 so 6-8 weeks between plantings. mowings. Chickens like it just fine...

    AS for how much honey... depends on hive strenght, mites and plants avalible but US average is about 45lbs of surplus Some hives will generate 300 and some will barley make any.....

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    From what I have read and understand about buckwheat is that the American strands commonly found at local seed suppliers like Southern states rarely produce a honey crop, the seed has been modified so much that grain producers won't even purchase the seed. Basically it is not good for much other than a cover crop, which it is superb, but can't be used within pollinating distance of Japanese buckwheat.

    If you want to look for a good honey crop from buckwheat then you need to find Japanese buckwheat. It is much more expensive, but produces much more nectar. The best source I have found for Japanese buckwheat is the sustainable seed company. I have been trying to convince a local farmer to plant some, but at 170.00 a 50# bag, it is a hard sell when it seeds at about 50# per acre.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Quote Originally Posted by papamoose View Post
    From what I have read and understand about buckwheat is that the American strands commonly found at local seed suppliers like Southern states rarely produce a honey crop, the seed has been modified so much that grain producers won't even purchase the seed. Basically it is not good for much other than a cover crop.
    I wonder if this explains why buckwheat is not eaten in America. My Russian wife cooks it all the time, and it's at least as tasty as oatmeal or quinoa, grits, etc. But, we have noticed that its extremely important to buy the correct variety of buckwheat groats- we order it from Russian online food stores that import it from the Russia or Ukraine. Get the wrong kind (American?) and it's just a nasty, sticky mush.

    She had asked me about buckwheat honey the other day, as it is common in Russia, and apparently quite well-liked.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Quote Originally Posted by gmcharlie View Post
    Absoultly not enough ground to get much flavor at all of buckwheat honey. I run 5 acres and put a hive in the middle and can't tell its buckwheat. those bees need more area.

    Buckwheat does indeed bloom in about 3 weeks, and keeps blloms for about another 3 so 6-8 weeks between plantings. mowings. Chickens like it just fine...

    AS for how much honey... depends on hive strenght, mites and plants avalible but US average is about 45lbs of surplus Some hives will generate 300 and some will barley make any.....
    Thanks! I didn't think it would be quite enough to call it "pure" buckwheat, but I just thought it might add a unique characteristic, and darker color to my local variety. Would have just been nice to hear it would of been more pure nicker:

    But thanks for the info!

    Quote Originally Posted by papamoose View Post
    From what I have read and understand about buckwheat is that the American strands commonly found at local seed suppliers like Southern states rarely produce a honey crop, the seed has been modified so much that grain producers won't even purchase the seed. Basically it is not good for much other than a cover crop, which it is superb, but can't be used within pollinating distance of Japanese buckwheat.

    If you want to look for a good honey crop from buckwheat then you need to find Japanese buckwheat. It is much more expensive, but produces much more nectar. The best source I have found for Japanese buckwheat is the sustainable seed company. I have been trying to convince a local farmer to plant some, but at 170.00 a 50# bag, it is a hard sell when it seeds at about 50# per acre.
    Our local supplier is a mom and pop type store, not a chain. They have a few beekeeping supplies, and say they have people come in to make a bee garden, and in fact pretty much only carry the buckwheat seed for them. But I have never seen buckwheat honey anywhere in the state. The jar last night I tried at the club meeting was a 2.5lb jar from New Jersey.

    I wonder if this is why we aren't seeing it around here, it just isn't the right kind. I will definitely look into this. Thank you for that heads up!!

    Quote Originally Posted by jdawdy View Post
    I wonder if this explains why buckwheat is not eaten in America. My Russian wife cooks it all the time, and it's at least as tasty as oatmeal or quinoa, grits, etc. But, we have noticed that its extremely important to buy the correct variety of buckwheat groats- we order it from Russian online food stores that import it from the Russia or Ukraine. Get the wrong kind (American?) and it's just a nasty, sticky mush.

