June 21, 2020

Summer Grain Growing: Rice (I Hope)

In my last blog post, I shared our winter wheat harvest with you, plus some about the cutting and threshing process. Wheat yields quite a bit of straw, and we have a plan for that too.

First load of wheat straw.

The plan is to follow the wheat with a rotation of rice. I got this idea from Masanobu Fukuoka's book on natural farming, The One Straw Revolution. He alternates a rice crop in summer with cool weather grains in winter. He adds clover to the seed and mulches it with the straw from the previous crop. With this method he has very few problems with weeds and has developed rich, fertile soil with no other additive than a scattering of chicken manure over the straw to help it decompose.

My rice seed came from last year's rice growing experiment which, unfortunately, I harvested too early (the same mistake I made the first time we grew wheat). So I have some doubt as to whether or not the seed is mature enough to grow (hence, the "I Hope" in the post title.) Doing nothing will produce nothing, however, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try anyway.

I broadcast the seed and then Dan cut the wheat residue (and weeds) with our mulching mower.

He's cutting the remaining stubble, weeds, and a patchy spot where I
removed the heads from the standing plants. Made a good mulch layer.

Ordinarily, I would let the goats into the patch after harvesting to eat down the weeds and glean any seed heads they could find.

The little patch of grass in the corner is spring planted wheat (another experiment).

Impending rain and shortage of temporary fencing nixed that.

The idea with the straw is to spread it as a covering mulch, not a smothering mulch. To do that it must be spread in a scattered fashion rather than aligned as a mat.

I started with the barest corner of the patch. As we continue threshing the wheat and making more straw, it will cover the rest of the field.

So there it is at present. It's an experiment, so I don't know what to expect. We'll learn something from it one way or another, that I know for sure.


The Happy Whisk said...

Very, very nice. I have rice on my list as well as a few other goodies but I am behind on garden work. We are a cold area though so I will at least be able to do some good cold crops. Happy Planting!

Cockeyed Jo said...

Hopefully the rains won't let up so much so you won't have to water as much as last year,

Mama Pea said...

Words for all of us gardeners to live by: In gardening there are no failures, only experiments. Continued kudos to you for being willing to experiment!! :o)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, I am so excited about this. You know what a fan of Fukuoka I am. I think one of the complaints of his methods is that they were adapted for a particular place and for a particular system. I am excited to see what happens!

A non-mat of the straw is brilliant. Also cuts down on the places that pests can hide.

Leigh said...

Ivy, thanks! Rice is definitely worth a try. I did one beds-worth last year, and it would have done well if I hadn't harvested it too early. If you purchase upland rice seed, you won't have to flood it.

Jo, yes, that's the concern now. Temps have gotten back up to 90 and the rains seem to be skirting us. Yesterday, we were talking about using greywater for the large grain patch. The system is basically in place, we just need to hook it up again and modify it.

Mama Pea, it's less emotional stress to call everything an experiment, lol.

TB, he is very insistent in The One-Straw Revolution that the straw be spread this way. I hope at least some of the seed is viable, so I can see how well it works!

Initially, I didn't think his method applied to me, until I saw it could be adapted for the pasture. I'm excited to be trying it for grain now. If it doesn't work this year, I'll try again next year. :)

Goatldi said...

So happy to see this! I keep rolling over in my head as what to do with the front field I have that is anything but level and frequented by ground squirrel and gophers. I am sure the grains will also be attractive to the mice. But if it is an experiment maybe the worst would be a field of fat mice . But also I may never have to feed my cat’s again lol.

Nancy In Boise said...

Fingers crossed!!!

Leigh said...

Goatldi, it's very fun to experiment! I have to say that with four cats around, we've had no trouble with mice. :)

Nancy, thanks!

tpals said...

Fascinating! I know you will keep us updated on the results.

Ed said...

Since we eat a lot of rice in our family, growing rice appeals to me greatly. I never considered that it might be done on a dry piece of dirt instead of in a flooded paddy. I can't wait to see what happens.

daisy g said...

Wow! What an adventurous undertaking! I wish you much success in your rice experiment!

Leigh said...

Tpals, expect an update one of these days. If even a few grow and make rice, I'll consider it a seed crop. :)

Ed, it's worth an experiment. I've thought about trying paddy rice, but would have to create a paddy. Not very high up on my to-do list!

Daisy, thanks! If I don't try, I won't learn anything!

Nina said...

I discovered straw as a mulch when using it to hill my potatoes. It did a fab job of keeping down the weeds as well. I have to get my straw at the feed store though and it tends to be full of seed heads. I usually leave a few flakes down for the chooks to root through. By the time their done, they've spread it around the garden, so a double win there. It enhances the soil beautifully too, which is a bonus.

Leigh said...

Nina, straw is a great mulch and soil builder, but I agree it's hard to find it without seeds. That's why I've switched from using it in garden compost to mulching pasture and grain growing areas. Your idea of having the chickens help probably gets rid of a lot of those seeds as they work the straw. Win-win!

Sam I Am...... said...

Well done and well said! There is no such thing as failure just learning experiences! Good luck!

Leigh said...

Sam, thanks! It helps to think of things as experiments. :)

Andre Lutforovich said...

Thanks, Sam.