Rice is one of the most revered and oldest foods in the world. In Indonesia and Japan, for instance, rice has its own God. Rice needs hot, sunny conditions and tons of water to grow to fruition. Even though this makes planting rice impossible in some parts of the world, you can still grow your own rice at home, sort of.
When we say “sort of,” growing rice at home if definitely possible, but if you do not have a large rice paddy in your backyard, it is highly unlikely that you will be harvesting much. Nevertheless, it is still a great project and growing rice at home takes place in a container, so only a small space is required, unless you decide to flood your backyard. Read on to find out how to grow your own rice.
In order to grow rice, your garden must be in water-retentive soil, full sun and offer a 3 to 6 month growing season with average temperatures above 70 degrees F, a reliable source of water for irrigation, and a way to drain the water when it’s time to harvest. A level spot where water naturally stands after a rain is the best.
If the soil is well-drained and your yard doesn’t have such a spot, mixing copious amounts of organic matter, which holds moisture, into the soil combined with frequent watering will help. It is not important to keep the area flooded, but rather just wet, and steady warm temperatures are as important as the water supply.
Preparing the plot
Prepare several seed beds around the yard, because it will be easier to flood several small areas than one large one. Spade or till the beds, concentrating on getting rid of weeds, working in plenty of organic matter, and leveling the soil. You can prepare the soil in either early spring or fall. In case you do so in fall, go over it again in spring to hit any new weed growth.
It is very important to eliminate weeds, in order to remove competition for nutrients. Plant the rice in rows, not blocks, so you are able to easily get in to weed. Do this by digging trenches several inches apart, blocking or damming them at each end if you plan to flood the rows.
Traditionally, rice is planted by sowing it in a nursery bed and then moving the seedlings to the garden after one month of growth. However, during last few years, farmers begun seeding directly into the planting bed. The main advantage of direct seeding is that a farmer handles everything just once. It takes less seed to sow the bed, and since plants don’t have to go through transplant shock the yields are larger.
Nursery beds have one advantage: the beds’ smaller size makes it easier to keep weeds under control during the critical periods when seedlings are just getting started and when seeds are germinating. You can get a head start if your growing season is short by sowing seeds indoors in flats under lights. Whatever method you use, you should wait until air and soil temperatures are around 75 degrees F, in order to plant outdoors. One to two ounces of seed are required per 100 square feet. Use the greater amount if you are transplanting and the lesser amount when you are directly sowing the seed.
Prime the seed by soaking it in water for twelve to 36 hours before you plant. Sow the primed seed in your garden. Tamp it down carefully to ensure good contact with the soil. Now, cover with mulch. In order to keep soil moist, make sure to water gently and frequently. After about a week, young shoots should begin to appear. When the seedlings are five to seven inches tall, thin them to three to four inches apart in rows nine to twelve inches apart. Transplanting. In case you sowed the rice in a nursery bed, let the seedlings grow until they reach a height of five to seven inches, for about a month.
Thoroughly water the planting bed until it’s muddy before you transplant them. Slowly pull up the seedlings and transplant them right away, pushing them into the mud in rows about one foot apart. Flooding. If you want to grow rice which is submerged in paddies, then start flooding the area when transplants have settled in or the seedlings are obviously up and growing. Commercial operations keep the rice submerged under eight inches of water, and as plants grow the water level is increased. However, at home you can flood the area with as little as one inch of water.
Build two- to six-inch-tall berms around the planting area in order to help hold in the water. By lining the sides of the berms with plastic sheet you will prevent water from seeping out of the sides. Drain the paddy to cultivate when the plants are about 15 inches tall, and then flood it again. How long the rice should be drained and how long it should be flooded depends on weather and soil conditions. The best way to find out is to experiment with adding more or less water. Try to judge how the plants are responding.