Oats are a hearty grain that can be used in a variety of recipes, from oatmeal and granola to baked goods and even savory dishes. They’re also packed with nutrients like fiber, protein, and iron. Best of all, they’re easy to grow at home with just a few supplies. Read on to learn how to grow oats!
Best Oat Varieties to Grow
There are several varieties of oats, but the most common are Avena sativa (common oats), Avena nuda (hull-less oats) and Avena strigosa (black oats). All of them are annual grasses that can be grown in a variety of climates.
Common oats have a high yield, but they require threshing. Hull-less oats are easier to process, but they have a lower yield. Black oats are the most disease-resistant, but they’re not as widely available. Now, let’s discuss how to grow oats.
Planting Oat Seed – Space and Sunlight Requirements
You don’t need a huge space to grow oats. In fact, 30×30 feet is enough to grow 2.5 bushels of oats, which makes 35 pounds of rolled oats. This means a small garden or even a large container on your patio or balcony can accommodate a decent crop.
Oats prefer full sun, so make sure they’re planted in an area that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Don’t worry if the weather is often cloudy or rainy – oats can handle it. They also need well-draining soil with a pH between 6 and 7.5. It should be moderately rich and low in nitrogen.
If you’re not sure about the quality of your soil, add plenty of aged manure before planting. You can also have your soil tested by your local Cooperative Extension service.
When to Plant Oats?
Oats are a cool-weather crop, so they should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. In most climates, this is in late March or early April. If you live in a warm climate, you can sow the seed in the fall. If you’re going for spring oats, till the soil in the fall to loosen it up and remove any weeds.
How to Grow Oats at Home – Care Tips
Oats are best sown directly in the ground, as they don’t transplant well. Use a seed drill or broad fork to make furrows that are 1–2 inches deep. Sow the seed at a rate of 1–3 pounds per 1,000 square feet, depending on the cultivar. Once the seed is in the ground, lightly rake it over to cover it up.
If you’re planting your oats in a garden, you may want to sow them in rows that are 12 inches apart. Seeds should be 4–6 inches apart to make sure they have enough space to grow. How to grow oats and care for them?
Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, until the seedlings emerge. This takes 7–21 days, depending on the soil temperature. Once they’ve sprouted, oats need about 1 inch of water per week. If it doesn’t rain, you’ll need to water them yourself at the base of the plant, being careful not to wet the leaves. Drip irrigation works best.
Fertilization and Maintenance
Oats are relatively low-maintenance, and they don’t need to be fertilized as long as the soil had been well-prepared before planting. You should also remove any weeds that pop up, as they can compete with the oats for water and nutrients. This isn’t necessary if you broadcast the seed, as the oats will outgrow the weeds.
Harvesting Homegrown Oats and Making Oatmeal
Oats are ready to harvest in about 100–120 days, depending on the variety. The best time to harvest is when the grain is fully developed but still slightly soft. To harvest, cut the seed heads as far up the plant as possible (so that you can thresh them easily).
After harvesting, spread the seed heads out on a clean surface and leave them to dry. Then, thresh them to remove the grain. You can do this by hand or with a flail. Finally, winnow the oats to remove the chaff. To make oatmeal, simply cook the oats in water or milk until they’re soft.
Now you know how to grow oats at home! Are you ready to give it a try?
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