by Jennifer Poindexter
Do you like the idea of growing your own wheat? You might wonder what the possibilities are with this crop.
If you aren’t going to make your own flour, you could use wheat as a cover crop. It provides a variety of benefits that could help your garden. It’s important to understand how to grow wheat, how to handle threats to your crop, and the benefits wheat can provide as a cover crop. This is all information you’ll want to know before you start growing this plant.
The good news is you’re in the right place to receive all of this information. I’m going to walk you through the proper growing conditions for wheat, how to plant it, care for this plant, and more.
Let’s start covering all you should know about growing wheat as a cover crop.
Growing Conditions for Wheat
Wheat isn’t a difficult plant to grow. Therefore, it doesn’t have a ton of complicated growing conditions. By providing a few necessities, this plant should do well in your garden space.
The first thing you must provide for wheat is adequate lighting. It does best in full sun. This means the plants should receive around six to eight hours of sunlight each day.
The other growing condition is wheat requires well-draining soil. This crop doesn’t do well when left in consistently soggy conditions.
Ensuring that water can reach the roots and then drain away quickly, is important to maintaining healthy plants.
Once you’ve provided these growing conditions, you’re ready to learn how to plant wheat in your gardening space.
How to Plant Wheat
Wheat is an annual plant. Therefore, you must plant it each year. The best time of year to plant this crop is between the months of September and December.
Obviously, this plant prefers cooler weather. Once you know it’s the right time to plant wheat, start preparing your garden.
When doing so, you must remove any weeds and dead plants from the area. You should also till the soil to aerate it, and expose what’s hiding beneath the top layer.
After this has been accomplished, start broadcasting the seed over the prepared area. Once the seeds are in place, cover them with two inches of soil.
If you don’t cover them enough, they’ll rot. Yet, if you apply too much soil, they’ll rot before they have the opportunity to germinate.
Once the seeds are covered, it’s time to water them. Provide them with consistent moisture until germination occurs.You should also keep weeds down around the newly forming plants.
As long as the temperatures are at, or above, 35-degrees Fahrenheit, germination should be able to occur. Growth should be visible within a week from planting.
Now that you understand how to plant wheat, it’s time to learn how to care for your plants once they are established.
Caring for Wheat as a Cover Crop
It should come as no surprise that wheat doesn’t require a great deal of care. In fact, all you must do is water it adequately and terminate it at the appropriate time.
To begin, water your wheat crop deeply. This means you’ll water the plants fewer days of the week for shorter periods of time.
By watering this way, the roots will be saturated during the initial watering session. As the days progress, the plants will dig their roots into the soil to find water.
When this happens, the root systems become stronger and produce healthier plants. If you’re unsure of when to add more water, use the finger test.
Stick your finger into the soil beside your crops. If the ground is damp to your first knuckle, you don’t need to add more water.
However, if the soil is dry to your first knuckle, apply more water using the deep watering method.
The other thing you must do, to care for wheat properly, is learn when to terminate the crop. When using cover crops, there comes a time when you must intentionally kill the plants. The idea is to kill them before they have time to reseed.
This helps to control regrowth in your garden. You don’t want wheat to pop-up in the middle of your spring garden.
By terminating the crop properly, your soil should receive benefits of the cover crop without running the risk of the crop invading your future garden area.
With wheat, it’s best to terminate the crop without tilling. You can mow it down or use an herbicide that won’t harm your future crops.
This will allow the crops to die back and decompose without disturbing the soil. Be sure to terminate your crops approximately one month prior to planting in the garden again.
You’ll know it’s time to terminate wheat when the head begins to flower. Once this occurs, move quickly to terminate the plants.
Now that you understand how to properly care for wheat, let’s discuss what other things might threaten your cover crop.
Pests and Diseases Which Could Harm Wheat
There are a few pests and diseases you should be mindful of when raising wheat. If you don’t stay on top of them, they could ruin your harvest before your cover crops have time to benefit your garden.
The main diseases which impact wheat are fungal based. One of the most common fungal diseases to bother this crop is leaf rust.
If you see signs of this disease, treat it with a fungicide. You should also decrease the amount of water being applied to the plants, and increase the airflow around the impacted crops.
The biggest threats to wheat, from a pest perspective, are armyworms and aphids. Both of these pests can be treated with an insecticide.
Be sure to check the label before purchasing an insecticide. This will help you ensure that the product you’re purchasing will help with the pests you need to decimate.
By staying alert to these issues, you’re giving your crops the greatest chance at surviving such attacks. The earlier you catch potential problems, usually, the faster your plants will bounce back.
Benefits of Growing Wheat as a Cover Crop
We have discussed how to plant, care for, and protect your wheat crop. Now, it’s time to discuss why you would want to consider growing wheat as a cover crop.
Wheat provides many benefits to your garden. The first perk to growing this crop is that the root system helps aerate your soil.
This makes the soil fluffier and easier for crops to grow in this area. The next thing wheat can do for your garden is suppress weeds.
If you’re tired of pulling weeds, consider raising a cover crop. By planting where weeds might overwinter, it removes the foothold the weeds have on the growing space.
A cover crop forces them to compete for room and nutrients. When wheat wins, the weeds die off.
This crop is also great for lowering the amount of pests and diseases in your garden. Again, by using the space, when it normally isn’t being used, it creates competition. Pests and disease can’t easily overwinter in such an area.
Therefore, the growth and care of the wheat crop ends up killing off many unwanted visitors in your garden. At the very least, it makes your garden a less attractive place for pests to harbor.
The final benefit of growing wheat is that it can protect your soil from erosion. This easily happens during the winter months.
By covering your soil, it keeps the nutrients and soil in place until you’re ready to grow in your gardening area again.
We’ve covered a great deal of information in a short time, but hopefully you feel better prepared to tackle the task of growing wheat.
If you need to give pests and weeds the boot while still protecting your soil, wheat could be the cover crop for you.