From Field to Flour: How to Grow Wheat

Learn about the types of wheat and how to grow wheat in your garden or on your homestead.

| April/May 2014

Pretty much anywhere in North America, growing wheat is easy if you have a modest-sized plot of unshaded ground, the right seed, and the help of a few small implements.

Depending on your weather conditions and your growing practices, a small plot of wheat — say 500 square feet — should yield 15 to 50 pounds of grain. Yes, that’s a pretty wide range, but soils, rainfall, temperatures, storms, diseases, pests and plain luck can vary from place to place and year to year. Those forces dramatically influence wheat’s yield and quality. But your yield starts with your choice of which varieties of wheat to sow.

Choose a Variety

After you’ve decided to grow wheat, you’ll need to make three initial choices: winter or spring type, red-grained or white-grained, and free-threshing or hulled (with the hull intact). For details on various types of wheat, including durum, spelt, emmer and einkorn, read Types of Wheat: What to Grow and How to Use It.

Winter wheats are sown in fall and harvested the following spring or summer. Spring wheats, which can be either common or durum wheats, are bred for Canadian and northerly U.S. regions where wheat can’t survive through winter; they are sown in early spring and harvested in summer. The seasonal labels are important: A winter variety that does not experience cold weather will produce no grain, while a spring variety sown in fall will die in winter freezes (unless you’re in a frost-free region, where spring wheat varieties can be fall-sown).

The choice between red or white wheat is less consequential, unless you’re growing wheat in an area with high summer rainfall. Under those conditions, white wheat kernels are more susceptible to premature sprouting in the head than red ones. Even a slight start on sprouting can ruin the bread-making quality of wheat grain.

Depending on the region, a wide range of diseases and pests can plague wheat. Recently developed varieties tend to have better resistance than older ones. That is not always true, however, and almost every variety has an Achilles’ heel or two. If you are risk-averse, avoid varieties that are especially susceptible to diseases that often strike wheat in your area. Ask your local farm supplier or extension office to recommend resistant varieties.

6/11/2014 11:01:23 AM

I live in Asheville NC. Today I had found a small patch of wheat growing in a narrow strip of trees between 2 driveways. It was right along a footpath cutting through to the next road and it did get a decent amount of Sun. I know everyone talks about how wheat has been developed and highbred so much that it is no longer good for you. I want to express that many cultivated plants go rogue and many eventually form back to their wild genes. As with any culture that is not babies and taken care of plants eventually use their strengths and the wekness fall away. It's also very dangerous to believe every bit of info the health food market lists, as to they are also marketing. It's much more simple to manipulate a market of people with agenda and focus. Anyhow, The berries are very full and since this species has gone wild with no help I wish to collect the berries for a perma "garden". How would be the best way to know when they are fully ripe enough to collect? What would be the best way to save them for when I move?

5/27/2014 12:34:59 PM

Hello to Mother Earth News Editors, I am curious if you guys have come across information about the history of wheat and how unhealthy it now is for us humans? It's history is quite interesting. I'd be very interested to hear what you think about the following article and other's like it. Please do read it when you are able. I am still learning. I think that it is worth considering with such an epidemic of illness in our country (and others'). Thanks so much!

5/24/2014 4:54:22 PM

Great post

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