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Posts Tagged ‘fibre plants’

P1000692The flax in my community garden plot is growing nicely. It’s blooming and just starting to show some yellow in the stalks and some seed heads. The soil here is loose and very nice to work with – weeds pull out easily.

When the flax was about a foot tall, I added some string that criss-crosses the patch at a foot or so above the ground, to try and keep it from falling over in high winds. It seems to have helped, as we’ve had a few storms and it’s still standing.

The seed was planted on May 24th, so it should be ready to harvest in a few more weeks. Once there’s more yellow on the stalks, it’s probably ready to pull.

Here’s hoping we have a nice sunny spell when it’s ready to be dried.

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cotton seedlings with watering cords

I’ve found that cotton seedlings need just the right amount of water – too much or too little and they go limp. They also seem to prefer to be watered from the bottom, and develop nice strong, deep roots even before the leaves are abundant.

This is fine if you have them in pots with saucers that you can pour into, but I still have most of my seedlings in smallish pots grouped on the lid of a rubber storage bin.

The best solution I’ve found is to cut a piece of thick cotton cord (the kind found in fabric shops) and push one end down to the bottom of the pot and put the other end into a bowl of water. Capillary action will draw moisture up the cord and into the soil in the pot. It’s also helpful if you will be away and unable to water the pots for a few days. The water reservoir can handle a number of pots.

I would love to start hardening them off, but the weather stays stubbornly cold and wet, so they’re going to be inside with me for a while yet.

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First Cotton Seedlings

This is the second year (third for flax growing) of my project to produce cloth from my garden.

As I live in Ontario, Canada (not exactly in the heart of cotton country), I plant cotton seeds indoors well before the local growing season begins. Last year my cotton plants stayed in pots outside all summer and came indoors again in the autumn so the bolls could continue to ripen.

Four days ago I planted some of the seed saved from last year and today some have already germinated! I’m sure they were slower last year, but this time they are sitting on a heat mat which really speeds up germination (for seeds that like warm soil).

I have four varieties planted: Pima, Upland, Green and Brown.

If enough seeds germinate, I’ll try planting some out in the garden and depending on their progress, cover them with a hoop shelter in the fall if they need a little extra time to mature. Cotton has up to a 160 day growing cycle, which is a challenge, but the plants are attractive with lovely hibiscus-like blossoms. The fibre is fun to spin and, unlike flax, does not require a great deal of preparation.

Cotton spun on a spindle and plied on a wheel

Last summer I also grew my first Japanese Indigo plants and collected seed from a few plants that were brought indoors in the autumn at the blooming stage. It was hard to tell if the seed was maturing, or if the plants were just dying back, so I’ve put a few seeds between wet paper towels in a plastic tub to test their viability. They are starting to put out little shoots which is very promising.

If all goes well, I’ll be able to extract some indigo and dye a little of the cotton – adding blue to the natural colour pallet of white, green and brown.

The yarn shown was spun on my little takli spindle (shown) and then plied on my spinning wheel. It is not my home-grown cotton yet – I’m still practising with the cotton that came with the spindle from Joan Ruane. Many Thanks Joan!

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The cotton seeds that were planted on Feb 23 are progressing nicely, and show every intention of soon outgrowing their pots. The best performers are the brown and green cotton from Joan Ruane, followed by the Uplands cotton. My heat mat stopped working at some point, which may account for the lack of Pima seed germination so far.

The indigo planted on the same date is also growing, and has lovely delicate leaves.

I re-planted  both the indigo and the cotton about two weeks after the first go, so new plants are still appearing.

I’ve made one addition to my dye-plant list and ordered some Japanese Indigo seed, as I think it might survive outdoors in our Canadian zone 3b climate.

This is based on the excellent dye-plant information to be found at Leena Riihelä’s Riihivilla site – written in both Finnish and English. Her blog is exceptional and I wish I could travel to the Helsinki market where she and her husband Jouni, sell their lovely natural-dyed Finnsheep wool and mitten kits. These are also available on their website and the pictures are gorgeous. Leena provides a list of suppliers for Japanese Indigo seed and I ordered from Peter Borchard’s Companion Plants in Ohio.

A few warm days and some rain have greatly reduced the amount of snow in the yard, so Spring is definitely in the air.

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