Whether you grow oats as a cover crop to maintain a planting area or you raise them to feed livestock, oats remain one of the most common agriculture crops. Plant a cover crop of oats in the autumn or plant oats to grow over the summer growing season in early spring. As long as your oats have adequate sunlight and a well-draining soil, they will flourish to provide a bountiful harvest.
Prepare the growing area in the early spring or early autumn depending upon your planting plans. Cultivate the soil with the garden spade down to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Add 2 inches of compost to the soil and work this in thoroughly. Rake the soil surface smooth with the rake.
Plant the oat seeds in the prepared growing area. Plant each seed by scattering them generously over the planting area. Strive for a blanket of oat seeds over the planting area with approximately two oat seeds landing in each square inch. Cover the seeds with ¼-inch of soil. If you are planting oat seedlings, space small oat seedling varieties 10 inches apart and large oat seedling varieties 20 inches apart. Plant the seedlings at the same depth as they were growing previously in the temporary containers and firm the soil gently around the plant roots.
Provide water for the newly planted seeds or seedlings immediately after planting. Keep the soil evenly moist while the oat seeds germinate. Continue to provide water until the seedlings have two true leaves and they are growing well in the soil. If you planted seedlings, keep the soil evenly moist for approximately two weeks. After this time, water only if less than 1 inch of rain falls each week.
Harvest oats when the oat kernels turn from green to cream color. Cut the stalks approximately 4 inches above the soil level and leave the stalks in piles along the planting rows to dry in the sunlight for two to three days. Remove the stalks from the planting area after they dry.