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Grain Growing: Upland Rice

Dan and I enjoy brown rice, but until recently it didn't occur to me to grow it. That's because I always envision rice in paddies, which I couldn't imagine myself doing. Then I learned the difference between lowland and upland rice and changed my mind.

Lowland rice is paddy rice, i.e. grown in water. This is always how I assumed rice is grown. Upland rice, on the other hand, doesn't require flooding. It needs about an inch of water per week, but doesn't need to stand in water. That makes it a good choice for standard garden beds. I found the seed at Sherck Seeds and ordered two kinds.

Loto rice is an Italian variety, a risotto type. I chose it because it is said to have excellent flavor and is one of the easier kinds to dehull. That, plus it isn't supposed to lodge (fall over) easily.

The second rice I chose was Cho Seun Zo Saeng. It is a short grain brown rice grown in China and Korea. It too, is lodge resistant, easy to hull, and a heavy producer; all of which sounded good to me.

The recommended way to plant rice is in plug trays for transplanting. It can also be broadcast into a prepared bed, but I went with planting plugs. It's a little more work this way, but at least I'll know where they are after they're planted and not mistake them for plain grass!

Each packet contained 7 grams of seed. The Loto grains were larger and heavier, and I got about 280 seeds in the packet. The Cho Seun had about 345 seeds per 7 grams. It is recommended to soak the seed in water for 24 hours before planting.

Germination was good. Most sources say to transplant the seedlings at four weeks. However, on his website, John Sherck recommends transplanting them at three weeks, because after that they start to become root bound. I started transplanting at three weeks and found well developed roots that hadn't started growing through the drain hole in the bottom of the plug cells. I started by soaking the ground well first.

The book you see in the above photo is Sara Pitzer's Homegrown Whole Grains: Grow, Harvest, and Cook Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn and More. It's a book I would recommend to anyone interested in growing grain. I also have Gene Logsdon's Small-Scale Grain Raising, and recommend it too. Sara's book is more reference-like in the way the material is organized, so it's the one I grabbed for planting details.

Planting distance is 3 to 4 inches between plants in a row, with 9 to 12 inches between rows. From knuckle to knuckle my hand measures 3 inches, so it makes for a handy way to space the plants.

The spacing of my rows is a little narrower, though, because I wanted to get all the plants into the same bed. After the rice seedlings were transplanted, I sprinkled the beds with Dutch white clover seed and watered the beds.

The timing for planting worked well. We had an overcast sky (best for transplants) with rain forecast. Dan helped me and we finished by mid-afternoon. At chore time it poured and tomorrow (Sunday) there should be clouds and more rain. Perfect for the seedlings to settle in.

Harvest should be about 105 days from transplanting for the Loto, and 126 days for the Cho Seun. Hopefully, it will grow well and I'll have something to harvest! In the meantime, I'd probably better look into some sort of de-hulling tool. Brill Engineering has videos and instructions for DIY de-hullers, which sounds like the best way to go.

Anyone else giving grain growing a try this year?


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