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Growing cereal in tiny plots  RSS feed

 
Jeremy Stocks
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I hope this isnt just some dreamy impractical idea but is it ridiculous to grow tiny beds of cereals like oats in say three feet by three feet beds or slightly bigger? how might one process such a product?

Just wondering. Please ignore if its such a silly question. I like experimenting with unusual stuff. (This year I grwo borlotti beans and coriander, stuff not normally grown here.)
 
                                  
Posts: 175
Location: Suwon, South Korea
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You might want to read, "Small-Scale Grain Raising," by Gene Logsdon:

http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/030210logsdon/030210toc.htm

 
Nicholas Covey
Posts: 180
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
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I grew a bit of two varieties of wheat this year, just to try. THe main thing with some cereal grains is that they overwinter (winter wheat being an example). You definitely want to plant a spring variety in the early (think 3-4 weeks before last frost dates) so that it can get the jump on weeds. I planted mine in a row and that was not sufficient because invasive grasses competed heavily with them, even with a great deal of mulch. If I do it again, I will definitely plant a plot versus a row, and start the seeds (maybe sprout, maybe actually plant in starter pots or soil blocks) The key I think is keeping the weeds down.

I also ran into issues with wheat rust. I have been monitoring that daily and will likely only harvest from the plants that were not stricken with rust to save seed for next year. I know that one variety I will not grow again, as it just hasn't performed well.

I agree with bruc33ef, you need to read "Small-Scale Grain Raising." It is most complete source when it comes to grain in the garden that I have come across.

I got my seeds from Bountiful Gardens http://www.bountifulgardens.org/
 
Leah Sattler
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I don't think it is a silly idea! I think it would be a great way to find out what does well in your area and get first hand experience processing the grain to see which is most practical for your situation.
 
Neal McSpadden
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I was just listening to an old recording of Mollison talking about cereal grains and grain-legumes versus root starches.  As a lover of anything made out of bread, I wonder how the efficiencies of each starch type works out in terms of work for the gardener.
 
jeremiah bailey
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I too think it is a great idea. I'm growing buckwheat inter-planted with cowpeas on grass sod. I did this in about 500 sq. ft.  I plan on harvesting the seed, and selecting the strong plants seperately. Then planting the so-so seeds in one area and the good seeds in a patch of their own. Each year, selecting the best plants until I have enough to make a harvest for both seed and food. I noticed that both the buckwheat and cowpea prefer close clumps, instead of dispersed plants. My next crop in that patch will be winter rye and hairy vetch.

For processing small amounts, you can use a mortar and pestle. For larger amounts you can get grinders of various styles, quality, and power sources.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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I have grown rye but never have grown any other cereal grains but would like to do it next year ..so i'll be watching this thread..i do have some areas that would work well for starting some cereal grains on..in the spring..so i'm interested in trying it next year..also sources for small amounts of seed that would work for sowing a small section..i'm thinking i could go larger than the 3x3 mentioned..more like 8 x8 or 10  x 10 secitons..and i might like to try 3 or 4 different grains and see how they do..maybe more..i have an area about 20 x 40 i could put to some grains next spring.
 
robert campbell
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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I have very little experience, but I agree that it is a great idea to try a test plot.  I did that this year with quinoa.  Our CSA is also a seed vendor, and they claimed their quinoa thrived.  I had been told it wouldn't grow at our near-sea-level elevation, but I am skeptical of that.  Now, I actually have a 5 gallon bucket of quinoa so didn't really need any, but thought I would try.  It grew early in the spring, got large fast, and then remained slow, put on amazing piles of grain, and then turned the most spectacular deep reds and oranges in early august.  Now I have it drying and can't wait to get the estimate one cup (yes, 1c) harvest... just enough to taste it and see if it worked well.  I have big plans for doing hundreds of plantings of it next year, armed with this positive experience.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i am still very intersted in trying some cereal grains for next year..i have to do some research as what to try in my zone 4, when to plant, how to care for and most of all where do you  buy small amounts of cereal/flour grain seed ?? it is an intersting proposition for me.

All of my buildling projects should be finished by next spring and i want to move on with gardening and landscaping rather than fussing with building projects any longer (I have been doing some type of building or remodeling every year for the last 38 !!)
 
jeremiah bailey
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mantid, what size area did you grow your quinoa? That is a grain I'm interested in as it makes a yummy breakfast porridge.
 
robert campbell
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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jerimiah - this was just a little 2 x 10 bed that I had some other herbs in and did about 6 quinoa plants (started under lights in feb).  Each one grew to about 3' high and had a pretty nice cluster at the top.  Again, I think that was probably about a meal's worth.
 
jeremiah bailey
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Still, that is not a bad yield for the first time growing a certain crop. Did you use food grade or seed grade grain? I've some quinoa I bought recently at Costco's. I might try growing some next year.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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so would you be buying grains from a health food store for your small cereal plots? are they not treated to keep them from sprouting? just wondering.
 
jeremiah bailey
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Er, well... kinda sorta not exactly. Costco's is a warehouse club. Anyways, usually some will sprout regardless of treatment. Many sources, especially organic don't treat. I just happen to have some grain of the crop I'd like to try, so I'll use some from that instead of buying seed just to do a test run. I've read articles of people growing rice, beans, etc. from supermarket sources. Why not quinoa? If you have some laying around, the worst that could happen is it enriches your soil a little. If the price is right at the health food store, perhaps give it a try.
 
