oats germinating in a field

How to Grow Oats: 3 Simple Sowing Methods

If you’re keen on growing your own oats, you’re in the right place. Oats are not only a versatile grain but also a fantastic addition to your garden or field, enriching the soil and providing a great source of nutritious food. Ready to get sowing? Let’s dig in!

Soil Preparation for Oats: Dealing with Grass, Weeds, and Vegetation

Before we get down to turning the soil, we need to tackle the issue of grass, weeds, and other unwanted vegetation. These green invaders compete with your oats for nutrients, water, and sunlight, and can significantly affect your crop’s yield if not managed properly.

Weed removal in small areas

For small areas, one effective method is to use a light-blocking material to kill the grass and weeds. This process, known as solarization, involves covering the area with a thick, dark material such as a tarp or black plastic sheet. This blocks the light and heats up the soil, effectively killing off the vegetation underneath. Leave the covering in place for a few weeks, and you’ll have a clean slate to start with.

Weed removal in fields

In larger areas such as fields, managing weeds and grass can be more challenging. In this case, using a selective herbicide might be the most efficient method. Glyphosate, for example, is a broad-spectrum herbicide that’s effective at killing a wide range of plants. It’s typically applied using a sprayer and should be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Regardless of the method you choose, remember that killing off the existing vegetation is just the first step in soil preparation. Once the grass and weeds are under control, it’s time to move on to turning and amending the soil.

In the next section, we’ll discuss how to turn the soil using tools like a spade or tiller for small areas and machinery like a plough and power harrow for larger fields.

The Importance of Soil Preparation for Oats

Proper soil preparation is key to growing a healthy and productive oat crop. Oats prefer well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Testing your soil’s pH will help you understand if any amendments are needed. Learn more about soil pH here.

For small areas, you can prepare the soil using simple garden tools like a spade or a tiller. Start by removing any existing vegetation, weeds, and large rocks. Next, use your spade or tiller to turn the soil to a depth of about 6 inches, breaking up any large clumps. This process, known as tilling, helps to aerate the soil and make it easier for the oat roots to penetrate and grow.

If you have a field to prepare, you’ll need to use more substantial machinery such as a plough and a power harrow. The plough is used first to break up and turn over the soil, helping to bury any existing vegetation or crop residue. Following this, the power harrow is used to break up the soil further and create a fine, crumbly texture that’s ideal for sowing seeds.

a massey ferguson 35x tractor and two furrow plough
Even small tractors like this Massey Ferguson 35x tractor and two furrow plough will cover lots of ground in one day.

Regardless of the size of your plot, adding organic matter or compost to your soil is highly beneficial. This not only increases the fertility of the soil but also helps to improve its structure and water-holding capacity.

Once your soil is well-prepared, you’re ready to start sowing your oats. But remember, soil preparation isn’t a one-and-done deal. To maintain soil health, it’s important to keep adding organic matter and to rotate crops, as this helps to prevent the build-up of diseases and pests.

Preparing the Seedbed and Sowing Depth for Oats

After you’ve dealt with weeds and other unwanted vegetation, and turned and amended your soil, you’re ready to prepare the seedbed for your oats.

The ideal seedbed for oats should be fine and crumbly, with a uniform texture. This type of seedbed provides the best environment for oat seeds to germinate and grow. It allows the seeds to make good contact with the soil, which is important for moisture absorption, and also makes it easier for the small, tender roots of the oat seedlings to penetrate the soil.

As a general rule, if the soil is dry or sandy, or if hot, dry weather is expected, the seeds can be sown a bit deeper to help them access moisture. On the other hand, if the soil is moist and the weather is expected to be cool and damp, the seeds can be sown a bit shallower to help them germinate more quickly.

One of the great things about oats is that they’re quite forgiving when it comes to sowing depth. Ideally, oat seeds should be sown at a depth of 1 to 2 inches. However, they can be sown up to 3 inches deep if necessary. The exact depth can depend on factors such as the soil type, the moisture level in the soil, and the expected weather conditions.

Remember, the goal is to create an environment that encourages the oat seeds to germinate and grow as quickly and as healthily as possible. So take the time to prepare your seedbed properly and sow your seeds at the appropriate depth, and your oats will thank you for it!

In the next section, we’ll look at different methods of sowing oats, starting with sowing by hand.

Sowing Oats by Hand

Sowing oats by hand is a great method for small areas. Here are the steps:

  1. Scatter the oat seeds evenly over the prepared soil.
  2. Rake lightly to cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
  3. Water gently to avoid washing away the seeds.

The seed rate when sowing by hand is approximately 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Sowing Oats by Broadcast

Broadcasting is a method used for larger areas. It involves scattering the seeds evenly across the soil.

  1. Use a broadcast spreader to evenly distribute the seeds over the area.
  2. Once done, lightly rake the area to cover the seeds with soil.
  3. Finish with a gentle watering.

When broadcasting, use a seed rate of around 100 pounds per acre.

Sowing Oats Using a Seed Drill

The first two methods will be mostly used for small areas – to sow larger areas such as fields it is better to use a seed drill. Using a seed drill is an efficient method for sowing large fields. The drill places the seeds at a consistent depth and spacing, promoting an even crop.
  1. Load the oat seeds into the seed drill.
  2. Drive the seed drill across the prepared field, ensuring even coverage.
  3. The moisture in the soil and any rain which falls afterward should be enough to start the oat seeds germinating.

For seed drilling, a rate of 70-90 pounds per acre is typically recommended.

Best Time of Year to Sow Oats

The best time to sow oats is in spring. Spring-sown oats will produce a summer crop, while late summer-sown oats will overwinter and produce a crop the following year. The exact timing can vary depending on your local climate, so consider consulting with a local extension service or experienced growers in your area.

Oat Maintenance and Harvesting

After sowing, keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Once your oat plants are up and growing, they’re fairly low maintenance. Just keep an eye out for pests and diseases.

Harvest time depends on what you want from your crop. For oatmeal or animal feed, wait until the seeds are fully mature and dry.


With good soil, the right sowing method, and a bit of patience, you can grow your own oats. Whether by hand, broadcast, or seed drill, each method has its own benefits. Now, it’s over to you to get sowing!

For more information, here are a few helpful resources:

Using Glyphosate for Weed Control

Solarization: A Nonpesticidal Method for Controlling Diseases, Nematodes, and Weeds