Winter Grains at a Glance

By Staff

Winter Grains at a Glance

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. 

By Barbara Pleasant 

The following are our recommended types of winter grains and tips for growing them. To learn more about planting, harvesting and using your homegrown grains, see Growing Winter Grains. For an excellent selection of grains at better prices than most sources, check out Fedco Organic Growers Supply.

Type  Description  Cold Tolerance  Tips 

Avena sativa 

Graceful, upright, grassy plants beautifully fill vacant space in fall gardens.

10 to15 degrees Fahrenheit Grow oats to serve as winter mulch. Interplant with calendulas or other fast-growing flowers.

Winter barley
Hordeum vulgare 

Barley has broader leaves than other grains, so it produces abundant forage for poultry and other livestock. Zero to 10 degrees, lower temperatures with snow cover Top homegrown forage crop for feeding to poultry, goats or horses. ‘McGregor’ is cold hardy and fast to mature.

Triticale hexaploide 

Triticale closely resembles wheat but has higher levels of lysine, an essential amino acid important for both humans and livestock. Minus 20 degrees, lower temperatures with snow cover Good forage crop for animals, or for use as a cover crop. In spring, pull up or turn under plants when they are 12 inches tall.

Triticum aestivum 

Grassy plants wait out winter and grow rapidly in spring, maturing by early summer. Minus 20 degrees, lower temperatures with snow cover You can grow small plots by planting wheat berries from a health food store. Interplant with winter peas or hairy vetch for maximum off-season soil improvement.

Cereal rye
Secale cereale 

Performs well in poor soil or on slopes. Excellent for soil improvement and use as mulch, but difficult to thresh into tasty grain. Minus 35 degrees Like wheat, cereal rye works well interplanted with winter peas or hairy vetch. In spring, pull up or turn under plants before they develop seeds.

Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on .