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How to grow wheat grass

Dec 1st, 2012 | Category: Growing

by Chuck McClung

You’ve likely heard of the health benefits of wheat grass. For decades now, many people have praised its vitamins and minerals that enhance health and vitality. Did you know that wheat grass is easy to grow? Like really easy to grow! For literally pennies you can grow that pot of wheat grass that typically costs you a few dollars. Here is just one way to grow wheat grass that I’ve been doing for years.

You want to harvest young leaves, not older, bitter leaves. PHOTO BY CHUCK McCLUNG

Wheat grass is simply common wheat (Triticum aestivum). Look for “hard” wheat or “hard wheat berries,” not “soft“ or “white” wheat. Hard wheat has more protein and is typically used for breads and rolls. Soft wheat has less protein and is used more for pie crusts and cakes. Wheat grass is hard wheat.

You’ll find cute little wheat grass seed packets for $2-3 per package. However, also check your local food coop or natural foods store that should carry hard wheat seed/berries; the cost should not be more than $2 per pound.

More recently I’ve heard people touting the benefits of Barley Grass (Hordeum vulgare) which is another type of grass but not wheat grass. Cat grass is not one particular species or type of grass, but may be any of the many kinds of Wheat (Triticum) and Oats (Avena). Barley grass and cat grass can be grown just like wheat grass.

Soaking seed

Place some wheat grass seed in a container, add three times the amount of water and let sit underwater overnight. The next morning drain and rinse the seed. Done.

Planting Wheat Grass Seed

Wheat grass is often planted in 4-inch pots or in trays or flats. A 4-inch pot seems to be the smallest workable size. If using larger pots, trays, or flats, avoid containers deeper than 6 inches; you simply don’t need something that deep, and it wastes soil. Before planting, fill your pots or trays with standard, organic potting soil to about one-half inch from the top of the pot. Two tablespoons of wheat grass seed should make enough for one 4-inch pot.

Spread a quarter to one-half inch layer of soaked wheat grass seed on the top of the soil. Do not cover the wheat grass seed with soil, rather cover the planted wheat grass seed with a moist paper towel or light cloth. Keep the cloth moist; lightly pour water over the cloth or mist it. Set the pots and trays in a well ventilated area above 55 degrees. Poor ventilation promotes mold.

Growing the wheat grass

Remove the cloth after two days. The wheat grass should be sprouting small, pointy shoots. Set the pots or trays in a sunny but not hot location, or under grow lights. You should have wheat grass in 5-7 more days depending on the temperature. The cooler it is, the slower it goes; the warmer it is, the faster it goes. And that’s it!

Harvesting Wheat Grass

Harvest young leaves, not older bitter leaves. Height is not a consistently reliable indicator of when to harvest. Different varieties of wheat in different parts of the country will have different growth rates. I like to harvest before the leaves get too tall, because a second crops of leaves will grow, and you will be able to harvest as long as you continue to water.

There is a technically optimal time to harvest wheat grass: right before wheat grass “splits” or begins to flower, the plant pulls nutrients from the ground. This is called the pre-jointing stage and is the best time to harvest, because the leaves are the most nutritionally rich. I’ll leave it to you to research this topic more.

Usually you’ll be cutting the wheat grass when the leaves are 5 to 8 inches tall. With a regular pair of kitchen scissors, cut close to the soil without cutting into the crown of the plant; kinda like mowing the lawn real close. When you harvest the second set of leaves, however, cut right at the soil level where most of the nutrients are located.

Your harvested and rinsed wheat grass is best processed or juiced right away. You’ll need a specific type of juicer for juicing wheat grass – get informed. Many juicers that juice apples, for instance, will not juice wheat grass.

Be sure to compost the root mass once you’re done harvesting. I have a friend who turns over his harvested wheat grass mat and plants another set of seeds on top!

Chuck McClung has a Master’s Degree in Botany and is the General Manager of Bakerview Nursery. He helps others solve their gardening dilemmas and may be reached at orchid fruit@hotmail.com.

Published in the December 2012 issue of Grow Northwest

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