Wheat is one of the most basic of grains, yet it seems as though it would be complicated to grow on your own. However, you can learn how to grow wheat if you have a bit of space and time! You can easily acquire wheat seeds and plant them in your backyard.
How Does Wheat Grow?
In your quest to grow your own wheat, it helps to have a basic understanding of the plant itself. Knowing how does wheat grow will assist you in understanding if your crop is healthy and productive. You have to learn to plan and time it carefully to give the wheat the best chance of maximizing its productivity output.
There are a variety of ways to stage your wheat growth, but it can be broken down into about six stages. Each of these stages tells you how close your wheat is to ripening and if it is maturing appropriately. A farmer who can answer the question, “how does wheat grow?” can use these stages to know when to apply fertilizers and other chemicals. It can also help them identify diseases that may be developing.
The first stage is germination. Germination should happen within about one week of planting the seeds. It should start growing the main stem as well. Within this stage the shoot should grow and unfold about four leaves.
Next is the tillering stage. Tillers are extra stems that grow from the main shoot of your wheat plant. The original shoot stays put while approximately four tillers grow along with it. Each of these tillers also produce and unfold their own leaves. A greater number of tillers means a greater harvest.
Now you will have elongation. The stems will begin to lengthen and develop leaf nodes. What to watch for in this stage is the growth of the flag leaf, or the final leaf. It will have a “collar” just below it. This leaf is important because now the plant will begin pollination. The flag leaf must be protected for maturation.
The booting stage happens next. Now the head of the wheat will begin to grow and it will become visible below the sheath. This stage is over when you can see the awns, or tips of the head, actually emerge.
As the awns push out of the sheath, you have the heading and flowering stage. Once it is completely out the wheat can flower and pollinate. It will also fertilize and begin to produce the embryo and endosperm.
The final stage is the maturity stage, and it is made up of several sub stages. This happens as soon as the plant is fertilized. The kernel begins to form at the milk stage. When the dough stage occurs, the kernel finishes forming. Then the ripening stage happens which is when the kernel finally loses its remaining moisture and can be harvested.
Spring wheat vs. winter wheat
You will need to decide if you want to plant winter wheat or spring wheat. There is not much difference in the outcome, but this will help you decide when to get to work. If you plant winter wheat, you need to do it about six to eight weeks before the ground gets a hard frost. This gives the wheat seeds enough time to develop a root system before they go into hibernation.
You may prefer spring wheat, which can be planted once the hard frost has come out of the ground. It does not require a significantly long growing season and can be planted in many growing zones. Either way, you will harvest your wheat in the fall.
How to Grow Wheat
Wheat seeds are also called wheat berries. They can be purchased in a variety of places. If you do not have a local feed store, look online. You may even find wheat berries in your local grocery store.
Your wheat plant loves the sunshine, and so pick a spot that doesn’t get much shade during the day. If you can’t find the perfect spot for maximum sunlight, just pick a spot that receives the most sunlight.
Learning how to grow wheat berries in your own backyard is a daunting but rewarding task. All you need is a relatively small space. If you can spare about 30 square feet of land, you should be able to produce about one pound of wheat seeds. That equals around 3.5 cups of flour.
Before you start putting any seeds to the ground, consider first testing the soil’s pH level. You can do this by purchasing a pH testing kit online or at your local agricultural shops. Your pH testing kit should have a manual that will teach you how to test the soil’s pH level. Wheat plants does not prosper in soils that have a pH level that is lower than 7. If this is the case, add some 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg) of limestone per 100 square feet (9.3 m2) of soil for each half a level you need to increase the pH level.
You also need to turn or dig the soil to help loosen it up before planting your wheat plant. Turning or digging the soil will not only loosen the soil up but it also improves the airflow which helps the plant grow. To do the digging and turning, you only have to take a garden shovel and use it to turn or flip the ground over in the same spot. Do this same action to the entire area where you are going to plant your wheats on. Make sure that every part of the soil should be loosen and soft, and if there are hard spots, continually till that spot.
You need about thirty seeds per square foot that you are planting. Make sure to take this into consideration when you are deciding how to grow wheat berries for yourself. Perhaps you just want a bit of wheat to use in the fall for decorative purposes, and that is fine too!
A benefit to growing wheat is that the soil does not need to be excessively fertile. If the soil is extremely poor, work some compost in. You must till the area at least six inches deep to allow the wheat seeds to work their roots into the soil.
You can distribute the seeds by hand, but you run the risk of clumping them together. If possible, borrow or rent a seed spreader to ensure even planting. Although a good guideline is 30 seeds per square foot, you may need to double check what is recommended on your package.
Once the seeds are on the ground, use a rake to lightly mix them into the surface of the soil. One way to keep birds from chowing down on your freshly planted seeds is to spread a bit of straw on top. Use a sprinkler to soak the ground until it is saturated. Do this until sprouts appear. After that, just ensure that the soil stays damp.
How to Harvest Wheat
Harvesting wheat on a small scale is quite simple and does not require a fancy machine harvester. Watch for your wheat to begin to change colour from green to gold. This is the best time to harvest at home.
You can cut the wheat by hand, but if you have quite a bit this may be exhausting. A scythe works quite well for this purpose. Cut the wheat fairly close to the ground so you have a lot of stalk to work with.
Tie the stalks together in bunches using twine or other string. Then you can hang them upside down in a warm, dry place. Occasionally check the wheat seeds for ripening by removing one and biting into it. You are watching for all the moisture to be gone and the seed to be dry and crunchy.
Then you need to place a tarp or sheet on the floor and set your bunches of wheat on it. You are now going to thresh, or beat, the stalks so that the grain falls off the stalks. Use a wooden dowel or similar instrument for this part.
Finally you need to separate the chaff from the seed. You can use a fan to blow it away from spread-out seed. If you do this outside, keep it out of the rain so that your wheat seeds do not get soaked. We want them to stay dry. Now you can store your grain in a cool, dark location.
Baking bread or cake with flour from your own milled wheat is a great feeling. You may not produce much wheat initially, but this relatively low maintenance crop can be planted yearly once you learn how to grow wheat for yourself. Your journey to becoming self sustaining is well on its way!