Monday, August 5, 2013

The Rice Experiment

Each year, I try to grow at least one new edible in the garden, just for the experience of growing it, whether or not it results in something we actually eat.  In the past, the chosen candidates have included okra, peanuts, parsnips, edamame, and kohlrabi.  This year?  Rice.

Rice growing at Missouri Botanical Garden
When I attended the National Green Centre event in January in St. Louis, Missouri, we visited the Missouri Botanical Garden.  In their conservatory, I saw a small amount of rice growing in a bog and decided I would try to grow it here.

Rice is a grass generally grown in the southern states in this country. Arkansas leads the country in rice production, followed by Louisiana, Missouri and Texas.  It is best grown in areas with sufficient rainfall and a longer warm growing season.

I knew that rice required a lot of water, so I'd figured out a way to provide the flooding that most rice needs.  I planned on using a horse trough, and then having Romie construct a growing tray that could be lifted  for draining.

But in looking online for rice seeds, I found a variety that can be grown in common garden soil without flooding.  'Blubonnet'  is an "upland rice," and it is available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This Mayan rice was shared with Mennonite farmers by their neighbors in Belize.

I decided to grow it in a raised bed that I keep on the patio area by the pool.  It's close to a water source, which is important, because it does need to be kept wet.  The Baker Creek site states that growers in Tennessee plant in May and harvest in September, which should work for us as well.

The packet states that the rice should be planted five to six inches apart, but I decided to sow it heavier.  That may or may not have been a mistake - we'll see.  I planted them in nursery trays and placed it in the raised bed lined with a garbage bag to help retain water and moisture in general.

I cut these nursery trays so that they would lay flat and fit the raised bed.

We used hardware cloth stapled in the bottom of the raised bed to hold the growing trays.

A garbage bag in the bottom helps hold in moisture.

Planted on May 30, 2013

This was a pretty good year to try growing rice, because we've had a higher than normal level of rainfall.  I haven't had to provide supplemental watering too many times yet.

In a little more than a week, we had sprouts!

June 9, 2013

June 15, 2013

June 24, 2013

July 6, 2013

It's now the beginning of August and the rice is about six inches taller than you see in the above photo.  It has a few signs of drying out (some browning to some of the tips of the blades of grass) but seems to be still fairly healthy.  No signs of seed stalks are showing yet, but many of my ornamental grasses don't have theirs yet either.  There's still plenty of time for that.

I'll post about my rice again when the growing season is over.  I'm hopeful that we'll get some rice that we can cook and eat!  Do you live in the north and have grown rice?  Please let me know your experiences in the comments.


Daricia said...

How exciting! I have had it in the back of my mind to try growing a grain of some sort since I saw a little book at B&N, Homegrown Whole Grains. Maybe one day. Looking forward to your updates on this.

dona said...

So I gather one harvests the seed stalks and that's the new rice...then you dry it out? Seem a awfully labor intensive! But very interesting.

outlawgardener said...

I've always wondered what it would be like to grow rice and am looking forward to reading your follow up posts about yours!

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