You were most probably having a delicious, protein-packed lentils soup on a bright afternoon, when you, quite suddenly, realized, “I could grow mine too.”
Well, yes, you can! All you just have to do is start them, indoors, where they can get sufficient lighting, with your non-contaminated dried lentils or seeds. Then, afterward, you can transfer them into your garden and properly care for them until they are fully mature. Easy-peasy!
In about 100 days, you should have your lentils fruits ready, for consumption or sale.
In this lentil growing guide is all you need to know, as a beginner or as an expert grower, on how to grow lentils whether for personal or commercial purposes.
By the end of this article, you'd not have only learned how to grow lentils, but also some other practical tips you can use in maximizing harvest yields every growing season.
So, without further ado…
What Are the Things You Should Know About Lentils?
Before we go ahead to learn how you can grow lentils on your own, we have to first learn a little about the lentils plant itself.
A great idea, like anything you’d embark on, is for us to start from the beginning. Not so much of "the beginning," but a background to what lentils is.
Also, having a concrete, or more foundational, idea of how to use lentils would help you to better grow and care for your lentil’s plants.
So, what, really, are lentils?
Lens culinaris (their biological name) are bean-like crops.
Lentils belong to the Fabaceae, or bean, family and like many other crops in this category, grow annually.
Just as their name suggests, the lentils seeds look like tiny lenses. These seeds grow in pods and you'd usually find up to 2 or 3 of them in each pod.
Lentils are either green, reddish-orange, yellow or black. People in, different parts of the world, use them in making delicious kinds of foods.
Using Your Lentils
Lentils are variable plants. You can use these nutrient-packed grains for anything, ranging from, pastry to soups to salads, and more.
These legumes contain high levels of proteins, fiber.
You can cook them as your main or as side dishes. But, in Asia and the Mediterranean, where they are common, natives commonly serve them with rice and a few other staple foods.
Lentils, according to MedicalNewsToday, are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Regular consumption can help improve your overall health and also prevent cancer and inflammation.
Now to the business at hand…
How to Grow Lentils in 3 Simple Stages
Lentils are quite easy to grow. It doesn't require any technical growing method or superhuman skills. Just a full understanding of the steps you have to take to have a successful growing time. Once you understand this, you're good to go!
Stage 1: Pre-planting
The first stage, as with anything you'd want to grow, is the planning or pre-planting stage.
Below are a few important tips to help you before you go ahead to plant your lentils:
Get your dry lentils or lentil seeds ready. These you can purchase from garden centers, organic, and online stores as well.
Do not split the seeds as they may not germinate.
Rinse the seeds using clean water. This allows you to pick out dirty parts and separate the broken and discolored seeds out.
You can also inoculate the seeds using Rhizobacteria leguminosarum, a natural bacterium that'd help the plants to absorb nitrogen easily.
This process also helps your seeds to sprout as they should. Usually it involves laying out the seeds and spraying them with the liquid or powdered inoculant.
Choose the perfect location to plant your lentil seeds. Make sure wherever you plant them, they have the lighting they need to grow and yield you the best legumes.
Stage 2: Planting
Now, you can plant your seeds. Plant them about 2.5–3.8cm deep and about 2.5cm apart.
If the soil is dry, you can go deeper than this (about 6.5cm deeper). Just make sure they're not too deep to ensure they can easily sprout from the soil.
Stage 3: Caring for Your Lentils Plant
So, after planting, what comes next?
Caring for your plants, of course!
If they must grow, optimally, you must properly look after them, right through their growing stage right to the time they are fully ready for harvest.
How best can you care for them?
Below are some interesting tips to help you all the way:
Make sure the soil you grow your lentils in is moist at all times.
Water them not more than twice a week. Lentils love the heat, so you might want to avoid watering them when the pods are just starting to dry up;
Ensure water doesn't rise to the soil level;
One of the best ways to ensure you'll be providing your lentils plant with enough nutrients, that they'd need, is to add compost to your planting beds;
Try to always keep the soil pH level at nothing above 7.0;
As your lentils plants mature, you might need to add a support system to prevent the plant from bending over, and falling off before full maturity;
Weed out every weed.
That sounded like a tautology, but I'm sure you get the idea. Spend some time removing any unwanted plants that could compete with your lentils for survival. Don't forget that you need your plants to be as fruitful as possible. You can check this list of the best weed killers for gardens and choose what suits you.
