All About Growing Winter Grains

Grow wheat, rye, oats and barley to build soil fertility and provide forage for your animals as well as whole grains and flour for your kitchen.

| August/September 2011

Winter Grains

Among their potential uses on your homestead, winter grains can be a homegrown source of soil-improving mulch.


(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

If grown from fall to spring, cold-hardy grains safeguard soil from erosion, suppress weeds and add organic matter to your soil. You can harvest and eat your homegrown whole grains — especially winter wheat — or use them as forage for poultry and other livestock.

Types to Try

Oats quickly produce lush, grassy foliage, which is typically killed by temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. In regions where the oats die in winter, the dead foliage becomes maintenance-free mulch that you can leave in place and plant through in spring.

Winter barley is slightly hardier than oats and winterkills when temperatures drop below zero. Alive or dead, winter barley makes great mulch or poultry forage.

Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye, and can tolerate subzero temperatures. Triticale’s abundant greens and nutritious seeds make it good animal forage.

Wheat varies in its cold tolerance. You can produce a wheat crop in late spring if you sow a hardy variety in fall.

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