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Best grains for the home garden

 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Which are the best grains for the home garden? In most cases growing is easy but harvesting threshing and milling is the difficult part.
This year I was able to purchase a flour corn variety in Australia (!!!) and it grows most nicely. How do I get best the died corn from the ears?
And how long do I leave the corn until harvest, I don't want to feed the mice.
I have a tiny bit of amaranth growing it grows most nicely and is two and a half meter tall. The challenging thing with amaranth is harvesting as it shatters.
Which varieties shatter less and which varieties give a good yield? The nice thing about amaranth is that you don't need to thresh it, only winnow.
I want to try oats wheat and rye over winter.
Is there some good information about yields for home gardeners? (Not bushel per hectare as a bushel of wheat and oats is always a different weight)
I have a small patch with a sort of millet (indian barnyard) which is doing very nice, however I have no idea weather I can thresh it.
BTW grain is a very ornamental crop and suitable for the front yard. My millet looks just like an ornamental grass and who would know how millet or rice looks like?
 
Matt Smaus
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Location: Minneapolis, MN
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Hi Angelika, I just spent this last year growing 4,000 square feet of experimental grains and other "staple" crops. For a lot more detail regarding lessons learned, read here: http://www.integratedlifeproject.com/2014/01/04/reflections-on-last-years-garden/

The short version is this: corn is a friendly grain crop for gardeners. If you're in a cold climate and you're not a commercial producer, get a short-season variety (80 days or so), which will yield a bit less but be more likely to dry down in time. If you have a cool, wet early fall, as we do in the PNW, you will probably want to harvest your corn a little prematurely, husk it, and bring it inside a greenhouse or warm garage to dry. Drying it down before it's fully ripe will result in a little shrinkage -- which means slight less yield again -- but is a far better alternative to having it mold, sprout on the cob, or get eaten by raccoons. Corn is fantastic for the gardener because it requires no processing equipment besides a mill capable of grinding it roughly. There's popcorn, too, which you don't need a mill for. And I've heard of people boiling corn with lime to make masa and then grinding it wet with just a food processor to make tortillas. Carol Deppe talks expansively on corn here: http://digthisdigthat.blogspot.com/2011/10/carol-deppe-on-corn-audio-interview.html

Rice doesn't need to be ground, of course, but you need to thresh it. Ben Falk has good info about that in his book The Resilient Farm and Homestead. I suppose you could grow farro and not grind it either, but same problem.

I love growing wheat -- planting and harvesting isn't that hard -- but I don't have the right equipment to process it efficiently, so my six bundles of different wheats have been hanging upside down on my porch feeding the birds all winter. That said, I go over my ideal wheat/barley/oat-growing gear for the homestead scale in the post I linked to at the top.

And don't forget potatoes! Not a grain, I know, but the peasant's best friend when it comes to homescale carb production. Unless you want to do it more for the aesthetic. You can even use potatoes as feed, if you boil them. A patch of grain IS a beautiful sight, especially with some nice green clover surging in the understory.

Finally, a good book is Gene Logsdon's "Small Scale Grain Raising," and Jack Lazor's new book, "The Organic Grain Grower" is the mother of all resources for serious grain growers.
barleyClover.jpg
[Thumbnail for barleyClover.jpg]
 
Matt Smaus
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Location: Minneapolis, MN
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Oh, as for getting it off the ear: you can use a hand sheller, or just rub two ears together once they're good and dry. Or buy a cheap hand-cranked sheller.

Hand sheller example: http://www.gemplers.com/product/RDK100/Hand-operated-Corn-Sheller?gclid=CPf_-762ubwCFRSUfgodonEAAQ&sku=RDK100&CID=25SEPLA&ci_src=17588969&ci_sku=RDK100&ef_id=UguGVgAABKdLhBMK20140207065030s
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Matt Smaus wrote:
The short version is this: corn is a friendly grain crop for gardeners.

And don't forget potatoes!


These are my suggestions as well. Dried beans are pretty good too. The small grains just arent worth the threashing and winnowing, IME.

And I love corn.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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If you want grain for chickens or livestock, then whatever grows in your climate--wheat, oats, barley, rye, etc. Cut it with a scythe or sickle mower (can buy an old 2 wheel tractor affordably sometimes). Bundle and store, no threshing--let the animals do the work.

If you have the right climate, there are hull-less oats that are relatively easy to process--but still not as easy as corn.

Carol Deppe has lots of good info on growing and processing corn. You NEED to treat it with lime to make the nutrition more bio-available if it is your only grain. She has lots of good information on keeping varieties true, both for growing different varieties yourself and for reducing GMO big ag cross pollination.
 
Bryan Jasons
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Location: Maine
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Threshing Sorghum is very easy, just crushing the dried panicle in a burlap bag or shaking it over a tarp works fine. I've grown a few cane types in Maine, and I've heard of "milo" or Grain Sorghum being grown in even shorter growing seasons, e.g. the upper mid-west US. I'd think the white Sorghum is easier to deal with since you can throw away the moldy grain if there is any - the red types might go bad without as much of a visible change. You can tell when it's mature when there's a little black dot, AKA black layer, at the base of the grain, same as with Maize when it's mature.
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Good information! I will try sorghum next year. With the corn I have one very bad problem: mice and rats!!!
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Grow GMO, the mice and rats don't bother it.

That should tell you something...
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Hey these were very expensive seeds, very very very rare in Australia!!! These mice are not only eating my harvest they are eating next years seeds too.
 
Bryan Jasons
Posts: 62
Location: Maine
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I've heard of people using old pantyhose over the corn ears to prevent some pest damage - don't know if it'll work for what you have, but it can't hurt..

Additionally, using mouse traps or larger traps is something I've always had to do here. Raccoons and possums go after the maize where I am.

Strict import laws where you are right? I know Koanga institute has some maize seed close-by, but even NZ seed might not work out... http://koanga.org.nz/products/seeds/grains/corn-grains/

Sorry about the crop loss.. Maybe popcorn would be less palatable to the pests you have, or a different planting date could avoid them altogether.
 
John Polk
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Yeah. Chickens are great threshing machines - as long as you don't want the grain for yourself.
If you have a wheelbarrow full of chaff, with one wheat grain in it, they will find that grain !

AU does have some very strict laws regarding seed imports. Must be frustrating listening to us Yanks talking about swapping seeds, knowing that you could never hope to even see one of those seeds. I read a few years ago that you could get an import certificate - for $10,000 - if the species wasn't on the GSL (Government's Shit List).

 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Adam Klaus wrote:Dried beans are pretty good too

I know you're after grains, but if someone mentions beans, I have to put in another word for runner beans.
Perennial in my climate, insanely productive, easy to shell, high in protein, and bonus green beans!
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I think we should start another thread on dry beans.
My amaranth is starting to look good, but how can I know that it is ready to harvest?
And the variety I have is quite tall, that means it is difficult to net.
My corn is completely netted so the access is not easy.
 
David Hartley
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Milo, amaranth, buckwheat and sunflower?
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 709
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Sunflower belongs in the oil seed thread.
 
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