                                  
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Ever try Sorghum? It's a great crop. The grain tastes delicious and with some varieties you can even process the stems to make syrup. Fresh sorghum (soaked and blended then boiled with fresh raw milk added doesn't need any sugar. It creates its own sweet taste. It is also somewhat drought tolerant and if the soil is cared for it is very prolific. It will try to produce up to 3 heads of grain (or course it will be limited by fertility, but it will try nonetheless). I have abou 6 varities in the house spread about. A giant variety, dale, red candy, San Pablo, honey drip and another one. I don't grow them all at once and i haven't grown a few yet. But sorghum is most impressive in food and feed value as well as prolificness and drought tolerance. I love the stuff. The only drawback is that it loves heat and you cannot grow it in very cool weather. I am a sorghum fan and promote it wherever and whenever I can.

Godbless,
Anwar


 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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because i have a vita mix and grinder so i can grind small amounts of grains for breads..i would really like to find a group of grains that can be ground for putting in homemade breads..they would have to grow in zones 4/5  we are kinda between zone 4 and 5..sometimes we do drop really really really low in the winter..and we occasionally have very very cold summers..like this year..where we were cold about 80 % of our summer...one of the coldest in our history
 
                          
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Quranist wrote:
Ever try Sorghum? It's a great crop.
I mulched with sorghum hay and so had a seed head sorghum invasive in my beds.  My chickens loved this- it was similar to the main ingredient of some bird feeds- and the chickens would eat it from the seed head, no processing just pick (or release chickens on it).
 
                                  
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Jenn,

You are right about it being a main ingredient in bird feeds. I don't know why because it is GREAT people feed. You can cook it up just like grits or as I said before cook it up and just add fresh(preferrably raw) milk. You can also blend it up in water, make a thick mix and bake it in a banana leaf to get a very good, moist cornbread. You can also just make cornbread from it or arepas (add coconut milk, raisins and honey/sorghum syrup/sugar). When I say this stuff is great I mean it. It wil expand more than rice and you can get more food out of a cup of this than you can get out of a cup of rice. Grow and cook sorghum. You will be pleased. If you can make some syrup do that too. Last time i tried this I cut up the stems after harvesting the seed, blended them, strained them and then boiled them down into a syrup. The stuff was to die for.

Godbless,
Anwar
 
                                  
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Peace,

All of the green fibers left after the syrup making can go to your goats or cattle. Or you can make silage.

Godbless,
Anwar
 
                              
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after seeing upside down tomatoes not much seems silly anymore. it's seems completely practical to start small.
 
bunkie weir
Posts: 110
Location: eastern washington
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rogertheshrubber wrote:
..... is it ridiculous to grow tiny beds of cereals like oats in say three feet by three feet beds or slightly bigger? how might one process such a product? .......


rogertheshrubber, i posted this elswhere, but maybe it will help...there was an article by Thom Leonard in Organic Gardening in December 1988. i have not been able to find the article online, but hubby had made a copy of it for me years ago. it was called "Staff of Life".

in it he talks about growing grain in your garden......


...."One hundred square feet of wheat planted on reasonably good garden soil should yield a harvest of at least 5 pounds of dry grain......

With a little extra care and attention, that same space can yield even more. John Leavons (How to grow more vegetables) reports wheat yields of 17 pounds per hundred-square-foor bed and projects yields of 30 pounds per 4-by-25-foot bed under ideaal conditions........

Those 17 pounds of wheat will give you flour for 29 pounds of bread. Even a modest harvest of 5 pounds will provide 8 pounds of bread....A 5-x-5 food patch, intensively managed, could give you the saame 5 pounds that you might harvest from as much space...."
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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Plants like wheat, that self-pollinate, do just fine mixed sparsely with other garden plants. When they're few and far between, they don't shade their neighbors much, but I could also imagine using a denser spacing to keep something like kale from bolting in the summer.
 
                    
Posts: 63
Location: N.W. Arkansas
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I was certainly hoping that your small grain growing would not seem silly to folks, as I sit here with my hard and soft wheat, rye, triticale, sorghum, oats, and various small grains.  I will have to do small plot growing.  And yes, I bought them from garden seed companies.

I have been busily testing my soil.  And getting my information for getting them going.  I keep wondering, how will I get the syrup out of the sorghum canes?  I also will be attempting sugar beets for a first time.

Lots to experiment with.  And about 4 ounces of each seed to work with.  Loads to learn, I even bought a book on raising grains on a small scale, and how to harvest them, but sorghum was not mentioned.

My oats are not hull less, but I do have livestock, so they gotta eat too.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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I just love my tiny cereal spots of rye, oats, spelt and wheat. How i planted it - http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/3269_0/organic-practices/notill-hay-method

Spelt is a winner here, oats died i don't know why, will plant buckwheat instead on that patch, wheat and rye are also doing great.
 
bunkie weir
Posts: 110
Location: eastern washington
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planki, i will be trying Spelt, Hulless Oats, and Buckwheat for the first time this year.

thanks for posting that link. lots of good info there, and liked your and pat's pics.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Glad you like it. To summer up, i think it's great to have small patches of cereals in polyculture. One thing i also heard with cereals is, that they are great in a long narrow beds between fruit trees, along garden beds etc, great companions...
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