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Growing Grains: Growing Winter Wheat and Rye

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

Living in California has been a blessing. The fact that I can grow throughout the year allows me to experiment with multiple crops and play with nature a lot. This past summer when I visited one of my chefs and now good friend in Rhode Island, he had some rye that was almost ready for harvest. I had never thought about that. I knew how to make my own flour (hopefully will get a small mill soon), but it never crossed my mind to grow the grains rather than purchase form a store or small farmer. I ended up finding a company online, called Sustainable Seed Company (link below**), who sell heirloom variety seeds. Being the extra person that I am, I was on board.

I purchased two types of grains for this year, Winter Rye and Hard Red Winter Wheat. I had to do a classic wheat flour to start off my first experiment growing grains and I've been wanting to use more rye so I might as well grow it as well. Since California doesn't get much snow, these seeds get planted in the fall and grow over the winter into the late spring. Depending on weather, the winter, and the seeds, harvest should come in the spring or early summer. I'm not planning to do any summer crops next year so I'm not as worried about planting overlapping in the spring if it's cold or takes longer than expected to harvest.

Along with the grains in the garden bed, I want to try and over winter a couple pepper plants. I have a bell pepper and a shishito pepper plants in the ground and rather pull them up, I trimmed them back. They still are producing flowers and peppers so we will see when they might stop but for now I want to keep them until nature takes them from me. As winter goes on I will keep up with them and trim if needed. Some of the leaves are a little sad looking but I don't want to harm the plant while it's still producing fruit.

The garden bed with freshly planted grains and the somewhat sad looking peppers

In years past I have attempted the standard winter crops. Things like lettuce, swiss chard, broccoli, and kale. They were pretty great. I have never had a good crop of lettuce, things like to eat them in my pesticide free garden and I lose them every time. Swiss chard and kale on the other hand I have had great success but then I have too much and don't eat it. They are hardy plants that are super easy to grow so I highly advise to attempt them if you are new to winter gardening. I still have kale from last year in the freezer...

Lastly I have a couple pots of Alaskan Peas starting. The past two years I have done snow peas and they are super easy to grow and produce a shit ton of pods to eat. I have at least two bags still in the freezer so I was not ready to grow them again this year. I wanted to try a different pea plant and found the Alaskan pea. I bought the seeds from the same company as the grains. I have had a lot of success growing beans and peas both in the ground and in pots, in winter and summer, but I wanted something new. Although these will come with more work since they are peas that will need to be hulled to remove what is eaten, I'm excited to learn the tricks to do it efficiently.

As for now the seeds are in the ground. I tilled the soil and it looks wonderful after a couple years of working to get it plant happy. I also added a fresh bag of soil on top to help the new seeds and add some nutrients back into the soil besides the plant food I use once a month. As things progress I will make some updates and share what happens. Until then, share below in the comments any winter gardening projects, tips, tricks, or suggestions!




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