Oats are a staple of many diets worldwide thanks to their high energy density. They’re also commonly grown as animal feed or natural fertilizer. So, if you’re planning to grow your own oats, when should you plant them, and how long do they take to grow?
Oats grow best in moderately cool and warm weather. They can be planted in early spring or early fall and even in winter in warmer climates. Oats typically mature in about three months for feed and in 6 months if you’re harvesting the seed.
Let’s take a closer look at how to grow oats, when to plant them, and how to care for them to maximize your yield.
What Time of Year Is Best for Planting Oats?
The best time of the year for planting oats is early spring or summer. Oats are frost resistant but will die when the temperature gets too cold. In moderate climates, you should plant oats after the middle of February. You can plant it later in cooler climates and in the middle of winter in a hot and humid climate.
In most areas, oats are planted in the fall or early spring, depending on what they’re going to be used for. If you want to get the best yield from your oat plants, you should ideally plant them in early spring. The oats will be ready for harvest in summer.
If you want to use oats as feed for animals, as a natural fertilizer, or for winter ground covering, you can plant them in the fall. However, you shouldn’t expect higher yields from fall-planted oats, and you may have to deal with the plants dying prematurely in the middle of winter.
If you live in a hot and humid climate, you can plant oats year-round, but remember that they will wither and die in extreme heat. Oats planted in hotter weather will also use much more water and take up space that could be used to grow summer crops.
How Do You Plant Oats?
Oats are easy to care for once they grow past the seedling phase, but you’ll have to take care to prepare the soil properly. They aren’t drought resistant and need enough water; otherwise, they may die before producing seeds.
Oats grow best in well-prepared, tilled soil. Follow these steps to plant oats:
- Make sure the soil’s pH is between 6 and 7.
- Remove any weeds from the soil and till it. The soil should be loose and drain well.
- Dig holes 1 inch deep and a quarter inch apart.
- Place the oat seed in the hole and cover it.
- Water the seeds regularly and avoid stomping on the soil until the seeds germinate in 7-10 days. Oat seeds will germinate best when the soil temperature is at least 5 degrees celsius or warmer.
Caring for Oat Plants
Once the oat seedlings emerge, you’ll have to water them regularly, apply fertilizer and ensure that weeds don’t spoil their growth. Oats usually don’t require special growing conditions and can handle some temperature variations. However, any form of extreme weather will kill these plants.
Watering Oat Plants
Oats need moist soil, especially during the first month of growing until the seeds develop. How often you should water your oat plants depends on the weather and soil conditions. If the soil retains water well, you’ll only have to water oat plants once a week at most. If the weather is hot and dry, you’ll have to water them more often.
To check whether you need to water oat plants, place your finger in the soil to check for moisture. If more than 1 inch of the topsoil is dry, you should water the plants.
Weeding and Pest Control
Weeds are a menace to oat plants and can restrict their growth, especially when the plants are young. You’ll have to weed the soil for at least 1-2 months, while the oats are in their early growth phase.
Aphids, slugs, and snails are common pests that eat oat plants. Snails and slugs usually damage the seedlings, and aphids will always be a menace. The best way to keep these pests under control is by releasing their natural predators into the crop.
To reduce the effect of diseases, you can plant disease-resistant varieties and control the growing conditions to prevent common diseases.
Fertilizing the Soil
Oats may need fertilizer at different times in their growth cycle. Make sure the soil is nutrient-rich before planting the seeds. You can apply nitrogen fertilizer (on Amazon) when the plants reach 6-8 inches high or during the first 2 months after planting. You can also use organic compost but avoid using wet compost since it may cause diseases to spread to the plants.
How to Test the pH of Your Soil
Oats require slightly acidic or neutral soil for optimal growth. The ideal pH range for growing oats is between 6 and 7. You can test the soil’s pH with a soil testing kit (on Amazon) or simple pH testing paper strips.
If the soil’s pH is too low, you can use limestone to neutralize it. Oats will grow in acidic soil, but their growth will be stunted. If your soil has the opposite problem, use acidic fertilizers to balance the soil’s pH.
What Is the Typical Growing Time for Oats?
The typical growing time for oats is around 3-6 months. In warmer weather, they will reach the boot stage in around 2-3 months and then take an extra 10 days to a month to dry out before they’re ready for harvesting. Oats grown in winter will usually take longer to mature.
You can tell that the oats are ready for harvesting when the seed heads start drying out. Wait until they dry out completely and the stalks look golden brown before harvesting.