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I'm excited about actually being around to garden this year. I do some every year, but since I've been moving around so much it's been limited for a while. I have no plans for moving, should be around the majority of the spring, summer, and fall, and have space to do pretty much whatever I want. However, the space is sort of daunting. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew. I'm planning on sharing a garden with my parents, so we will decide on vegetables together, and do the maintenance together. I'm trying to decide if there is anything special I want to grow in separate spaces.  I want to have a kitchen herb garden next to the house / in containers on the deck. There are vegetables and herbs for indian, thai, and medieval foods that I am interested in trying, but I'll probably stick to the ones easiest to grow this year. I might like to try growing some plants specifically for dying. In the long-term, I would really like to make a medieval style segmented garden, but that is a long-term project and not my priority this year, so I think I'll just try out some of the plants and perhaps start clearing the ground for future projects like this.

I also want to try growing flax for processing into fiber. This seems like the sort of thing I can start out now and will take a bit of time over an extended period until it's time to deal with processing it, so it's probably something I can handle. Does anyone have experience growing flax? I'd like to know where you get your seeds and any things I should keep in mind while planning out whereto put it...

Also, who grows plants for dying? I'm most interested in medieval stuff, since that's our geek, but I'm open to more. I haven't done a ton of dying, but am interested in paving the way to doing it in the future now that I have more of my own space.  

Oh yeah, and what are your favorite sources for heirloom seeds and plants?

Date: 2011-03-15 05:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Brigit grows plants for dyes.

Date: 2011-03-15 05:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So, I have lots of comments ;)

First, go buy "Gardening West of the Cascades", as our climate is crazy and the back of seed-packets is often not helpful here.

Flax is an annual plant, so until you are ready to process it, don't start a patch of it!
Go read this article:
It says you need 46 POUNDS of flax to make a modest sized shirt. The people who I've seen growing flax grow it by the field. Shrug. Yeah, it would be super-cool to have a thing made of home-grown flax, but be prepared for a large area dedicated to flax if you want a thing made from it....

As to dye can collect several of them as weeds locally, and for the same reason, I would strongly suggest NOT growing most of them in your garden, as they are invasive weeds that get out of hand (and out of garden) very fast. Additionally, several are a pain to grow, and likely would not have been produced "at home" in the middle ages. They were grown commercially, in large fields, very early.
At least for Viking Age, the top three dyes were madder, woad, and weld.
Madder is a PAIN to grow, it takes a long time, and you have to harvest the roots. Like, good color from 3 year-old roots...
Woad is a horrible, awful, evil, yucky, all-bad weed. If you want some, go to Northern California, witness the destruction it has wreaked on the landscape, and pick a truck-full. DON'T GROW THE STUFF IN OREGON!
I don't know as much about weld, except that the actual chemical constituent in the dye is also available in our already established Scotch Broom. I find NO reason to introduce a new weed (or take up room in my garden) to get a chemical that grows on every hillside.

As far as I can tell, most home dyers would have purchased most of their dye, or gathered it wild. There are TONS of good things to gather around here, and it is often cheaper and easier to just take a trip to where it grows as a weed than try to grow it in your garden.

Date: 2011-03-15 09:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I meant that I won't have to process the flax until it's grown - as in not this month. I have plenty of space (up to an acre really) to grow and process it, and am doing it largely for the experience, not to go into production, so the ick factor isn't a big deal for me.

And ok, I won't grow woad. ;-)

Date: 2011-03-15 09:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh yeah, and that article is what had me thinking it might be fun to mess around with some flax. Is open on my computer right now... I just want to try it out, not start a commercial venture or weave a whole shirt.

Date: 2011-03-15 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If you do decide to grow flax, make sure you're not buying flax seed that has been bred to make linseed oil. It isn't as strong a fibre but you'll have lovely big heads that can be used for extracting linseed oil. I no longer have a seed source as I gave up on it years ago and the company I got the seed from is no longer in business. Listen to what gargoyal3 said about it. I was only growing it so that I could have some samples for when I teach a class on medieval fibre production and manufacture.

Madder doesn't grow especially well in the Pacific NW. It doesn't like winters here (even though they're pretty mild in comparison to other areas.) Make sure that your microclimate is warmer than usual and take exta care to mulch in the fall. (Fall City Herb Shop is where I used to get plants, not seeds, but I don't know if they still do madder. The last time I took woad seeds to them, they'd lost all their madder plants that winter, so I ended up getting other things instead.)

Woad: no. It's a noxious weed and is illegal to grow in most areas. I used to grow some, but I was very careful to keep the seeds from getting away. (It's rather labor intensive to put little paper bags over each and every head. But then, I always had enough seeds to trade for plants at the Fall City Herb Shop. I'd drive up there for it. I don't know if they ship plants or if they'd still be willing to trade seeds for plants.)

Weld is easy to grow and can give you enough to play with in a small space. I don't know where I got my plants (?Nichols, ?Portland Nursery, ?Fall City Herb), but I haven't grown it in years.

You have to be a nursery with special facilities to grow indigo here. It's not a temperate climate plant.

Shoot, I used to have tons of plants that were used for dyes in my garden (when I had a big garden), but I haven't done it in years. I don't know where you'd get the stuff here now, but I do know that I got most everything on my medieval dyers list locally as plants. (I still have pictures of some of them.)

Date: 2011-03-15 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've found several places that sell seeds for fiber flax vs seed flax, so far that is covered. And yes, I'm not planning on trying to grow enough to make a shirt - I'm just thinking it could be fun to try out the process and make some cool tools to try using... I'm one of those weird process-oriented people where sometimes the process means more than the result. And I have the space to do it - up to an acre really if I went nuts and decided to grow more after trying out a smaller patch this year. Somehow I don't suspect I'll love it that much... but who knows, I get these crazy ideas. :-P

Hmmm... well, I'll probably hold off on specific dye plans for now then. It's something I can investigate more in the future if I am so motivated. Thanks for the info - it's faster to ask what people's experiences have been than try to figure it all out for myself! I certainly have enough other things to pursue for now. I'm also considering growing some other grain varieties to process... maybe not this year though. I may just have a big block of flax this year, and then move on to another experiment next year...

Date: 2011-03-15 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wanted to try the methods of processing flax too. Unfortunately, I could only find seed flax, which didn't even make it out of the retting stage. Very disappointing! (I like to do things to learn the process too.)

Date: 2011-03-21 05:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're better at this than I am, I can't find fiber flax seeds. Though admittedly I have has precious little time to search. Where did you find them? Weirdly I am also trying to grow a very small sample of flax this year.

Date: 2011-04-09 11:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks for your share! very impressive!

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