Tuesday, October 11, 2022


Ivan Siskin. "Rye". A painting of a field of rye nearly ready to harvest with mature Pinus sylvestris  trees forming a pseudo-savanna.

We are expecting rain tonight and tomorrow. The weather-guessers tease us with promises of 3/4".

I went to the most recent garden annex. It is about 6500 square-feet and was not planted this year. I broadcast about 10 pounds of rye (grain) and a little bit of turnip seeds onto the plot. Both plants make an excellent winter cover-crop to add organic matter.

As an aside: Peas are another good, cold/cool weather cover crop.

The east end of the plot is dominated by Mare's Tail while the west end is dominated by nettles and orchard grass. I sprayed herbicide on the rankest vegetation a couple of weeks ago in hopes of discouraging it but waited until there was promise of rain before seeding the cover crop.

"Danko" is probably the best/most available choice for grain unless you live in Northern Minnesota or the Canadian Prairie provinces. Source of info

Both rye and turnips have the ability to supply human-quality food. Even a half-azzed crop of rye on 1/7th of an acre would be five bushels, enough calories to sustain two people for almost five months. The plan is to turn it under in mid-April and plant potatoes, corn and melons in that space. But even if the plan falls-through the cover crop will produce SOMETHING if there is anybody available to harvest it.

One of the interesting things about rye is that every plant has the ability to "tiller". That is, rye has the ability to send up three-or-four shoots per plant if the base of the plant receives sunlight. Each shoot will produce a head of grain. That property is called "plasticity". It fills in if seeded thinly or if the soil is exceptionally fertile.

Rye, while an extremely robust grower in cold weather, is not a perfect grain. It is a tall grain and subject to blowing down. It has different diseases (ergot, for instance) than wheat and the grain is less suitable for making bread.

It is rumored that "Pumpernickel" bread was coined by Napoleon when presented with the bread made from local rye grain while the French army was on-the-march. He declared the bread was only suitable for his horse, Nicole. That is, "apples for Nicole" or Pommes de Nicole.

The Westphalia region of Germany is famous for its rye bread and there is a small town in Michigan named Westphalia some 30 miles north of Eaton Rapids. Quite by coincidence, my maternal grandfather was born in Westphalia which implies I have ancestors from that region of Germany.


  1. Cover is good, and 'food' provided is a bonus! Folks down here are just starting putting in winter wheat. Milo/cotton harvest are starting about 2 weeks late.

  2. I would reckon you got some Kraut in ya.
    I mix together red, white, and yellow clover, vetch, and some kinda pea the co-op sells... had good luck with daikons in clay soil, too.

  3. Back in my youth I worked for a Jewish family bakery . They got me hooked on Jewish Rye . At one time they baked a big 5 pound loaf in a stone oven for Jewish restaurants and delis . My Gawd it was awesome . Crust about a quarter inch thick that kept it fresh for a week . It came in an extra large brown paper sack . Schwebels Bakery if you ever see it in a store . I must admit I do enjoy a glass of Rye whiskey now and then also . A very versatile and nourishing grain indeed !

  4. If you have ancestors that lived in the country in lower Michigan 100 plus years ago it's a safe bet that you are part German. Some of them are mine over Sanilac County way. As for rye I often plant 2 1/2 acres just to keep the ground in shape if I should need it for other things and to feed the wild critters: deer, sandhill cranes, geese, bears, and lots of birdies of all sizes. And it does usually blow down, especially in a hard rain so I wouldn't plant it if I needed it to feed us. ---ken

  5. I heard it as "pain pour Nicole" - bread for Nicole.


Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.