Growing Oats

Growing oats is the perfect way to provide a simple grain that has been shown to lower bad cholesterol and fight cancer. Even if you don't plan to eat them yourself, growing oats is a good way to provide your cat with a healthy source of greens.

Growing Oats At Home
Variety: Oats Avena Sativa
Zones: Grown indoors or as an annual
Soil Type: Average, well-drained soil
Soil pH: 6.0 to 7.5
Sunlight: Full sun
Availability: Sold as seeds. Oat seeds are available in spring, winter and perennial varieties. To save some work at harvest time, look for hull-less varieties that don't require rolling to separate the husk.
When to plant: Spring and perennial oat seeds should be sewn in early spring after freezing temperatures have passed. Winter oats can be sewn in the spring or in the fall one or two weeks before the first expected frost.

Planting Method

  • Seeds: For outdoor planting, oat seeds should be planted at a depth of ¼" with a spacing of 8" to 10". Indoor seeds should also be planted at a depth of ¼", but individual seeds may be spaced closer together and then thinned as plants mature.
  • Watering: Keep the soil around germinating seeds moist but not overly damp. Reduce watering as seedlings appear, watering only as the soil begins to dry. Thereafter, oats should receive about 1" of water per week.
  • Fertilizing: Amending the planting soil with a light coating of balanced fertilizer will provide fast growing oats with all the food they'll need. Perennial varieties may be fed during the middle of spring.
  • Production: Each oat plant will produce several seed heads from which the oats are gathered. Most varieties of oats will be ready to harvest in 45 to 60 days.
  • Harvesting: To harvest oats, cut the plants down to 4" when most of the kernels have turned tan or cream colored. Gather the stalks into bunches and tie the stems together. Place two or three bunches in an old pillowcase and bang the pillowcase covered stalks against a brick or concrete wall. The kernels will come loose from the stalks and can be gathered from the pillowcase.

Most strains of oat seed are bred to be resistant to common oat diseases. Look for varieties that are resistant to Barley Yellow Dwarf virus and Stem Rust.


  • Aphids: Small, soft-bodied insects that suck moisture from plants. Ladybugs are a great way to control aphids. Consider insecticidal soaps as an alternative to pesticides.
  • Thrips: These tiny, yellow or tan insects eat the pollen from plant blossoms. An infestation of thrips can lead to undersized or malformed fruit. Remove infected blossoms and treat plant with insecticidal soap.

Saving Seeds: To save oat seeds, leave several seed heads on your plants until they turn brown. Remove the seed heads and allow them to dry indoors for several days. Pull the seed from the seed head and place them on a plate to dry. When oat seeds are completely dry, store them in an airtight container.

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