Growing Wheat: Varieties, Planting Guide, Care, Problems, and Harvest (2022)

When we think of growing wheat, many of us think of the open spaces in the Great Plains, with golden fields blowing in the breeze. We don’t typically think of raising wheat in our gardens, but it’s totally possible.

Wheat has been an important crop since its domestication in 9600 BCE. Many cultures have relied on it for food and used it to develop some of the staples we eat every day. We also use wheat for animal feed and bedding.

Wheat is a beautiful crop, on top of being useful. Just look a Van Gogh’s wheatfields.

Growing Wheat: Varieties, Planting Guide, Care, Problems, and Harvest (1)

Types and Varieties of Wheat

Growing Wheat: Varieties, Planting Guide, Care, Problems, and Harvest (2)

Not only are their several types of wheat, but different varieties grow in different seasons. Fall wheat is planted in the fall, starts to grow, goes dormant, and then renews and completes its growth in the spring. Kind of like garlic.

Spring wheat is planted in the spring and harvested in the late summer. It’s grown in areas that have cold winters. Spring wheat has lower yields.

There are lots of different varieties within each type of wheat and they all grow better in some areas over others. You may want to experiment to see what works best in your region.

You can also check with your local extension to see which types they recommend.

Hard Red Wheat

Hard red varieties are mostly grown west of the Mississippi River and are the top commercial bread type.

Bolles: This open-pollinated, hard red spring wheat is great for home gardeners. It matures in late August from an early spring planting. Bolles needs 90-120 days to reach maturity. It’s resistant to leaf rust.

Glenn: Another open-pollinated spring wheat, Glenn is hull-less which makes it easy to thresh out. Perfect for the homestead. It’s extremely disease resistant and tolerant to scab. Takes 90-120 days till maturity.

Black Eagle: This open-pollinated variety is stunning with black and white details on the grain spikes. It looks like ornamental wheat, but it’s delicious and great for baking. It gets three feet tall and also produces good straw.

Soft Red Wheat

This type is grown east of the Mississippi River and is considered a pastry flour although it makes excellent bread as well. Red is the color of the kernels and does not mean the bread flour is red.

Medina Winter Wheat: This soft winter wheat is cold hardy, resistant to scab, mosaic virus, and powdery mildew. This variety makes delicious pastry flour and wheat beer.

White Wheat

White wheat is grown predominantly in the Pacific Northwest and is used as bread flour. It tends to have a sweeter flavor than reds.

LCS Ghost: This is a high-yielding winter variety, particularly in areas that get a lot of rain. It’s resistant to rust.

(Video) How to Grow Wheat | Seed to Harvest

Durum

Durum wheat is most often grown n the upper Great Plains states such as the Dakotas. It’s famous as a pasta flour.

Divide: This spring durum is moderately resistant to scab and has high yields.

How Much to Plant

Fedco seeds states that you can harvest up to ten pounds of wheat from 100 plants in a small plot of 100 square feet.

In a larger planting of 1000 square feet, you could raise a bushel of wheat. That’s about 60 pounds or enough for 90 loaves of bread.

That makes growing wheat a worthwhile venture. Growing vegetables, fruits, and grains together will really move you to become more self-sufficient. When I started growing grains it felt like I had reached true self-sufficiency because I could make a complete meal.

How to Plant Wheat

Wheat is a grass. Think of it a bit like planting a lawn. You can plant it in a raised bed or a traditional garden space.

The Right Location

Wheat grows best in a sunny location in soil that drains well. Wheat doesn’t like to have wet feet. Shoot for a pH of around 6.5.

All wheat appreciates a tilled bed that is free of rocks and plant debris. Try to minimize competition with other plants. Work well-rotted manure into the ground before planting.

Planting Seed

Sow wheat by broadcasting. Spread the seed on the ground then take a rake and mix it into the top layer of your soil. If your soil is dry, moisten before broadcasting your seeds.

You can also use a grain drill to plant wheat. This is useful if you have a bigger plot.

When to Plant Spring Wheat

Sow spring wheat as early in the year as possible as it likes the cool weather. Preparing your bed in fall helps you to be ready as soon as spring rains clear out. Getting a late start can mean a lower yield.

Sow your spring wheat at the rate of about four pounds for every 1,000 square feet.

