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Best grains for the home garden  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 1362
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?
 
Posts: 37
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
 
author
Posts: 946
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.
 
Posts: 3366
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.
 
Posts: 62
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
pollinator
Posts: 1362
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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
Posts: 3366
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
pollinator
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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.
 
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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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).

 
steward
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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
pollinator
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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.
 
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Milo, amaranth, buckwheat and sunflower?
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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Sunflower belongs in the oil seed thread.
 
Posts: 154
Location: On the plateau in TN
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quinoa and amaranth

Quinoa seeds are covered by a soapy substance called saponin that can be removed by washing them in cold water in a blender, changing the water five times or until it is no longer sudsy.

hull-less oats and barley are relatively easy to process.
 
pollinator
Posts: 131
Location: South of Capricorn
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Angelica, I hear you on how hard it is to get corn varieties, here in cold southern south america I can only get non-dent corn seeds when I travel (erm, perhaps not within the limits of the law), otherwise it is GMO dent corn and that's about it. And sweet corn doesn't grow well here.

I've grown amaranth and had the same issue as you. Am considering quinoa for this winter, but not sure I get cold enough (we get frosts but the weather lately is very unpredictable, we had two months of heat in winter and now in summer we are freezing this year). Grew some sorghum for forage, that at least is easy to find. Millet does well, and oats do really well. Barley is a project for a future winter, again, not sure it gets cold enough here for it. But buckwheat really does well, I use it for chop and drop in the garden.

Not sure what it's like where you are but what I eventually did was go to a bird supply store to see what kind of grains they sell for people to feed wild/pet birds and poultry livestock. That was where I found seeds for millet, sorghum, and a few other things I never expected to find here.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2058
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Quinoa is technically a pseudo-grain, but if it will grow, I like it as a homestead choice.

As to processing the saponins, I just tied my harvest (backyard harvest, maybe five lbs.) up in a mesh bag and tied it with twine, then tossed it in for a cold wash cycle in my washer.

I was thinking, though, that if I ever have to process quinoa again, I want to see if I can keep the rinse water, full of saponins, and use it as a foliar spray on any crops with pest problems. I might have to rinse manually, in a tub with cold water, but ideally, I'll be able to temporarily divert my laundry water to a storage container. Much easier if the machine does the work.

I think it depends on how much space you have, and what your climate looks like. You probably want to develop a list of grains with different characteristics for different situations. For instance, if you have a limited window in which to grow, you'd likely want something that matures relatively quickly after germination. I believe millet, for instance, can mature within 30 days of germination.

I think your choice also depends on what processing equipment you have at hand. If you have a countertop grain mill that de-hulls and separates grains from their hulls, you don't have to worry about tough seed hull choices. Otherwise, you'll want to see if, for instance, a hull-less oat will work for you rather than a hulled one.

Also to keep in mind, buckwheat, while you would need something to de-hull, is both quick-growing and fixes nitrogen.

Finally, rice doesn't need to be grown in patties, though ground that remains moist is preferable, and low boggy spots would work best.

-CK
 
Michael Moreken
Posts: 154
Location: On the plateau in TN
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Chris Kott wrote:Quinoa is technically a pseudo-grain, but if it will grow.

As to processing the saponins, I just tied my harvest (backyard harvest, maybe five lbs.) up in a mesh bag and tied it with twine, then tossed it in for a cold wash cycle in my washer.
Also to keep in mind, buckwheat, while you would need something to de-hull, is both quick-growing and fixes nitrogen.

Finally, rice doesn't need to be grown in patties, though ground that remains moist is preferable, and low boggy spots would work best.

-CK



Nice idea to wash in the washer.  Buckwheat does not fix nitrogen plus it is one of the worst to process.
 
gardener
Posts: 824
Location: Ohio, USA
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I wrote up something on this in this thread, so I'll tie it in.

The short answer is for me, grains fill in gaps in planting in the garden where either nothing else will grow because of time and weather, or I just don't need the space for another dozen heads of lettuce, garlic, and onions. Wheat for winter, barely for spring, many others for summer.

https://permies.com/t/95646/Grains-Experience#801535
 
Amit Enventres
gardener
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Regarding the critters, I often have to:

1. Presprout the grain.
2. Plant it under plastic or the like.
3. Replant.
4. Harvest early and repeatedly.
5. Cover the grain in a net bag as it matures.
6. Have a discussion on territory with the critters.
7. Use the dog as a deterrent.
8. A fence.
9. High traffic area.
10. Share my frustration with my family over dinner.
11. Buy new grain seed.
12. Have lots of stuff they may want to eat instead on site as a deterrent.

Some grains need more of this TLC then others. Here millet and wheat have legs. So far sorghum and amaranth don't.

 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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Michael,

does buckwheat fix nitrogen

Yes it does.

-CK
 
Amit Enventres
gardener
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I think the confusion of buckwheat may stem from several factors:

1. There are multiple species whose common name is buckwheat. California buckwheat is very different than your "common" buckwheat.

2. There are many plants that can host nitrogen fixing bacteria, but only the legume family is known for fixing significant quantities to provide nitrogen to themselves and subsequent crops.


That said, I find buckwheat processing easy because I processes common buckwheat with the hulls on in small quantities and suffered no ill affects.  The toxin present in buckwheat needs to be eaten in large quantities. The grain to hull ratio on buckwheat pretty well insures that, I think.
 
pollinator
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Buckwheat gets a thumbs up from me. Grows easily & fast. Very good for the soil. Bees love it & it makes a dark nutty flavored honey. Excellent chicken & human food too. I use a molcajete to process it. With a little practice it is easy enough to remove many of the hulls. The remainder is not worth the time & effort to remove so I just eat it. No problem.
 
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