Q:

Can you grow and dry grain in a home garden?

A:

Quick Answer

Small grains can be easily grown and dried in the home garden with a few simple tools by even novice gardeners. The dried grain can be used for seed, as livestock feed, or in the home kitchen. Corn, wheat, barley and oats are the most common grain crops available.

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Full Answer

A 20-foot by 50-foot area produces around a bushel -- 50 to 60 pounds -- of wheat, oats or barley. To plant, first clear and till a patch of ground. When prepared, scatter seed evenly over the ground and gently run a rake over the seed; the goal is to end up with about 25 seeds per square foot of ground, covered with a quarter- to half-inch of soil to protect it from birds while germinating. Water evenly throughout the summer, tapering off at the end of the season to allow the grain stalks to dry. When the grain is ripe and stalks are dry, it is ready to harvest.

Cut stalks with a scythe, side-bar mower or hand sickle. Though a hand sickle is the most cost-effective and readily available tool, it is not advisable to harvest anything but the smallest patches using one. Grain can be threshed by banging the stalks, seed heads down, in a large plastic drum. A final cleaning, called "winnowing," is accomplished by spreading the threshed grain on a tarp, then gently tossing the grain up and down using two or more people holding opposite ends of the tarp, allowing the breeze (or a strong fan) to blow away the loose plant material.

Seed grain can be purchased from specialty garden seed retailers, such as Baker Creek Seeds and Sustainable Seed Company. Dozens of heirloom strains are available.

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