Wheatgrass is a popular health food. It is reputed to offer a bonanza of nutrients. You can eat it in salads or drink it after processing it in a juicer or making it an ingredient in a smoothie. But those unfamiliar with it may wonder how easy it is to grow it for themselves. The answer to this question is straightforward, but the devil is in the details.
|Botanical Name||Triticum aestivum|
|Common Name||Wheatgrass, wheat, common wheat plant, bread wheat|
|Mature Size||Harvest when seedlings are about 7 inches tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun by the end of the process|
|Soil Type||Organic, sterile potting mix|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic|
|Hardiness Zones||4 to 9 (if growing outdoors)|
|Native Area||Old World|
How to Grow Wheatgrass
At first glance, you may be fooled by the name of "wheatgrass" and think that it must refer to some exotic type of grass. But, no, wheatgrass is really just common wheat. A distinction is drawn between "wheatgrass" and "wheat" simply to highlight the fact that the former represents a different way in which to use the common wheat plant. Rather than using it to make bread or cereal, you are using it to make a food supplement for nutritional purposes.
This difference in purpose between wheatgrass and wheat also means that you will be growing the plant in a different way. When wheat is grown to produce bread or cereal, it is being grown for its seeds. It is harvested at the end of its life (seed production being the whole biological reason behind the life of this annual). This is not the case for wheatgrass: Here, your aim is not to harvest the seeds. Instead, you will be harvesting the new leaves (blades of grass) of the plants, shortly after they have sprouted from seed.
Wheatgrass is easy is to grow after you have digested a few basic tips. While you can grow wheatgrass outdoors (a tall raised bed would be ideal so that you do not have to bend over too much to care for the plants), many people choose to grow it indoors, and the latter is our focus here. Comparing crop maximization and nutritional differences based on the different ways of growing wheatgrass is beyond the scope of this introductory article.
Seed selection is important in growing wheatgrass in your home. The seed is commonly sold in food coops, health food stores, and grocery stores that specialize in natural foods. Select seed labeled "hard," not "soft." The former contains more protein.
Beyond the seeds, you need only a few main supplies:
- Buy an organic, sterile potting mix.
- You need something to contain the potting mix that has drainage holes in it. This is a great time to recycle those nursery trays taking up space in your storage shed (disinfect first).
- Different growers fertilize wheatgrass differently; one option is liquid kelp fertilizer. Buy it on Amazon.
- Find a spray bottle for misting.
- Find a piece of white cloth big enough to cover the nursery tray.
Wheatgrass can be grown indoors year-round, so you can begin your project anytime. But it is important to soak the seed in water overnight, the night before you begin. The next day, drain off the water, then rinse the seed off with some fresh water. Fill the nursery tray with potting mix. Spray the potting mix so that it is evenly moist (but not soggy) from top to bottom.
Sow the seed on top of the potting mix. Cover the seed not with potting mix, but with the white cloth. Mist the cloth to dampen it. Place the tray in a dark spot that stays about 65 degrees F and has good ventilation. Continue to mist the cloth so that it does not dry out. The seed should germinate in about 2 days.
After germination, remove the cloth and move the tray to a well-ventilated spot with indirect sunlight (to get the seedlings accustomed to it). Once the seedlings green up, move them to a location with full sun and good ventilation. Fertilize them every other day or so with liquid kelp fertilizer if you have it. Harvest the grass blades when they are about 7 inches tall.
Germination should take place in the dark. Once the seed germinates, grow the seedlings first in indirect sunlight, then in full sun.
Most indoor growers use an organic, sterile potting mix.
Spray lightly so that the seeds do not dry out. But do not water them so much that the potting mix stays soggy.
If using a liquid kelp fertilizer, dilute it with water, before applying it, as per label instructions. Simply incorporate fertilizing into your misting regimen so that, every other day or so, you will be misting with a kelp-water solution.