Grain is an easy-to-grow garden plant that has sustained multitudes of people through history. Cook grains either as whole foods or milled. They are also a valued livestock feed. All varieties are high in niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorus, thiamine and carbohydrates and are an excellent source of fiber. Numerous types of grains exist, such as barley, corn, oats, millet and wheat. All are grown as a tall grass that is allowed to flourish wild and set seeds.
Grains can be planted in the spring, fall and winter depending on the requirements of the variety. Spring wheat, winter rye and winter wheat grains exist.
Each grain type requires different planting times. Plant oats early in the spring. Many whole grains will not have enough time to germinate, grow and seed if planted in the spring in an area that offers a short growing season. These types will require fall or winter planting to allow enough time to reach maturity prior to harvest. Winter or fall planting will normally result in a far stronger plant due to the added months of growing.
Prepare soil six months prior to planting grain. Till the soil to a minimum of six inches, all sod needs to be carefully removed and weeds destroyed. It is often advised that a crop of peas or beans be planted prior to grain to add increased fertility and help the soil break down. Once the peas or beans have grown, they can be tilled into the soil prior to planting grain. Nematodes are often added to the soil prior to planting grain to help control pests such as the wire worm.
Sprinkle grain by hand or broadcast it using a seed spreader to plant. Seeds should ideally have 1 inch of space between each other to flourish. Once the seeds are broadcast they can be raked in by hand rake, or sprinkle a 1-inch layer of soil across the tops. Tamp down soil or roll it with a roller to firm.
Most grains only require watering the first week to begin germination. After the initial watering the grains do not require additional water to grow. This is why grain was a popular crop throughout history by homesteaders and farmers who had no irrigation options but rainfall. If grains are provided an abundance of water, they will often put all their work into growing in height, and the harvest will be delayed or poor.
The month of harvest will depend on the grains being grown. Spring sown grain can be harvested in July, but winter-sown grain can be harvested in June. Quinoa is usually not ready for harvest until September or October. Seeds of all grains should be hard to the touch at the time of harvest.
Today, harvesting is normally done by machines such as combines but it can be harvested by hand. Hand-harvesting is backbreaking, tedious work. Grain must be cut with hand scythes and then beat on a floor to remove the grain from the plant.