    She had asked me about buckwheat honey the other day, as it is common in Russia, and apparently quite well-liked.
    I tried it, and saw it in person for the first time last night. I've read about it hear and there, but finally got to try it (mentioned above) It is phenomenal in my opinion! It has a nice mouthfeel, dark and rich flavor, with a sweet-molasses after taste and undertone. I loved it! Also got to try some sour-wood. It was quite good too, but aside from the buckwheat, our local wildflower variety was the best. It was the smoothest honey I've ever had. Delicate, sweet but not overly so. Try looking online, I'm sure you can find some buckwheat honey! A happy wife is a happy home right?

    What do you guys think about my golden rod idea?


    So if buckwheat wouldn't work well, what about lavender or borage? I know for a fact lavender does well on this particular plot of land, and I'm still researching borage. I like the buckwheat idea simply because of its uniqueness, but also because it could turn into feed, and hay, so multi-purpose.

    Lavender I could extract, but other than snack on borage I'm not sure what it would be good for, or if it would even do well here.

    My overall goal is to find the most useful plant I can, that would most greatly benefit my ladies. At least more-so than just letting the land fallow. I don't think that this years allotment of land is going to be enough to label my stuff :insert variety:, but i'm more looking for something that could add a uniqueness to my local-honey as opposed to someone a town over who just lets them go where ever without paying much attention to these things/using land efficiently.

    I have also thought about putting some thyme down on the back 10 acre, and letting it spread so that in a few years it would probably give me a varietal honey, or so I think. :Shrug: i'm just a new-beek!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Quote Originally Posted by gmcharlie View Post
    Absoultly not enough ground to get much flavor at all of buckwheat honey. I run 5 acres and put a hive in the middle and can't tell its buckwheat. those bees need more area.

    Buckwheat does indeed bloom in about 3 weeks, and keeps blloms for about another 3 so 6-8 weeks between plantings. mowings. Chickens like it just fine...

    AS for how much honey... depends on hive strenght, mites and plants avalible but US average is about 45lbs of surplus Some hives will generate 300 and some will barley make any.....
    Thanks! I didn't think it would be quite enough to call it "pure" buckwheat, but I just thought it might add a unique characteristic, and darker color to my local variety. Would have just been nice to hear it would of been more pure nicker:

    But thanks for the info!

    Quote Originally Posted by papamoose View Post
    From what I have read and understand about buckwheat is that the American strands commonly found at local seed suppliers like Southern states rarely produce a honey crop, the seed has been modified so much that grain producers won't even purchase the seed. Basically it is not good for much other than a cover crop, which it is superb, but can't be used within pollinating distance of Japanese buckwheat.

    If you want to look for a good honey crop from buckwheat then you need to find Japanese buckwheat. It is much more expensive, but produces much more nectar. The best source I have found for Japanese buckwheat is the sustainable seed company. I have been trying to convince a local farmer to plant some, but at 170.00 a 50# bag, it is a hard sell when it seeds at about 50# per acre.
    Our local supplier is a mom and pop type store, not a chain. They have a few beekeeping supplies, and say they have people come in to make a bee garden, and in fact pretty much only carry the buckwheat seed for them. But I have never seen buckwheat honey anywhere in the state. The jar last night I tried at the club meeting was a 2.5lb jar from New Jersey.

    I wonder if this is why we aren't seeing it around here, it just isn't the right kind. I will definitely look into this. Thank you for that heads up!!

    Quote Originally Posted by jdawdy View Post
    I wonder if this explains why buckwheat is not eaten in America. My Russian wife cooks it all the time, and it's at least as tasty as oatmeal or quinoa, grits, etc. But, we have noticed that its extremely important to buy the correct variety of buckwheat groats- we order it from Russian online food stores that import it from the Russia or Ukraine. Get the wrong kind (American?) and it's just a nasty, sticky mush.

