Although it's not typically a grain grow in Florida, barley (Hordeum vulgare) may grow in your garden if you live in the right climate and plant it at the right time of year. In correct conditions, grains grow easily and are a great project to do as a whole family. Planting, tending and harvesting are not only fun, but can teach kids a lot about where food really comes from.
One of the oldest crops cultivated by humans, barley has been traced at least 8,000 years back. It's used as a grain on its own, and also has a historical role in beer brewing. These days, many people prefer the small grain to wheat for its lack of gluten. The flour ground from barley grain can be used for baking bread and other foods, but beware -- its lack of gluten means it cannot develop the long, starchy chains that trap air in wheat bread, so it won’t rise nearly as well.
Barley is cultivated in temperate regions of the world, normally in cooler, often rainy areas such as the Pacific Northwest and the northern Midwest. Judging by its agricultural distribution, barley tolerates a wide range of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones, growing in climates as cold as zone 3 and as warm as zone 9. Normally, barley does not do as well in the eastern and southern reaches of the United States. However, because you can plant it as either a spring or a fall crop, if you live in a warmer area like Florida, you may be able to grow it.
If you live in a cooler part of tropical Florida -- roughly USDA zone 9 or below -- you'll have the best luck with barley if you plant in the fall. This will allow the plant to germinate as soon as soil temperatures are warm enough in springtime, meaning you do not have to judge the right planting time. When summer temperatures wane, broadcast seed onto soil and rake lightly to work seeds about 2 inches down. Use 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Barley prefers some moisture during the growing season, which is another reason to plant in fall -- the seeds will get plenty of water throughout the winter and spring. Once the shoots appear, dry, warm weather becomes preferable, so don’t irrigate unless soil gets very dry. Expect to harvest your barley about 60 days after the new growth appears in spring.
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