When to Plant Fall Wheat

Plant fall wheat in mid-September through mid-October. A good estimate is about three weeks before your first frost date.

Care should be taken not to plant too early. If your plants grow too much in the fall and start developing a stalk then they are more prone to damage in the winter.

Sow at a similar rate to spring wheat.

How to Care for Wheat

Wheat doesn’t take much care once it is established.

(Video) Growing Wheat For The First Time

Fertilizer

Wheat’s not a big glutton for fertilizer, so the well-rotted manure you applied when planting should be sufficient.

Because it’s so undemanding in terms of fertilizer, commercial farmers often follow corn or soybeans with wheat. The wheat is fine with the leftover nutrients.

If your soil is poor or you are planting in a new garden space you can give plants some fish emulsion as wheat plants green up in the spring. Be careful not to over-fertilize. Too much nitrogen can lead to lodging and fungal diseases.

Mulch

Wheat doesn’t need to be mulched because it needs good air circulation around the stalks. In fact, mulching with straw from another location can spread disease.

Watering

Growing Wheat: Varieties, Planting Guide, Care, Problems, and Harvest (3)

Wheat isn’t a water-intensive crop. Plants need between 18-21 inches of water a year, with less water needed after heading and flowering.

Too much water at the end of the season can cause lodging. Avoid saturating the soil and don’t irrigate during windy times.

Different varieties have different water requirements, and your needs will vary depending on where you are growing. It’s best to check with your local extension for specific advice, but in general, water when the soil gets dry down to one inch.

Consider Fencing

I know out west, the fields of wheat go on forever and don’t appear to have any confinement. But I’m here to tell you that you should grow your wheat in a protected or fenced-in area because deer or livestock are particularly drawn to a wheat crop.

The first year I grew wheat, I was so proud and happy of my crop. I had a 20×10 plot in a garden area with an older fence.

My horse, thinking that this magnificent crop was grown for him, led a posse of goats from their field and into my garden. Yup. They devastated that year’s hard work and made me sad, and mad, and had me spending the fall repairing the fence.

Problems and Solutions to Growing Wheat

There aren’t a ton of problems that can plague wheat crops.

Hessian Fly

The hessian fly targets cereal crops and can be especially harmful to wheat. The larvae eat the stems and leaves, interrupting the plant’s ability to make nutrients.

They adapt well to management controls like insecticides and can be a severe problem for commercial growers. Home gardeners can control hessian fly using crop rotation, not over-fertilizing, and by planting resistant varieties.

Fungal Disease

Rusts and blights can be a problem for wheat. Ask your extension agent what diseases wheat are prone to in your area. Then look for resistant varieties.

You should also avoid watering from overhead or overwatering. Keep your garden well-weeded and don’t mulch around plants. Also, try to keep plants thinned out so they don’t get overcrowded.

Weeds

Weeds can be a problem in wheat fields. Since wheat is typically planted by broadcasting, it doesn’t grow in nice even rows. This makes weed control harder.

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The best way to handle weeds is to control them before they start. Crop rotation and tilling help to disrupt weed growth. You can also use solarization to kill weeds seeds before planting wheat.

Birds

Birds can sometimes be a problem when you’re broadcasting your seeds. They land in your garden plot and help themselves to lunch.

If birds are a problem for you then cover your seedbed with a floating row cover. Remove the cover once your seeds have sprouted and are about an inch tall.

Lodging

Lodging happens when the wheat plant becomes too heavy and gets flattened by the wind. This makes it more difficult to harvest, gets the seeds wet and dirty, and can make the plant vulnerable to diseases.

Lodging is caused by too much nitrogen and/or water. Larger varieties are more susceptible to lodging.

Harvesting Wheat

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When your wheat is ready the ends turn a dusty yellow or brownish-red color, depending on the variety. Typically the heads bend over and point towards the ground when they are ripe.

You can use a scythe to cut the wheat, but you don’t need fancy tools. You can also use a pair of clippers. Carefully cut the plants, leaving enough of the stalk so that you can bind them together without disturbing the head.

Then you can bind the plants together in together bundles about eight inches in circumference. Place three or four bundles together upright to stand and dry out.

You can leave them in the field if you have sunny weather or move to them into a protected area like a barn. Leave them to dry for about two weeks. The grain will be hard and crunchy once it’s dry enough.

