Celebrate Barley (Hordeum vulgare)

Spring got me going and I tossed out Barley seeds. Well, I did read the Market Economy instructions, but I don’t own a plow, the sunny spot is too steep to plow if I had one, and I had a volunteer once that did just fine and multiplied well without such efforts.

Mostly I think the Market Economy makes up stuff so we leave food growing to the Market Economy.

In my naive thinking, I went out with a bag of unidentified mixed non GMO barley and flung it around on my weedy 1000 square feet or so of hot, dry hill.

Barley Bloom (Horde vulhare)

Barley Bloom (Horde vulgare)

Wind fuzzed the blooms and I will take more photos tomorrow, but the blooms are bright yellow and visible from a distance. It rained early this spring and the Barley came up with the first weeds (I already picked the wild mustard for salad from this spot), but I had weeks with no rain and even some of the native things died back.  The pretty bluegreen Barley grass held on.  According to dryland farming tests in New Mexico, Barley outperforms wheat in dry years and wheat outperforms in wet years.  Wheat performed better when mixed with triticale.

This week it seems our overdue summer rains are here and the Barley is blooming and setting seed.  I may never know what type I have, it was mixed organic non GMO.  The Gujar Khan Barley never came up.  All varieties may not have sprouted or lived.  In any event, I am excited that I will have a crop from the harshest spot on my property.  I am unjust perhaps, because the area also has  wild parsnips that I can pull after first frost, but… Barley! Not to mention Wild Lettuce (pain relief) for my Pharmacopeia.

Barley Blooming

Barley Blooming

I always have beans and they are a simple land race variety, potatoes are easy, and now Barley is making a crop.  Corn too.  Bulk calories for an entire year!  Another dryland crop in the desert!  Of course I can grow more with irrigation, but my commitment for this property is dryland landrace varieties for sustainable agriculture.

I admit this “field” of Barley will never grace the cover of Today’s Farmer, but I will have enough Barley for this year and enough seed for next year.  I know farmers grow Barley about an inch apart and mine are not that tight, but I can seed tighter next year or stick with success.  I notice that the Barley held its own against the weedy stuff.

I am laughing at myself for getting excited over this rough looking field of Barley, but maybe next year I can grow enough for two pigs and me.  I have plenty for me and three hens.



I know I am not a Market Economy farmer, but I spent $12 on a curved knife to make it easier to cut Barley and wheat and such.  It is easy to grow your own and I would not want to try making a living selling Barley.  But if I can grow enough bulk calories with no water, no labor beyond tossing out seed and harvesting, it is a fine bulk calorie to grow.  It is a grass.  Where doesn’t grass grow?

I feel so encouraged by my Barley crop that I will plant it again next spring and try Emmer Wheat (seeds came too late for planting this year) too.


About rebeccatreeseed

I am a naturalist raised by naturalists. Treeseed is my earned name, while Rebecca is my birth name. I am of Northern European descent, with a quarter Irish.quarter thrown in. I suspect I was a product of northern invaders into Ireland into Ireland. but hard to say since DNA disproved the family story about Apache blood! I have found some odd ancestors to replace them. Last year I bought 5 acres of pinyon-juniper forest on the side of a mountain in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. I am fulfilling a lifetime dream of a cabin in the mountains and a food forest that will feed me and local wildlife. I want to share this new phase of my life with others that might be interested.
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6 Responses to Celebrate Barley (Hordeum vulgare)

  1. jgeerlings says:

    And hopefully no critters will get in on the harvesting before you have it cut, dried and stored. I grow a little wheat as a cover crop. Btw the tomatoes are looking great where it grew. But I left some to grow for next year’s seed and while those nice heads were just turning from green to brown. they all disappeared. I suspect a chipmunk.

  2. Oh no! Critters can play havoc with our gardens. I used to battle squirrels for my pecan harvest, then noticed my Corgi was eating his substantial weight in pecans. The rabbits like the spot, and may be why there are some bare areas. Let’s see if I get away with any food! I am still excited to have it be productive.

  3. Pingback: Celebrate Barley (Hordeum vulgare) | treeseeddreaming – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  4. LindaW says:

    Anything I can grow for my hens is a good crop. I only have a yard to work with, not acreage. How much area needs to have barley planted?

    • Hi Linda,
      I would say 5×5 feet would produce a fair amount of barley. I didn’t even water mine, just natural rainfall. If you live in a warm winter area, you can plant in the fall, like wheat. That gives an early harvest and then summer and fall vegetables. It does not require a very rich soil. Depends on how many chickens you have, but I haven’t purchased food for my 3 hens in 2 years, but I collect seeds for them and they free range when I am outside and eat bugs and greens. Table scraps too. I had a worm bin but they got in and ate every worm. Oops. Teff can be planted after barley.

    • Linda,
      Do you have a Redbud tree? It produces a lot of seed and chickens will eat them (me too). Elderberries? Even a patch of brome has seeds and greens for chickens. I chop up my vegetable peelings for them. They groan in extasy for worms. I need to restart my worm bin.

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