Well, the Autumnal Equinox has come and gone, and with it the "four-to-six weeks before first frost" mark for my area. What does that mean? Time to sow the winter barley!
As I write this (the 28th of September), the barley has been in the ground for just over a week. Again, two varieties of winter barley: Maris Otter, and Halcyon. I put down roughly 200g of each seed, using one of the garden planter-boxes. I added a thin mulch layer, and have watered every other day for a few minutes (enough to soak the soil); I'll keep up with that watering regime (less days when it actually rains) until I start seeing reliable predictions for the actual first frost. (About then, the grain will go 'dormant' for the winter.)
Since the seed was planted in the garden area (near the house), as opposed to out in the field ('far' from the house), I've been able to keep an eye on them. That, and having an electric fence I can put up have made it less likely to suffer from deer predation (as happened last year). Watching the seed chit, then sprout, then grow, has been fascinating!
Here's what we've got, a week into things:
That's the Halcyon on the left, and the Maris Otter below, on the right. (Yes, there's a bit past the PVC pipe where it'll be hard to distinguish between them; since Halcyon is a descendant of Maris Otter, and since they're ultimately going to be malted together, I'm not terribly worried about it--I may, in fact, simply mix the two together next year.)
That looks roughly like 100% germination, or quite near enough. If I get as good a harvest next year as I did this, I should end up with about 17lbs of each. (Call it 15lbs, to account for inefficiencies in harvesting, etc.) Not only would that get me set up to be "malt-sustainable" after one more harvest, it gives me more time to acquire the equipment I'll need for the larger-scale growing.
My hops didn't fare as well, this year: my "retired" Cascades are fine, but the Willamette was the only variety of "new" stuff that did well enough to give me hope for next year... The Magnum may have survived, but the "new" Cascade and the Sterling both thoroughly croaked. I'll replace them next spring. They'll have better access to sunlight, as I've got a number of trees to take down; I'll also be better able to "baby" them along. (Not to mention getting them in the ground earlier than I could, this year.)