Threshing

Wheat’s easy to thresh by hand. Spread the bundles out a sheet or tarp that is on a hard surface such as a cement patio. Layout one bundle of wheat at a time down on the cloth. Then beat the crap out of it.

As you can imagine, this is great family fun. Use a broomstick, a baseball bat, a wood dowel, or something similar. The grain will shatter out of the heads.

Remove the larger pieces of stalk and fold up the cloth so you can pour the grain into a bucket.

Winnowing

The next step is winnowing. This separates the grainsfrom the chaff, or hull and the straw stubble.

Get two clean buckets and set up a box fan in your threshing area. Pour the wheat remains into the first bucket. Turn the fan on low and place it so it faces the second bucket.

Now pour. The heavier grains will go into the bucket and the lighter mixture will float away. Repeat this until you are left with just grains.

Storing Wheat

Growing Wheat: Varieties, Planting Guide, Care, Problems, and Harvest (5)

Store your wheat in airtight insect-proof glass jars or plastic containers. Freezing wheat is the best way to keep it fresh, however, that may take up too much precious freezer space.

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Keep in mind that weevils may have laid eggs in the wheat before you harvested it. Keep an eye on your stored wheat to make sure you don’t have any eggs that hatch. You can control the weevils with food-grade diatomaceous earth.

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FAQs

What are the best growing conditions for wheat? ›

Wheat grows best when the temperatures are warm, around from 21° to 24° C/ 70° to 75° F, but are not too hot. Wheat also needs a lot of sunshine, especially when the grains are beginning to fill out. Wheat grows best in temperatures between 21ºC/70ºF and 24ºC/75º F.

How do you take care of wheat? ›

Wheatgrass prefers temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees F. (15-23 C.), and does not like temperatures above 90 degrees F. (32 C.). Drain the soaked seed and plant it barely covered with the soil.

How long does wheat take to grow to harvest? ›

Whole Grain Storage Chart
Intact Whole Grain (berries or groats)Whole Grain Flour/Meal
TeffPantry: 4 months Freezer: 8 monthsPantry: 2 months Freezer: 4 months
WheatPantry: 6 months Freezer: 1 yearPantry: 3 months Freezer: 6 months
Wild RicePantry: 4 months Freezer: 8 monthsPantry: 2 months Freezer: 4 months
12 more rows

How do you harvest wheat? ›

Harvest the grains when the stalks are just beginning to go from green to brown, using a scythe or other tool. Cut them just above the ground. Tie the stalks into bunches with twine and let them dry for about two weeks in a location that is protected from rain.

Which type of soil is best for wheat? ›

Soils with a clay loam or loam texture, good structure and moderate water holding capacity are ideal for wheat cultivation.

What type of climate does wheat grow in? ›

It can be grown not only in the tropical and sub-tropical zones, but also in the temperate zone and the cold tracts of the far north ,beyond even the 60 degree north altitude . Wheat can tolerate severe cold and snow and resume growth with the setting in of warm weather in spring .

Does wheat need a lot of water? ›

Because wheat is generally a cool season crop, it does not require much water. Wheat needs between 12 and 15 inches of rain over a growing season to produce a good crop.

When should wheat be planted? ›

Most wheat is a cool-season crop. Winter wheat should be planted 6-8 weeks before the first fall frost. Spring wheat can be planted once the ground is ready to work in early spring. This can tolerate heat better, but still should be able to develop before it reaches scorching temperatures.

How many varieties of wheat are there? ›

Varieties. There are around 20 wheat varieties of 7 species grown throughout the world.

How much wheat do you need for one year? ›

Wheat is the cornerstone of any emergency storage supply. Approximately 150 lbs will supply an adult for one year. A three-week emergency supply is approximately 5-10 lbs per adult. Children 8 years old or younger would need half those amounts.

How late can you harvest wheat? ›

California: Jun 1 - Aug 1. Colorado: Jun 25 - Aug 10.

How long wheat lasts? ›

Similar to corn, the shelf life of wheat is about 8-12 years when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. It is still important to regularly check your storage space and containers to monitor the quality of the wheat and to be sure it hasn't spoiled or been invaded by pests.

