If you ever needed proof that we are city slickers dressed up as country people, today's post is it. I mean, we put the 'urban' in urban farmer. We are city bumpkins. Oh yes we are, and after you read this, you're going to wholeheartedly agree.
(Deep breath) Here it is....
The plant coming up in our garden that we thought was WHEAT is actually OATS.
I have been suspicious for a while now, because this just isn't the inflorescence I was expecting. But the seed packets were clearly labeled wheat. Emmer, Red Fife, Sonora. I planted wheat. So even though the flower heads didn't look right, I didn't question it. It must be wheat. Even though it looked like the wild oats growing in our open space, I was convinced it was really wheat. I was blind to the fact that it didn't look anything like wheat.
What finally convinced me?
This is now coming up in some of the beds. This is clearly WHEAT. So when I saw that, I was like - what's this other stuff????
Believe me when I tell you, I have never felt so stupid in all my life.
Ok. So now we've established what's actually growing in our beds, the question is: How did we get oats instead of wheat?
I immediately wrote to Baker Creek Seed Company, where I bought the packets last year. They wrote back right away; they have received no other reports of adulterated seed, so it's unlikely that their seed was mixed up. They offered me a complete refund or replacement, which was super nice, but I told them that we didn't need that - this was an experiment and not a cash crop for us. But, this means I still don't know how my beds got covered in oats and not wheat.
The only thing I can think of is that organic straw we got from Full Belly last spring. I don't know if you remember that we drove out there and picked up two bales of rotting straw? There were a lot of seed heads left in it, and they had a similar inflorescence to the oats, so that straw could have very well been oats. And it's very possible that it shed all of those seeds and created a seed bank in my beds. And then when it had a chance to germinate and grow, it did so.
This is the only thing I can think of. Tom asked me, "but why isn't it coming up in ALL the beds? why isn't it coming up in the shallots and garlic etc?" Good question. The answer is twofold: I've been weeding out germinating grasses from all the beds where I didn't want wheat - I just thought that stray wheat seeds had blown into those beds when I seeded the others; and also we didn't use that Full Belly straw on every bed last year.
So. I have learned quite a lot from this little (BIG) experiment. Firstly how to identify wheat. (Kind of important I think.) Secondly, that I need to cut down this oat crop before it sets seed again. Like, immediately. Thirdly, that's it's not a complete failure, because we still have our organic straw for the season. We could even wait until the oats mature and figure out how to harvest and eat them. But doing that would ensure another load of oats germinating all over the garden, and I don't want that.
Cutting down this crop of oats now means also cutting down the wheat that is coming up. So that's really disappointing, I can't sugarcoat that.
Now, I have a question for you, dear readers. How many of you KNEW that this crop I was posting pictures of WASN'T wheat? How in all that is holy did you not holler at your computer screen "IGNORANT!" Or did you? It's ok, you can tell me.
And let me say, for the hundredth time, that I am not an expert. (Like you needed even more evidence!) I am bumbling around in this urban farm thing, sometimes hitting on something that works, but more often than not, making mistake after mistake. It's humbling, for sure. But it's good to be reminded of your own humanity frequently - humility is not a bad thing. Though I really feel like an idiot this time.