Update on the Canadian rice-growing attempt
Well, I guess you’d call it a “technical success”. The rice I seeded grew (see my May 21 entry for background) – the plant, I mean. But it did not actually produce any rice grains. In fact, the plants didn’t even flower. [but see my November 27 update!]
Still, it’s been a pretty interesting exercise. I learned a lot from it, and I want to try it again next year. As you can see from the photos, the plants actually grew really well. They are healthy, very sturdy, and each plant has between 4 and 7 tillers (the individual branching stems that come out of the plant’s base). According to the rice-growing manual, plants can have anywhere from 3 to 33, depending upon how closely the plants are spaced and amount of nitrogen.
Considering that I am growing them out here in Tofino – not known for its heat! – they’ve done really well. We had some unusally warm weather here in July (for us, that means sunny most of the day and temperatures in the mid-20s). But we’ve still had lots of days when there was fog for most or all of the day, especially in August (we call it Foggust). I wish I had taken some of them to Port Alberni, where normal summer temperatures are in the 30s, and there is sunshine almost every day, all day. Next year…
OK, I am going to bring the plants inside now. My upstairs bedroom window is south-facing and gets quite a bit of sun. I think it’s probably too late for them to flower at this stage, but I’ll put them up there anyway and see what happens. I’m trying to figure out, from that rice-growing manual, what the panicle looks like (that is the part that develops into the flowers and produces the rice grains). It says that the panicle becomes visible when it is about 1 mm long, at which size “the young panicle has many fine, white, hairy structures at the tip.” I think that my plants have formed these little panicles (see photo to the right) – those little hairy things have been on the plants for at least a month now. But with all of the fog and rain we’ve had the last month, the plants and the panicles have not really grown much – in fact, some of them seem to be degrading and turning brown.
I’m still excited by the whole thing, though – just the fact that I grew rice plants here at all! If anything significant happens with the plants inside, I’ll definitely update here. Otherwise, check back next year for news of my 2010 rice crop.
Here are some things that I have learned, and will try to work on for next year:
1. Rice takes from 90 to 200 days to mature, depending upon the actual variety. Apparently Louisiana rice matures the quickest (mine was a short-grain from California), so I will see if I can find some of that for next year.
2. I started mine indoors in early May (on a heated tile floor for the first 6 weeks). I’d actually started a long-grain bulk-bin variety in April – I don’t know where it was from, but presumably it was a more tropical one. Anyway, they sprouted into feeble little plants that eventually moulded and died, so that’s when I started the Californian seeds. Next year I’ll start these ones in late March or April, to give them a better head start than they got this year.
3. The plants definitely need heat. For June and the first half of July I moved them out to my back sundeck by day and then inside most nights. That’s a lot of work, and not reasonable if you are actually trying to grow a useable quantity – so I don’t think you could grow rice with any practical results (i.e. significant quanity) in a climate like this, with our cool nights.
4. You can see from the photos that I planted them in a variety of containers. The ones in the clay container are, for some reason, the healthiest and sturdiest-looking. One thing I learned is to plant them in a shallow container (like my white plastic one), with the soil level about 1-2 cm below the container brim – that way when it rains, the plants do not get too flooded.
5. Mosquitos lay eggs in your little rice paddies! What I’d most like to do is try them out in one of those shallow black garden pond-containers you can buy at garden centres (in sunny Port Alberni, not here!) and make it a little ecosystem with some fish in it to eat the mosquito larvae. Otherwise, in the buckets, I just poured off the water every now and then – so the plants were in muddy soil but with no standing water for a day or two – to kill off the mosquito larvae.
6. I kept one rice plant inside in my sunny bedroom window the whole while. It has grown taller than the others, but has not developed tillers like the outdoor plants – it is really just one tall and slender main stem with one very weak and scrawny tiller off the side. It does have the little white hairy things that I think are panicles, though. So outdoors seems to be the better option for them.
I’ll keep the comments open on this entry – if anyone else has tried growing rice in this type of climate, or has any idea where to purchase brown rice from Louisiana, I’d love to hear from you!