We did a ton of reading on both here and the Family Cow, as well as hit a dozen or so websites. After reviewing the notes we had compiled, we broke it down to the basics and put together our system. Fwiw, hubby and I both have black thumbs and live in the very chilly, very overcast Pacific Northwest and we're doing this on the back porch with no greenhouse or heating system. And its going great so far!
What's great about growing fodder is you don't need any soil, any fertilizer or any chemicals. And its really cheap! Just an old rack, a bunch of dollar store finds - our system cost $20 for containers + less than $12 for 10 pounds of seed. Then you need a little over a week to go from seed to feeding.
Day One - after we rinse the seeds 4 - 5x, we then soak the seeds, they are covered so the seeds are germinating in darkness.
Day Two - We rinse the seeds one more time, then divide then in half into two bins and trays - seeds should be no more than 1/2" to 3/4" deep in each tray. Each of these have holes drilled in the bottom. Extra bins are used to provide a light pressure on the seeds to simulate soil. You can see this in the picture below - 4 bins with extra bins on top. The white trays below are set up to drain the excess water into the bins below, then eventually into the turkey roasting pans below. Re-use the water, adding more as needed. We water 3x times a day, never allowing the seeds to become dry.
Day Three - Continue as Day Two, looking for sprouts. BOSS will take longer than the Rye seeds, so we give them an extra day. Begin washing the water collection pans each evening with mild soap and water, making sure to completely rinse out the soap. Otherwise, your bins may begin to get a sour smell and grow mold.
Day Four - Divide each bin (2 becomes 4), continue watering 3x. Remove the extra bins, the sprouts will need the room to grow.
Day Five - Seven. Continue as above, watering 3x daily. If your weather is warm enough and your sprouting has reached the desired height, go ahead and serve to your livestock!
Day Eight - the biscuit is forming below. Its chilly here in the Pacific Northwest, so growth has slowed down considerably. The roots are starting to tangle around each other forming the waffle, the hard base of seed and root. We're starting to think a small light or heater might be a good idea until the warmer weather arrives since our system is outside in the low 60s.
Day 12 - Our sprouts are really growing! We've seen a few bright sunny days, which have shown phenomenal growth. We've started another batch of Rye seed to soaking this afternoon, so tomorrow we'll be putting it on the rack.
Here's the rack rye:
And the slow poke BOSS, shown here just after watering so folks can see how much water we do 3x daily:
Our system, as shown below. Hubby took some PVC tubing to make a frame for the cardboard 'top' so the tarp would fit tighter - providing greater retention of heat and moisture. We're using the top shelf for storage - extra bins and trays and the seed soaking bowls when not in use, as they are now. The seeds are being stored on the 2nd shelf with the new seeds (currently on their day 3). The 3rd and 4th shelves contain the original set of seeds and the water collection pans are below.
When we're done watering and dividing, we tuck it up tightly until the next watering.
For those curious, the "B" bin is a special bin with 8 holes drilled in it. Because of the tilt of the rack (that's not all my crappy photography, we set the rack up with a slight tilt), water rolls to the right and down. That particular bin gets considerably more water than the others and it needs more holes to drain faster. Because we often re-arrange the bins to ensure they all get equal light, etc. we need to make sure that one stays in place. Hubby's 8's and B's are basically interchangeable and he wrote it, so instead of "8" I'm going with "Bonus" for extra holes.
We would like to add additional seeds but have been unable to get them locally. If you have any resources to recommend, we'd love to hear from you:
Barley (whole, not pearled)
Oat Grass (hulled)
Look for more updates, this article is a work in progress! We will be adding additional types of seeds.
We've had a wonderful success with Austrian Peas! They have a nice light flavor, somewhat piquant. The seed remains at the end, as a nice crunchy terminal. The rabbits love them and the chickens are still summoning their courage to try them. We're definitely keeping these on our "must keep sprouting" list!
The growth is phenomenal, I want to show you how high above the bins these have grown:
We've managed to locally source Red Barley seeds and Farro seeds. The Red Barley seeds took 2 days of pre-soaking to begin rooting, the Farro only took one day to swell up and root. So far the Red Barley has been slow to grow. We'll let you know how the Farro does. We've also started soaking Austrian Peas. Pics to come.
The Red Barley, nearly ready to serve:
The Farro, soaked one day and now pressed 24 hours:
The Farro was a dismal failure, never sprouting and basically just made a soupy mess of itself. The chickens, of course, were happy to eat that. We were less then thrilled, however. We're doing more research to find out if there's something we could have done differently, frankly we're not likely to repeat this one without better information on how to sprout Barley better.