How to Plant Wheat
Wheat is a type of grass that is commercially grown and processed into flour, bread, noodles, cereal, and numerous other foods. Planting wheat at home in a garden is relatively easy and carefree once the wheat is established. Harvesting wheat is much more time-consuming compared to the planting and growing stages.
Vitamins & Minerals of Wheat
Wheat contains beneficial amounts of vitamins and minerals such as...
- Vitamin B6
Types of Wheat
There are two common types of wheat that can be grown in a garden - winter wheat and spring wheat.
Winter wheat is planted in the fall about 2 to 3 weeks before frost arrives. This allows the root system to get a head start before spring. Winter wheat seedlings are exposed to temperatures between 38 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit and is necessary for proper growth. Most of North America has temperate regions for the growing of winter wheat.
Spring wheat is preferred in regions with harsh winters, such as those in zones lower than Zone 3 on the USDA Plant Hardiness Map. Spring wheat is susceptible to cold temperatures, hence the reason it is planted in spring and not in fall before the winter arrives.
Prepare Soil for Wheat
Wheat tends to grow best in loamy soils but is adaptive and will grow in other soil types, such as those that are a little clayey or sandy.
Preparing soil before planting is key. The soil should be thoroughly tilled twice before sowing, with an ideal till depth of 6 inches. The first till should occur one month before sowing, and again about 2 weeks before sowing. The soil should be raked flat once the final till has been completed.
Winter wheat should be sowed 2 to 3 weeks before frost. Spring wheat can be planted after the last frost. Seeds can be dispersed by scattering a few handfuls with an average of one seed per square inch. Precision of one seed per square inch isn't very important, but should be kept in mind to avoid overcrowding. Some crowding of wheat will actually suppress weed growth and eliminate the need for weeding.
After sowing, the seeds should be lightly covered by soil. Gently raking the soil over the seeds can become a bit tedious, but it will deter pests from making obtaining a meal.
Wheat is generally trouble-free once established. Wheat likes full sun and will grow great in open, sunny areas. Sowing the patches densely in an open area will nearly eliminate weeding.
Prolonged periods of little rain or drought will require wheat to be watered. Watering needs to saturate the root zone to promote healthy roots and discourage shallow root systems. Do not water unless plants absolutely needs it. Over-watering can harm roots, cause rotting, and promote weeds as well.
Diseases and Pests of Wheat
Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus
Wheat streak mosaic virus can cripple wheat patches. Infected crops will show symptoms of streaking and spots on the blades. Growth will also be stunted by mosaic virus. Infections in the fall can decimate wheat patches, while spring infections usually won't severely impact yields by harvest time. The virus is spread by mites that can be controlled using common pesticides. Wheat that is stressed due to climate and conditions is more susceptible to the virus.
Several pests can impact wheat patches. Snails and slugs damage young plants, but can be controlled using slug bait and several common pesticides. Sawfly larvae chew the stems and disables the wheat's ability to draw water and nutrients from the soil. Sawflies can be controlled using common pesticides as well.
Ripe wheat seeds are soft enough to dent with a fingernail, and have a seed head that tilts towards the ground. Over ripened seeds will fall off the stalk easily, and premature seeds will be too soft to use. The stalks and seed heads can be cut and placed in a dry, well ventilated area and left to dry. Properly dried seed heads cannot be dented with a fingernail, which says the wheat is ready to be threshed.
Small amounts of wheat grown in a home garden can be put into a bed sheet and tied into a bundle or "hobo knapsack." The bundle can then be struck to free the seeds of the hulls. Stepping on the bundle will free the seeds also.
This method removes the loose, lightweight remnants of the seed heads and stalks referred to as "chaff." This can be easily done on a windy day, or in front of a fan while outside. Sift through the seeds and allow the lightweight chaff to blow away, while the heavier wheat kernels remain.
The wheat kernels should be stored in an airtight container away from light. Properly dried wheat can be stored for years.
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