How to Grow Rice:
Growing Rice Organically

Learning how to grow rice is not difficult – especially in warmer climates - but it does take a while before the rice seeds actually begin producing. It needs much more moisture than most other crops, full sunlight, warm temperatures and fertile soil.

How to Grow Rice: Plant Snapshot (Oryza sativa)

How to Grow Rice
  • Family: Poaceae (Grass)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual – ready to harvest between 90 to 180 days after planting.
  • Recommended varieties: Basmati, Carolina, Della, Jasmine
  • Cold tolerance: Warm Season – Will not survive frost and their seeds will not germinate in cold soil. Plant them at about the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Legumes
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Azolla (a.k.a. mosquito fern)
    • Avoid: Wheat
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How to Grow Rice: Planting the Seed

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Rice seeds need fertile and wet soil… they grow well in flooded beds or containers but will do just fine in well-watered soil. Also be sure that your rice stalks will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Before planting, soak your rice seeds in water for 24 hours.

If you plant to grow your rice outside, start the seeds indoors a few weeks before the last expected frost date by planting them in very moist, poorly-drained containers or seed starters. Rice seeds need warm temperatures to germinate, so wait to transplant until all danger of frost has passed. After planning outside, cover with a healthy layer of organic mulch to prevent weeds and retain moisture.

If you are growing rice seeds in a container, fill it with at least 6 inches (15 cm) of soil then fill with water to the point that the water is about 2 inches (5 cm) above the soil. Simply drop your seeds in and leave them alone. Just make sure the container stays in a warm place inside (at least 75 degrees F/23.9 C) until all frost danger has passed.

Snapshot: Planting Rice

  • Planting depth: about ½ inch (12.5 mm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 7.87 inches (20 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 77 to 95 degrees F (25 to 35 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 14 days
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How to Grow Rice: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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For beds, keep your rice very well-watered… at least an inch per week. Gradually reduce the amount of watering as the rice grains begin to firm up.

For containers, when your rice seeds have produced plants about 5 inches (12.7 cm) high, increase the water level from 2 inches (5 cm) above the soil to 4 inches (12.2 cm). Keep this water level consistent until harvest time approaches, at which point you’ll need to let the plants get close to drying out.

Snapshot: Growing Rice

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 5.0 to 6.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 68 to 100.4 degrees F (20 to 38 degrees C)
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How to Grow Rice: Harvesting Time

Your rice is ready to be harvested when the grain heads and stalks just start to turn yellow. As when harvesting wheat, test the rice grains by pinching them between your fingers or teeth.

If the grain heads are firm but have a little give, they’re ready. If they’re still soft, they need more time. Check them daily after the initial signs appear.

Before harvesting rice, make sure the soil is relatively dry… this will make it easier to cut the base of the stalks. This goes for both container-grown and bed-grown rice.

To harvest your rice, chop the stalks off at the base with a scythe or sickle, stack them grain-seeds-facing-up and leave them outside for a couple of weeks in a protected area to dry. The kernels are ready when they crunch between your teeth.

To ‘thresh’ the seeds (separate them from the stalks), lay down a sheet on a hard surface and bundle the stalks up so that the open end of the sheet is around the bottom of the stalks’ stems. Then slam the seed heads onto the ground repeatedly until all of the grains come loose.

When you’ve got your seeds separated, remove all ‘non-seed’ parts by pouring them from one bucket to another in front of a fan. The unwanted parts will blow away while the seeds fall from bucket to bucket.

Snapshot: Harvesting Rice

  • Time to harvest: Between 13 and 26 weeks
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Storing Rice and Freezing Rice

Store rice in food-grade air-tight plastic buckets and place them in the coolest and driest part of your house (either basement or lowest floor).

Snapshot: Storing Rice & Freezing Rice

  • Storage temperature: 33.8 to 50 degrees F (1 to 10 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 5 to 14% relative humidity
  • Storage life (in above conditions): 1-2 years (brown rice); 8-10 years (white rice) (at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, 21.1 degrees Celsius; each drop of 10 degrees Fahrenheit doubles the storage life)
  • Seed longevity: About 3 years
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How to Grow Rice: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Rice. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Brown planthopper
  • Rice gall midge
  • Rice bug
  • Rice leafroller
  • Rice weevils
  • Stemborer
  • Panicle rice mite
  • Rats
  • Echinochloa crusgali

Diseases

  • Rice ragged stunt
  • Sheath Blight and tungro
  • Rice blast
  • Ascomycete fungus
  • Cochliobolus miyabeanus
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