What are the steps of harvesting? ›

Reaping, threshing, cleaning and hauling are the four stages of harvesting. The importance of harvesting crops by using advanced technology reduces the wastage of grains and increases in quality and quantity.

How do you plant wheat? ›

Sow and Plant

Spring wheat can be planted while the soil is still cool. Broadcast seed into cultivated soil so that the seeds are about 3 inches (7 cm) apart and one-half inch (1 cm) deep. No thinning is required. Increase spacing to 8 inches (20cm) apart when growing wheat with other cover crops.

Which soil is not good for growing wheat? ›

Loamy and clayey soil. Hint: Wheat needs an adequate amount of water to grow. It also needs warm temperatures and a lot of sunshine. It cannot thrive in soils with high acidity or insufficient water drainage.

What is the temperature for growing wheat? ›

Weather that is comfortable for humans is also good for wheat. Wheat needs 12 to 15 inches (31 to 38 centimeters) of water to produce a good crop. It grows best when temperatures are warm, from 70° to 75° F (21° to 24° C), but not too hot. Wheat also needs a lot of sunshine, especially when the grains are filling.

How much rainfall is required for wheat? ›

Rainfall: 50 cm to 100 cm rainfall is required for wheat cultivation. Land: A plain land or gentle slope land is ideal for wheat cultivation. Soil: Both mixed soil and fertile, alluvial soil are ideal for wheat cultivation. Temperature: 14° to 18°C temperature is required for wheat cultivation.

Where is wheat mostly grown? ›

China has the largest land area devoted to wheat production, followed closely by the United States, India and the Russian Federation. Kazakhstan and Canada, ranking fifth and sixth, produce wheat on about half the area of the top four countries.

How many times should you water wheat? ›

In general 3 irrigations are enough for wheat crop. First irrigation should be given 12-18 days after wheat germination, while in rice cultivated areas, first irrigation must be given 30-40 days after crop germination. Second irrigation must be given 80-90 days after germination.

Does wheat need a lot of sun? ›

Your wheat should get plenty of sun while it grows, so make sure you plant it in full sun. The area where you plant should get about eight hours of sun a day. This is true whether you plant winter or spring wheat. Don't plan on planting your crop anywhere where there's too much shade.

How often should I water wheat? ›

Plants are watered 2-3 times per week; make sure that the pots do not dry out. Watering is reduced when the grains mature and stopped altogether once the plant has senesced.

How many times can you harvest wheat in a year? ›

Perennial wheat is generally a weak perennial since the current lines of the crop regrow only two times.

What happens to wheat after it is harvested? ›

The grain is then sold to flour millers for domestic consumption, or it is loaded into ships bound for overseas markets. The flour mills grind the grain into different types of flour – whole wheat, all-purpose, bread flour, etc. The mills can also use the flour to make ready-to-eat products.

Is wheat easy to grow? ›

If you try, you will discover wheat is easy to grow almost anywhere in the United States, even as a wide-row crop in your garden. One gardener in Vermont attests to having planted 30 pounds of winter wheat on one-eighth of an acre and harvesting 250 pounds of grain in July.

What are the 7 classification of wheat? ›

The common wheat (T. aestivum) which is good for chapati making and bakery products is grown in whole of North India and also in Central and South India.
...
Classification of Wheat.
Einkorn series (diploid)Chromosome No.
2. Triticum monecoccum7
Einkorn Series (tetraploid)
Triticum dicoccoides14
Triticum timopheevi14
11 more rows
Jul 20, 2009

What are the 3 classes of wheat? ›

3 Classification of Wheat

Characteristics of the grain: durum, hard bread wheat, and soft wheat.

What is the most common type of wheat? ›

Common wheat (Triticum aestivum), sometimes called “bread wheat,” is the most widely grown species, and yields the flour we buy by the bag. This wheat is the chief ingredient in commercial foods, such as loaf and raised breads, tortillas, doughnuts and cakes, and East Asian noodles.

How do you prevent wheat grains from insects? ›

Freeze and kill it: It is advised to keep packets of spices and flour in the freezer for four days as soon as you have bought it. You can do this to flour, oats, cookies, corn meal, and spices. This will kill all the larvae and eggs (if) present inside the packet and will stop further infestation.

How much is wheat per acre? ›

According to the report, the U.S. wheat yield per harvested acre amounted to about 44.3 bushels in 2021. The wheat yield has been decreased for the past three years, down from 51.7 bushels in 2019.