    She had asked me about buckwheat honey the other day, as it is common in Russia, and apparently quite well-liked.
    I tried it, and saw it in person for the first time last night. I've read about it hear and there, but finally got to try it (mentioned above) It is phenomenal in my opinion! It has a nice mouthfeel, dark and rich flavor, with a sweet-molasses after taste and undertone. I loved it! Also got to try some sour-wood. It was quite good too, but aside from the buckwheat, our local wildflower variety was the best. It was the smoothest honey I've ever had. Delicate, sweet but not overly so. Try looking online, I'm sure you can find some buckwheat honey! A happy wife is a happy home right?

    What do you guys think about my golden rod idea?


    So if buckwheat wouldn't work well, what about lavender or borage? I know for a fact lavender does well on this particular plot of land, and I'm still researching borage. I like the buckwheat idea simply because of its uniqueness, but also because it could turn into feed, and hay, so multi-purpose.

    Lavender I could extract, but other than snack on borage I'm not sure what it would be good for, or if it would even do well here.

    My overall goal is to find the most useful plant I can, that would most greatly benefit my ladies. At least more-so than just letting the land fallow. I don't think that this years allotment of land is going to be enough to label my stuff :insert variety:, but i'm more looking for something that could add a uniqueness to my local-honey as opposed to someone a town over who just lets them go where ever without paying much attention to these things/using land efficiently.

    I have also thought about putting some thyme down on the back 10 acre, and letting it spread so that in a few years it would probably give me a varietal honey, or so I think. :Shrug: i'm just a new-beek!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    I did some more digging through my files on the subject because I thought I had found a place much cheaper than the one I listed above, and I found it. This site is only a little more expensive than what you might pay for the US types. The site is Fedco seeds. They are running $85 a 50# bag. Here is the link directly to the catalog page, http://www.fedcoseeds.com/forms/ogs35_cat.pdf

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    With anything around that bees work your not going to get pure anything. I plant one acre of buckwheat every year. I plant after first frost date (May 10th Here)after it blooms and goes to seed, i run a disc over it to get another bloom, i can usually get 3 blooms out of it in one year if the weather is normal. The bees only work it in early morning and after 11:00Am you won't find a bee on it, here anyway. Borage,catnip, lavender,Russian sage, are also good options for bees, they will work them all day long.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    You will not get ANY type of varietal honey, that you can label as such, from one acre of land. It doesn't matter what you plant there. Varietal honeys involve placing hives in areas surrounded by a particular plant, then timing when you put supers on and when you take them off, to coincide with the flow of that plant. That will not be possible from a one acre plot. If a bee will fly up to 3 miles away to forage, and there are 640 (roughly) acres in a square mile, that means your bees are covering roughly 18,000 acres of land. If you plant one acre for them, and there is ANYTHING else in bloom during that time period, you are ensuring that roughly 1/18,000 of your honey came from your acre. The only varietal honey you can get in this area is usually Tulip Poplar, sometimes Sourwood, and maybe blackberry.

    But, beneficial plantings do have other purposes. While buckwheat won't yield you enough to call it a honey crop, it does have the opportunity to bloom during our summer dearth, if planted correctly. The month of July, in central NC, does not have any flowering plants that bees can use for nectar. Usually clover will last until mid to late June, and July is too hot for anything else to take hold. Buckwheat can bloom during that time period, if you plant it correctly, giving your bees something to forage on rather than fight each other and rob.

    As far as goldenrod goes, I'm not really a fan of it for fall flows. The stuff stinks, is very hit or miss, and is known to crystallize easily. I know others have relied on it as their fall flow to overwinter colonies. But I've made the error of relying on it some years, only to have zero stores appear and have to feed quickly before too late. But, even if you did plant it, I think it takes a few seasons for it to really get established. Maybe I'm remembering incorrectly.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Quote Originally Posted by papamoose View Post
    I did some more digging through my files on the subject because I thought I had found a place much cheaper than the one I listed above, and I found it. This site is only a little more expensive than what you might pay for the US types. The site is Fedco seeds. They are running $85 a 50# bag. Here is the link directly to the catalog page, http://www.fedcoseeds.com/forms/ogs35_cat.pdf
    I'll check that out! The guy at the feed store said 3-5 lbs an acre, this must not at all be the buckwheat we are after.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    You will not get ANY type of varietal honey, that you can label as such, from one acre of land. It doesn't matter what you plant there. Varietal honeys involve placing hives in areas surrounded by a particular plant, then timing when you put supers on and when you take them off, to coincide with the flow of that plant. That will not be possible from a one acre plot. If a bee will fly up to 3 miles away to forage, and there are 640 (roughly) acres in a square mile, that means your bees are covering roughly 18,000 acres of land. If you plant one acre for them, and there is ANYTHING else in bloom during that time period, you are ensuring that roughly 1/18,000 of your honey came from your acre. The only varietal honey you can get in this area is usually Tulip Poplar, sometimes Sourwood, and maybe blackberry.

