How to Grow Wheat:
Growing Wheat Organically

Learning how to grow wheat is not as difficult as many would-be grain growers think. And a plot of about 20 by 50 feet (6 by 15 m) should provide plenty for the entire year for a typical family of four.

There are two types of wheat: winter wheat which has higher yields and spring wheat which is easier to grow in drier regions. Instructions for growing each is included below…

How to Grow Wheat: Plant Snapshot (Triticum aestivum)

How to Grow Wheat
  • Family: Poaceae (Grass family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual – ready to harvest approximately 110-130 days after planting.
  • Recommended varieties: Mulika, Paragon, Tybalt, KWS Willow
  • Cold tolerance:
    • Winter Wheat - Hardy – Will survive hard frosts and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
    • Spring Wheat – 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: Lentil, Pea, Millet, Potato, Oats
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: None
    • Avoid: Barberry, lettuce
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How to Grow Wheat: Planting the Seed

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Both winter and spring wheat require full sun and prefer growing temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees F (21 to 24 C). Each should also be watered sparingly, as water can lead to numerous diseases.

To plant either kind of wheat, broadcast seeds over a seed-ready bed (well-composted, well-drained, proper temperatures, good moisture, etc.) - about 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of wheat seeds for a 20 by 50 foot (6 by 15 m) plot – then cover seeds with a couple inches (5 cm) of soil by raking or tilling. Finally, spread a few inches of straw mulch over your seeds.

The timing of your planting is critical and will differ for each type of wheat…

  • Winter wheat should be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the soil freezes or about the time of the first hard frost.
  • Spring wheat should be planted as soon as possible after the last hard frost.

Snapshot: Planting Wheat

  • Planting depth: about 2 inches (5 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 14 inches (35.6 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 54 to 77 degrees F (12.2 to 25.0 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 10 to 20 days
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How to Grow Wheat: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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Wheat doesn’t require too much work after planting.

You’ll need to water spring wheat if your area goes through a dry spell, but winter wheat may not need to be watered at all. When you do water, don’t overdo it.

Wheat is also a dominant grower, meaning that it will likely crowd out any weeds that come along.

Snapshot: Growing Wheat

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 5.5 to 7.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 70 to 75 degrees F (21 to 24.0 degrees C)
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How to Grow Wheat: Harvesting Time

You’ll know wheat harvest time is close when your wheat stalks start to turn brown and the grain heads begin to bend over.

Test them by pinching a grain head 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.

To harvest your wheat, it’s easiest when donning your grim reaper costume…well, at least the scythe, anyway. Using your scythe or a sickle, chop the stalks off at the base, stack them grain-seeds-facing-up and leave them outside for a couple of weeks in a covered area to dry. The kernels are ready when they crunch between your teeth.

Now it’s time to separate the seeds from the stalks, also called ‘threshing’. To do so, simply lay down a sheet on a hard surface, lay out the stalks on the sheet and start beating the you-know-what out of the seed heads with whatever you’d like. A shovel or rubber hose will do the trick.

You can also 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, it’s time to remove any excess ‘non-seed’ parts, also called ‘winnowing’. To winnow your seeds, pour them from one bucket to another in front of a fan. Spare parts will blow away while the seeds fall from bucket to bucket.

Snapshot: Harvesting Wheat

  • Time to harvest: About 17 weeks
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Storing Wheat and Freezing Wheat

Store wheat in a cool, dry and dark place, preferably in a sealed container to keep the bugs out. Ideally, put your seeds in a sealable container, then elevate off of the floor with boards to allow adequate air circulation.

Snapshot: Storing Wheat & Freezing Wheat

  • Storage temperature: 40 to 60 degrees F (4.4 to 15.6 degrees C)
  • Humidity: less than 40% relative humidity
  • Storage life (in above conditions): about 10 to 12 years
  • Seed longevity: Several years
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How to Grow Wheat: Pests & Diseases

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

Pests

  • Hessian fly
  • Chinch bug

Diseases

  • Bunt
  • Rust
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