Food, Garden

How to grow rice at home: complete guide

how to grow rice

Image via: Pexels

Guidelines on how to grow rice include key information, garden position, temperature, water, and things to watch out for.

Find more garden guides, tips and advice

Rice is the staple food par excellence for half the world’s population. The plant is also growing in popularity in Germany and, alongside potatoes and pasta, is one of the most popular side dishes. It is therefore no wonder that the cultivation of rice is becoming more and more popular among gardeners in this country.

Key information about the rice plant

Rice is the seed of the grass species Oryza glaberrima (African rice) or Oryza sativa (Asian rice). The original rice plant was largely cultivated so that it is particularly productive and there are now around 8000 varieties. Today’s rice plant belongs to the botanical family of grasses and is between 50 cm and 1.60 m tall, while it forms up to 30 stems. Each of these stems has a panicle that carries the overhanging inflorescence and contains 80 to 100 grains of rice after ripening. 

Extrapolated, this means that a rice plant ideally carries up to 3000 grains of rice, if you take the weight of a grain of rice at 0.25g (this also varies depending on the type of rice), the total weight would be 750g of rice. The total yield of a single rice plant would therefore result in up to 1.5 packages of purchased rice. Also read how to cook brown rice on the stove, rice cooker or instant pot.

Origin / distribution / growing areas

The origin of the rice is not exactly known. Wild forms of the plant have been found in Asia, Africa and America. It is not certain whether the rice was first cultivated in India or in China. Rice scraps from the time 4900-4700 BCE were found in the east Chinese province of Zhejiang. Finds in India are said to be 2,000 years older. In China, rice was one of the five sacred crops (along with millet, wheat, barley and soybean) that were personally planted by the emperor at the Spring Festival to emphasize the importance of the plants.

Rice cultivation then expanded to Japan, Indonesia and Persia. Around 800 BC. the rice ended up in the Mediterranean region. Over 90% of the world’s rice harvest is grown in Asia today, particularly in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Korea and Japan. Growing areas in Europe can be found in Italy (Po Valley), Spain and Portugal. Rice is also planted in tropical West Africa, the southern USA and South America.

Rice is now mainly grown in Asian countries, but the rice plant is very robust and copes well with cold temperatures. 

How to grow rice in your garden

The ideal location for the rice plant

The rice plant is a very frugal and adaptable crop that does not place great demands on its location. In fact, she doesn’t even necessarily need a garden to grow – she can be grown on her own. For a high yield, however, a location that is as sunny as possible on the most humus-rich soil should be selected. 

Since the humus content of the soil decreases significantly after a certain processing time, fertilization with compost or cattle manure is advisable. It should also be avoided that the soil is provided with too much mineral fertilizers, because such unbalanced fertilization promotes humus degradation.

In a very cold climate it is difficult to grow rice. Often it is not warm and sunny enough in summer. The rice will start to bloom, but the plant will not mature properly. A great option is growing it in a greenhouse. If it is heated, you can start sowing very early in the year. If you prefer to grow rice outdoors, then you are heavily dependent on the weather. If you choose dry rice and the summer is too wet, the plants will die. If you choose the wet rice and it comes to a dry summer, then you have enormous water costs.

The opinion that the rice plant absolutely has to stand in water is wrong. Even if it is often shown in pictures and videos of Asian rice cultivation – the regular flooding of the rice fields does not serve the plant, but is used against pests and weeds. This type of cultivation of the fields is therefore not a requirement for good growth of the rice plant, but only possible through the high adaptability of the plant.

The piece of garden you choose to grow rice needs to be heavily watered. Then you let the floor rest for 14 days. After that, the ground is plowed and it has to rest for another 7 days. When you have plowed the ground again, the soil is sufficiently prepared for rice cultivation. Now put the rice grains in a bag of water for a few days. They rise and can then be distributed in the earth. Then you let the rice sprout for 6 weeks. You then carefully remove the young plants from the soil and place them in the prepared bed. 5-10 plants are always put together in a bundle. Leave a gap of approx. 10 cm between the bundles. You can harvest the rice after a good 3 months.

A good team: rice and water

But even if the rice plant does not need a flooded field to grow, it needs a large amount of water compared to other crops. If it is grown outdoors, it should therefore be watered regularly outside of the rainy seasons and the rice plant feels particularly comfortable in the pot on the windowsill if there is constant water in the saucer.

Hardly in need of care

Growing rice does not require a lot of knowledge about horticulture or a lot of effort. The adaptable plant is extremely frugal and can find its way around the most varied of circumstances. The rice plant is annual and only needs a minimal amount of fertilizer – if at all – for the first 6 weeks. 

Basically, you only have to pay attention to regular watering, otherwise the first rice grains are ripe after 6 to 8 weeks. The low maintenance effort is also evident when harvesting: the ripe rice grains often fall out of the stalks by themselves, otherwise the stalk only needs to be shaken briefly once for harvest. Due to the small grain size, however, a cloth or foil should be placed under the plant at harvest time.

Harvest your rice in the garden

When the leaves begin to turn yellow, the harvest begins. Depending on the type of rice, it takes up to 9 months to mature, but some can be harvested as early as about 6-8 weeks. The ripe grains of rice very often fall out of the stalks on their own. If this is not the case, the stalks are briefly shaken up. Of course, you should put a piece of foil or a cloth underneath if you don’t want to pick up the small rice grains one by one from the ground.

Is it worth growing rice?

Despite the low maintenance required for the rice plant, it is still one of the rarely seen plants in domestic horticulture. This is probably partly due to the lack of knowledge about the robustness of the plant (for most of the rice plants are automatically assigned to the Asian countries as a growth area), on the other hand, the rarity of the plant in this country is noticeable in the price. 

3 rice plants are often offered at a price of just over $10 – if you count on the highest yield of the rice plant (750g), then the 3 rice plants would bring a total yield of 2250g. Compared to the rice that can be bought, growing your own is more expensive, considering the purchase price of the plants.

Nevertheless, growing rice in your own garden has advantages for the hobby gardener – in addition to the joy of cultivation, there is also the fact that the rice you grow yourself only contains the fertilizer that you have used yourself. A safe food with a low content of pollutants is obtained.

Nutrition and uses of rice

Rice means pure carbohydrates. It is one of the 7 most important types of grain. In addition to carbohydrates, rice is a very valuable source of protein and potassium. Rice contains magnesium, iron and zinc as minerals. Due to the high potassium content, rice drains the body perfectly. This promotes the metabolism and thus puts less strain on the heart and circulation.

You can use rice in the kitchen to make almost any dish. Rice is delicious as an accompaniment to many dishes, but also a delicacy in soups or salads.