How do you stock up on wheat? ›

Stock up NOW | Buying Grains in Bulk & How to Store Them - YouTube

Why do farmers harvest at night? ›

Many farmers harvest at night not only to beat the heat themselves but also to ensure that their crops are at the peak of freshness. For farmers putting their harvest directly on a truck to be delivered to customers, harvesting at night serves the added benefit of helping the driver beat traffic.

What month is wheat ready for harvest? ›

It is planted in the fall, usually between October and December, and grows over the winter to be harvested in the spring or early summer. Typically it takes about seven to eight months to reach maturity and it creates pretty golden contrast in spring gardens.

How long is the wheat growing season? ›

Typically, spring wheat takes a minimum of 90 days to reach full maturity, but most farmers wait for the 100-day mark to ensure the plant has gotten enough sunlight.

Can grain be stored for 7 years? ›

If properly stored a soft grain will have a shelf life of 8 years. When storing with long-term emergency food supply in mind, it is possible to extend that shelf life up to 20 years.

How do farmers store wheat? ›

Bins are an opportune storage facility due to their ability to shield grain from precipitation and allow controlled aeration for temperature and moisture control. In a pinch, some farmers may attempt using old bins that have been out of service for many years. This can be done, but safety and functionality are key.

What are 3 important things in harvesting? ›

While the major factor determining the time of harvest is the maturity of the crop, other factors such as weather, availability of harvest equipment, pickers, packing and storage facilities, and transport are important considerations.

What are the main causes of harvest loss? ›

Mainly, during retailing, rotting, mechanical damage, poor handling, improper management of temperature and relative humidity, and hygiene problems during handling are among the major causes of postharvest losses.

How deep do you plant wheat? ›

How deep do I drill wheat, barley and oats down to find moisture? Under most conditions, the optimum seeding depth for small grains is 1.5 to 2 inches. Aim to place the seed in a zone with ample moisture, but shallow enough so the crop can quickly emerge.

How tall does wheat grow? ›

Wheat plants grow to be about 2–4 feet tall. Kernels of wheat are small, so this picture is enlarged so it can be seen clearly. There are 50 kernels in one head of wheat and up to 17,000 kernels in just 1 pound! The kernel is the seed from which the wheat plant grows.

How do you prepare soil for wheat? ›

Land preparation and soil conditioning

The most suitable soil for wheat is one with: A good effective depth with a fine tilth to ensure seed-soil contact. Good seed-soil contact ensure good crop emergence and stand which are the basis for good yields.

Does wheat require a lot of water? ›

Wheat needs 12 to 15 inches (31 to 38 centimeters) of water to produce a good crop. It grows best when temperatures are warm, from 70° to 75° F (21° to 24° C), but not too hot.

Does wheat crop need a lot of water for growth? ›

Let us look at the given options: A) Wheat: This option is incorrect because this plant does not require a lot of water. It is a temperate climate crop. It requires a moderate amount of rainfall of 25-75 cms and an ideal temperature of 15°-20°C for cultivation.

Does wheat need full sun? ›

Your wheat should get plenty of sun while it grows, so make sure you plant it in full sun. The area where you plant should get about eight hours of sun a day. This is true whether you plant winter or spring wheat. Don't plan on planting your crop anywhere where there's too much shade.

What do farmers need to grow wheat? ›

How wheat is grown. Wheat is grown from seeds. After ploughing the paddocks to break up the soil, the farmer uses a tractor to pull a machine called a drill that plants the seeds into long ditches. Fertiliser, (food for plants) can be added by the machine to make the wheat plants grow strong.

Does wheat need a lot of rain? ›

Because wheat is a cool-season crop, it does not require a lot of water. A good wheat crop requires 12 to 15 inches of rain during the growing season.

How many times should you water wheat? ›

In general 3 irrigations are enough for wheat crop. First irrigation should be given 12-18 days after wheat germination, while in rice cultivated areas, first irrigation must be given 30-40 days after crop germination. Second irrigation must be given 80-90 days after germination.

How often should I water wheat? ›

Plants are watered 2-3 times per week; make sure that the pots do not dry out. Watering is reduced when the grains mature and stopped altogether once the plant has senesced.

Videos

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