When life gives you lodged wheat, plant potatoes, carrots and turnips!


Wheat patch

Last winter when I started tinkering with this crazy idea of subsistence gardening for a year I had grand plans of buying, renting or borrowing a good manual seeder of the variety that you walk behind and push. They usually consist of two wheels, one of which is attached to a bin full of seeds via a chain and several gears. Some of these do an excellent job of seed placement and plant at just the right depth. My plan was to use the seeder to expertly plant all the grain’s I was planning to get in the ground in early spring. Well, as time went by reality set in and as usual I opted for the method I could actually afford at the time and ended up just broadcast planting the wheat and other grains by hand. I basically just walked around the planting area throwing handfuls of grain to get as even a distribution as possible and then followed this up with a rake to cover the seed so the birds wouldn’t end up with a free lunch. They tend to be hungry and very opportunistic in early spring. As it turns out, this method worked quite well for the barley, oats and rye and about half of the wheat. But in the first portion of the wheat patch I ended up with too dense a stand and mother-nature eventually caught up with me. As much of the rest of the country could attest, we ended up with a very wet spring. This thick stand of wheat looked very healthy and grew quickly. But a portion of the individual stems were so close to each other that once they started to lean a bit due to wind and excessive rain it wasn’t long before their close neighbors also started to lean, usually in the same direction. The best I can surmise is that there was enough weight distributed through multiple stalks leaning on each other that eventually it caused some stalks to fail and fall under this pressure and as they toppled the neighbor they were supporting fell as well and I ended up with a bunch of useless mulch. I tried creating rows by pulling some wheat and pushing the others back up but quickly saw this was not going to work. I think once a stalk has been bent to the ground it’s not going to stand straight again. So I ended up pulling about one third of the wheat crop by the roots while using a bit of choice language directed in roughly equal portions toward myself and mother nature. After having an evening to calm down a bit and think things through I decided to make the best of the situation and plant something in the wheat’s absence. It so happened that I had a small bag of seed potatoes that I didn’t have room to plant several months ago so I put them in the ground with the hope that they’d have enough time to pay some starchy dividends by November or December. I’ll also plant some carrots and turnips in the excess space. My hope is that while I’m eating a hearty vegetable stew on a cold winter day, minus a thick piece of bread, I’ll have a chance to remember the importance of planting wheat in a thoughtful way.

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