Monday, May 27, 2013

The Wheat Has Sprouted!

On May 26th we noticed that something like grass was growing in our field. We decided to let it grow and not pick it until we could decide if it was a weed or the wheat.
Wheat?? It is growing along the lines where we planted...
By the next day it was very obvious that our wheat had sprouted (or "emerged" as all of the farmers tend to say). Not all of the rows have emerged yet, and we are not sure if that is because of planting depth or sunshine, or who knows what. So much of this is really rather mysterious!
May 27th. Look! Real wheat! Some rows are faster than others.
 Watching it pop up is surprising - it seems like the wheat is busting right through the soil, and picking up large chunks as it emerges.
Look at it lift the soil! Wheat Power!
Lifting the soil. Hmmm...maybe that string is in the way now.
The tallest sprouts we have right now are three inches (about 5 cm) tall, and about 20% of our field has emerged.
Measuring Up
Taking pictures of this is fun, because with the right angle the wheat already looks very tall!
Now that looks like a healthy crop!
There is rain in the forecast, so the wheat will soon get some more water. We have not watered it at all so far, but we did have four days of rainshowers right after planting. In a large field a farmer would not normally water (irrigate) a wheat field, and we are all wondering how the wheat can do so well without needing extra water. It seems like all of the other plants we have need extra water, so why not the wheat? Another mystery. I'm sure that a crop scientist could tell us why our Carberry Hard Red Spring Wheat is so hardy.
Say Cheese! (But is the wheat smiling too???)
Our next step will be to remove the strings, and maybe set up a little fence. We have rabbits who love to eat all kinds of things that we grow in our flower beds and in our garden. We don't know if rabbits eat baby wheat, but they might. A fence could help with that. We also have to figure out the thinning of the rows.

That is all we know so far.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

We Plant the Wheat in the Field

On May 16th the weather was good, and with rain in the forecast the pressure was on to get the field seeded. After consulting a few websites we found out that planting the wheat about 3 1/2" deep would be good. Deciding how many rows to plant was a bigger problem. Some sources said the rows should be at least 10" apart. Others said it could be closer. In the end we decided to plant 7 rows at about 61/2" apart each. This is close, but weeding will be done by hand and access will be simple since it is a small field.
Digging the Middle Row
Since the rows are so close together, we dug a row and then seeded it before we dug the next row. This took a bit of time, but this way we could focus on one row at a time. When we looked into how much seed to plant we found out about the "3 finger" method. The seed on 3 fingers is good for about 10 feet. We put in at least that much, and maybe a bit too much. A gardening friend suggested that if we have over seeded that we can always thin the rows once they emerge. Good idea!
Seeding the Middle Row
Once the seed was in, we back-filled the row, and started over.
Covering the seed...six more rows to go!
Seeding the field took quite a bit of time. Then again, we dug a 3 1/2" trench that was 56 ' long (7 rows x 8' each). Everyone took a turn with the seeding.
Once all seven rows were planted we added one more wheelbarrow full of soil to the top, since we expect the whole field might compact and sink a bit anyways.
Since we wanted to know where the wheat was under the ground, the last step for our seeding was to mark each row using a bit of string and a couple of roofing nails. It will be interesting to see if the wheat emerges where we expect it to pop up.
Now we wait for rain. The good news: this field is so small that we can water it or protect it if we need to. Rain is supposed to be on the way anyhow. To figure out how to get this far we watched a few YouTube videos that were helpful. Here are the links:
From Seed to Loaf (Part 1)
From Seed to Loaf (Part 2)
Wheat School: Evaluating Wheat Varieties
The Seed to Loaf videos are going to be very helpful as we move forward through the steps. The seeding rate recommended in the Seed to Loaf video is 15-20g of seed per m2. 32 s.f. is about 3 m2, so really we should have only used about 60 grams of seed in our little field. We ended up sowing about 207g of seed! We really over-did it...hopefully we can thin the rows once the plants emerge.

As we go we are getting advice from farmers that we know locally, but we are also looking for any help that any of you may be able to provide. Please feel free to post a comment to the blog if you have some ideas about our next steps. Right now we are trying to figure out how long it will take for us to see the first leaf. We have found the Feekes Scale but we are not sure if it will apply for us, given how we have planted. Time will tell! It feels good to get to this point though. Hopefully the over-seeding won't be too much of a problem. Grow Wheat Grow!

That is all we know so far.

We Finish Preparing the "Field"

Since our wheat field is so small, calling it a "field" seems a bit silly. Measuring only 4x8 feet (32s.f.) it really is a little patch of wheat, or maybe even a test plot. So...we might have got a bit too much topsoil to finish the field:
Two yards of topsoil, please!
Not to worry though. The extra topsoil will go into our veggie garden and flowerbeds. The wheat field took about seven wheelbarrows full to fill up the wood frame (made from the old swing set posts).

The next step was to fill it up, and then to level it out. We used an old board as a screed to smooth the top.
We thought we'd better pack the soil down a bit. Some people use a lawn roller for this step, but since our field is so small we tamped down our soil with a couple of 2x6 "shoes" held on with a bicycle inner tube as laces. It was a bit odd, but we all had fun wearing the funny shoes.
So getting the field ready took about two hours, including cutting up the frame and staking it into position. At the end of May 15th, the field looked like this:
We are still not exactly sure how many rows we will put in, but the day has come to an end, and that will give us time to figure out what comes next. The weather forecast calls for rain soon, so getting the wheat planted before the rain would be really good.

That is all we know so far.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We Start to Get Our Field Ready

On Monday May 13th, we figured out exactly where we'd plant our wheat. We got some old boards to make a quick frame that measured 4x8 feet.

Next, we marked the edge of our field with a bit of spray paint.

After removing the boards we used an edger to cut along the paint line and spades to remove the grass.

Removing all of the grass was a bit of work! Uncle Paul was visiting, so he helped out too. We filled three wheelbarrows with the sod that we removed.

Once the sod was all gone, we turned the soil with a Garden Claw and cleaned it a bit with a few rakes.

Once we had a clean 4x8 foot spot the girls wanted to water it, so they did. The Robins liked it, and soon after we went in for the day they were checking out the new wet soil for worms!

So now we have a place to grow the wheat. The field looks pretty little, but even this little field took five of us about an hour to measure and clear.  We have a bit to do yet before we plant, but we should get to planting soon. The wheat will take from 90 to 100 days to be ready after we plant it, so if we plant in mid May we should be able to harvest the wheat by the end of August.

That is all we know so far.