Take a look in your kitchen pantry and there's a very good chance you have a bag of white rice or brown rice sitting on the shelf. The most widely consumed food staple, many cultures have been growing rice and cultivating rice varieties since around 7000-5000 BC as a means of nourishment. According to Britannica, the principal rice-growing countries are China, India, Japan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma), with the United States close behind. But how do you grow rice and can you grow it in your home garden?
Growing Rice: It Takes a Village
Back in September, I was given the chance to visit Lundberg Family Farms in Richvale, California and experience their rice harvest along with learning about how they grow, harvest, and produce over 20+ different grain varieties for consumers. And let me tell you, there's a lot of research and thought that goes into rice production.
To make it easier, I've added some step-by-step instructions to grow your own rice at home following Lundberg's lead.
Research & Selecting a Plot
Before you can even call yourself a rice farmer you need to spend some time with your head in a book (or surfing the web). The growing season for rice is from March to September - October, with a 190-day growth, which means you should start thinking about your rice crop at the beginning of the year. You also have to decide what type of rice you would like to produce. Long-grain rice or short-grain? Be forewarned that you might be underwhelmed with the amount of rice you may be able to harvest; only large rice growers will be able to produce pounds and pounds of rice.
Lundberg Family Farm uses a team of researchers to understand their rice plants and rice cultivation, testing crops and using science to figure out the perfect time to plant on their rice fields. We'll just have to stick with intuition.
Planting Rice Seeds
When planting rice you have two options; either plant them in an area you can flood or grow them in raised beds. The easiest way to grow rice at home is actually in gallon buckets you can find at your local hardware store. Along with the buckets, pick up some fertile, nitrogen-rich potting soil. Compost works great with rice if you have any access to some.
Slow-Release Nitrogen Fertilizer
When it comes to larger rice production, rice fields are placed on natural wetlands with access to constant water. Once the rice is planted, the water is allowed on the field to prevent weeds from growing. Throughout the growing season, the water level is around 2-inches around the plants.
It's time to harvest! The rice should be ready to harvest when it is dry and golden brown. Cut the entire plant as close to the ground as possible or cut just the seed head. Thresh and winnow the rice to remove the husk. Once this is done you can cook your rice like normal.
In the fields, farmers use large machinery to harvest the grains. The grains are then transported to additional machines for threshing and hull-removal.
While it is possible to grow rice at home, it's much easier to go to the grocery store and pick up a bag of Lundberg Family Farm rice, and let them do the rice farming for you.
This article was originally published on February 10, 2020.