    But, beneficial plantings do have other purposes. While buckwheat won't yield you enough to call it a honey crop, it does have the opportunity to bloom during our summer dearth, if planted correctly. The month of July, in central NC, does not have any flowering plants that bees can use for nectar. Usually clover will last until mid to late June, and July is too hot for anything else to take hold. Buckwheat can bloom during that time period, if you plant it correctly, giving your bees something to forage on rather than fight each other and rob.

    As far as goldenrod goes, I'm not really a fan of it for fall flows. The stuff stinks, is very hit or miss, and is known to crystallize easily. I know others have relied on it as their fall flow to overwinter colonies. But I've made the error of relying on it some years, only to have zero stores appear and have to feed quickly before too late. But, even if you did plant it, I think it takes a few seasons for it to really get established. Maybe I'm remembering incorrectly.
    Yea, I'm really just looking to add a little something to what is normally found around here. I know that with this year's allotment, I'm not going to be able to call it by any varietal name. However, I did think that there would be something I could plant that would influence the flavor slightly rather than making it a pure varietal honey. I figured an acre of something that produces well would change the flavor than someone with the same local flora a county over. It probably wouldn't be way different, but slightly different.

    We do plan on turning much of the 16 acres we have into blackberries (or similar) over the next few years, so this may be a good option. Problem is, it is still only 16 acres. I imagine, 16 acres +/- of a particular bloom would influence the flavor *quite* a bit more than this years 1-2 acre "booster" plot, but still not enough to call it varietal. One day I would just love to buy a bunch of land primarily to harvest varietal crops, but I imagine I'd need quite a few almond or other lucrative pollination contracts to fund that, and that's prob years away

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Quote Originally Posted by brooksbeefarm View Post
    With anything around that bees work your not going to get pure anything. I plant one acre of buckwheat every year. I plant after first frost date (May 10th Here)after it blooms and goes to seed, i run a disc over it to get another bloom, i can usually get 3 blooms out of it in one year if the weather is normal. The bees only work it in early morning and after 11:00Am you won't find a bee on it, here anyway. Borage,catnip, lavender,Russian sage, are also good options for bees, they will work them all day long.
    That is exactly what the beeks around here tell me, that the ladies stop around lunch and move on to something else until the next morning. I wonder if there is some sort of beek-equation that would tell me how efficient this plant would be to grow. I'm thinking, even though I can get possibly 3 bloom cycles out of it, they only work it 1/2 a day at most, so would it be more or less efficient than something they work all day, but only get one or two cycles from. hmmmm....

    I wish I could find a fall or summer dearth crop to help them out a bit!