So, be sure to be a faithful gardener and do the needful.
Lentils plants don't need much of nitrogen until right after their germination and that's what's the inoculant you use on the seeds is for.
So, when fertilizing, try to focus more on providing them with potassium and phosphorus.
Phosphorus for enhancing good root development. Potassium, on the other hand, is mostly needed when the plants begin to flower. Here’s a great guide on the best slow-release fertilizers for flowering.
It helps to improve pod development, which means more harvest yield for you at the end of the day!
You can as well add some sufficient organic sources to the plants during the growing stage to ensure optimal development.
Sulfur is another nutrient your plants will love! But, if your soil is alkaline, which you must try to avoid at all costs, you might want to lay off on the sulfur supply.
Harvesting & Storing Your Lentils
So, now, it's 80–100 days of planting and time for harvest!
You, as Drake put it, "started from the bottom!"
Dedicated your time to planting your lentils seeds, caring for them while they're growing, weeding them, and now it's time to harvest them for consumption and/or sale.
You've done a whole lot on these plants to ensure a great harvest. So, I must congratulate you for pulling off this impressive feat!
Harvesting lentils, like propagating it, is not at all difficult.
However, you don't want to get this stage wrong.
And, that's why we're here for you!
According to the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, mature lentils tend to rattle when you shake them.
Also, when the bottom third of your lentils pod is brown or slightly yellow, then it means your lentils are fully mature and ready for harvest! Once you can confirm this, harvest your lentils by cutting off the plants.
Then, break the pods open and remove the seeds (which is what you're after, after all). Put the seeds out to dry for a while. Then rinse the seeds well. Dry them out again before going ahead to store them.
And, now, to lentils seeds storage!
And this begs the question, "How do you store your lentils seeds properly?"
Storing lentils seeds is as easy as ABC!
All you have to do is pour in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dry place. You can also add a food-safe desiccant to the container to keep the seeds dry.
Lentils Growing Problems
Lentils are very easy to grow. But, there are times things can go wrong. So, you have to make sure you have everything to prevent problems from coming up.
...which is why, you need to arm yourself with all the information you need, including these problems that may arise, to have yourself a fantastic time growing lentils.
Below are the diseases to look out for:
This a disease that causes your plants' leaves to yellow. You'll also notice some yellow, gray, or white powder spots on the leaves.
This fungus causes high humidity in your plants, leading the leaves to brown, with dark spots scattered in the plants' lesions center.
This is another problem you want to seriously avoid. It usually occurs during the flowering stage.
When your lentils are infected with the fungal disease, their leaves will begin to drop prematurely from the plant. This can inadvertently result in the plant dying.
A great way to prevent these diseases in your plants is to use disease-resistant lentils varieties. They might be a little on the high side. But, I tell you, they're definitely worth their weight in gold!
Pests are also lentils' serious enemies. They can ruin your plants and destroy your goals in a twinkle of an eye. These pests include cutworms, wireworm, aphids, and leaf weevil. To keep your lentils garden free from pests, you can fumigate your garden bed right before plants or use organic pest control methods.
When’s the Best Time to Plant Lentils?
Lentils would do well in any season as long as they have all they need to thrive. You can sow the seeds outdoors in springtime where they can absorb sufficient sunlight. Or, you can start them indoors with enough lighting until they sprout.
Where do Lentils Grow Best?
Lentils grow best in moist environments, whether you're growing indoors or outdoors. They also enjoy minimum heat. So, you should give them access to sufficient sunlight throughout their growing period.
How Many Lentils Seeds Are in a Pod?
You'd usually find between 1–3 seeds in one lentils pod. Sometimes, you might get lucky and get up to 4.
How Often Should I Eat Lentils?
Eat as often as you'd like but not way too much that that'd cause indigestion. Lentils are high in fiber and protein and these are compulsory nutrients you need daily for great health.
Lentils are delicious to have, whether as a side dish or a main course meal.
You completely agree with me and, this belief led you here today. To seek an end to the stress that accompanies shopping and walking the aisle of your fav grocery store, all just to find the perfect lentils to pick!
All this stress you can eliminate now that you know how to grow your own lentils. All you have to do is start them well and properly tend for them right until you're perfectly sure they're mature and ready for harvest.