Growing heirloom winter wheat has been such an interesting experiment. Grains are an excellent rotation for any cropping system, as they build soil and feed microorganisms with their extensive roots. They prevent erosion, cover the earth, and provide a great deal of biomass that can be used as mulch or compost material. There's very little pest pressure. And, if you're lucky, you get a crop on top of all that.
Our wheat crop, which was 'lodging' (or falling over) has righted itself and is now 'heading.' The plants generally go through an aggressive growing process in early spring, then form a type of leaf called a 'flag,' which is easily seen in the above photo. The flag leaf produces a shaft wherein the grain begins reproduction. Those flowers you see are self-pollinating, and after the pollination process, seeds will form.
I grew up near farming communities on the east coast, but I don't ever remember seeing grain. I know very little about it. I imagine if you grow up in the mid-west, you're very used to seeing these crops. I have had a good time researching how wheat grows; I've needed to consult the experts at every stage. It's evident that my crop is heading quite a bit earlier than wheat usually does in our state, early April being the common time. We had very warm temperatures for about two weeks in early February, which I think triggered the plants to begin reproduction. February 15 is our last frost date, so I'm hoping that it won't get too cold now (temperatures have dropped!), and that the seeds can withstand that chill. If they do withstand it, this early heading is a great thing, because I might just get a small crop in before I plant out tomatoes in May. Normally wheat isn't ready to harvest until late May or early June here.
When the plant has set seed, it will start to brown and dry up. Then I will know it is time to harvest, sheave, and then thresh. Of course, the right amount of water is very important now, so I'm glad we have an irrigation system, as it hasn't rained here for the entire month of February, and actually I don't remember getting any significant moisture in January either.
Meanwhile, I'm in the process of potting up over 200 sunflower seedlings. I may have overdid, just a little.