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    In terms of efficiency, I doubt there are many plants more efficient for bee forage than borage. From what I've researched, the blossoms refill with nectar every 2 minutes, so bees work it constantly from dawn to dusk. I would think it would grow fine in NC as it does here in Nashville, but I only have a small yard, not an acre. It blooms in about 60 days and continues for a long time, but mine had pretty much worn itself out by late July when I really needed it. It reseeded and a second crop was beginning to bloom around mid-October, it is fairly hardy but not sure it was producing much nectar in the colder temps. So you would probably want to plant it in May to have it produce in July/August. Needs water to produce nectar, as I assume most plants do, so if it is really dry you'd need to water once or twice a week. I found bulk seed on ebay.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    That's the reason i plant buckwheat,it can take alot of dry weather. I only got 2 blooms out of it last year because of the drought, and the last crop only got about 1 ft. tall but it bloomed. It was the only thing besides my radish blooms and dandelions they had to work until the sumac and aster bloomed. The buckwheat stops produing hectar around 11:00am and i found it makes the bees a little testy for an hour or two,so i don't work there hives till about 1:00pm and they seem to settle down by then.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Quote Originally Posted by jdawdy View Post
    I wonder if this explains why buckwheat is not eaten in America. My Russian wife cooks it all the time, and it's at least as tasty as oatmeal or quinoa, grits, etc. But, we have noticed that its extremely important to buy the correct variety of buckwheat groats- we order it from Russian online food stores that import it from the Russia or Ukraine. Get the wrong kind (American?) and it's just a nasty, sticky mush.

    She had asked me about buckwheat honey the other day, as it is common in Russia, and apparently quite well-liked.
    Yes, buckwheat is very well respected in Russia (I am Russian). Hot cereal from buckwheat has a lot of minerals and other good stuff and recommended for kids. Buckwheat honey along with linden honey is considered to be one of the best for its medicinal qualities - it is used to treat sore throat and complications of cold. Sergey
    Серёжа, Sergey

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Quote Originally Posted by GuyDurden View Post
    I wish I could find a fall or summer dearth crop to help them out a bit!
    I've heard good things about the Bee Bee Tree. It blooms during our normal dearth, but I'm sure you would need more than a hand full of trees at maturity to keep anything more than two hives busy.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    Quote Originally Posted by thenance007 View Post
    In terms of efficiency, I doubt there are many plants more efficient for bee forage than borage. From what I've researched, the blossoms refill with nectar every 2 minutes, so bees work it constantly from dawn to dusk. I would think it would grow fine in NC as it does here in Nashville, but I only have a small yard, not an acre. It blooms in about 60 days and continues for a long time, but mine had pretty much worn itself out by late July when I really needed it. It reseeded and a second crop was beginning to bloom around mid-October, it is fairly hardy but not sure it was producing much nectar in the colder temps. So you would probably want to plant it in May to have it produce in July/August. Needs water to produce nectar, as I assume most plants do, so if it is really dry you'd need to water once or twice a week. I found bulk seed on ebay.
    I'll def check out ebay for the bulk. The ability to handle drought was really another thing I liked about buckwheat, however, I don't feel as if it were to be drought conditions, it would matter much at all what I planted. The plant may survive, but not be producing nectar particularly well.

    I wonder if I plant some after last frost, If I dead-head the first emerging flowers, if they will last until later in the season?

    Quote Originally Posted by brooksbeefarm View Post
    That's the reason i plant buckwheat,it can take alot of dry weather. I only got 2 blooms out of it last year because of the drought, and the last crop only got about 1 ft. tall but it bloomed. It was the only thing besides my radish blooms and dandelions they had to work until the sumac and aster bloomed. The buckwheat stops produing hectar around 11:00am and i found it makes the bees a little testy for an hour or two,so i don't work there hives till about 1:00pm and they seem to settle down by then.

    I will definitely have to keep that in mind, why the ladies might be irritable, if I decide to go the buckwheat route...thanks! I have the uncanny ability to never recognize why females are mad at me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    I've heard good things about the Bee Bee Tree. It blooms during our normal dearth, but I'm sure you would need more than a hand full of trees at maturity to keep anything more than two hives busy.
    I may look into the beebee tree for future plantings....we are gunna need a wind break and some shade once we develop the land some more, these might be a great option!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Buckwheat

    The only problem with deadheading borage is that new flowers keep appearing on the main stalk for quite a while--hard to decide when to cut it off. But when I did, multiple new flower stalks rose from the crown. Over time, the flower stalks get quite tall and have a tendency to fall over, putting up new smaller flower shoots all along the stem. Eventually mine seemed to succumb to a mildew, which might be controllable by spraying with liquid powdered milk or a baking soda solution. I didn't bother, at that point there weren't many blossoms left and they weren't being worked much.

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