Posts Tagged ‘madder’


Flax – June 3, 2013

March 13:


Cotton Seedlings – June 3, 2013

Cotton seeds planted: Mississippi Brown, Erlene’s Green and Sea Island (white).

After a few days of inactivity, I added a heat mat under half of the pots, and by March 22- 23 there were 3 plants in the heated pots.

The others are starting to sprout too, so it may be chance, but I’ll use the heat mat from the start next time.

April 13:

A month later, and the second leaves are developing on the first cotton seedlings. I’m careful to water them from the bottom now, and once they are a little bigger, I’ll find them some bigger pots in which to spend the summer.

Also coming along are Japanese Indigo and more Madder seedlings, as well as various tomatoes from seed saved from last year’s crop. Last thing planted was Calendula, which haven’t appeared yet.

May 24:

Flax are now planted in the allotment garden – I used about 1 1/4 pounds on an area 30 x 15 feet. It doesn’t look that thickly sown.

June 4:

Flax is doing well in the cold, wet weather we’ve had lately. Cotton is still small and could use more sun and warmth. I’ve just moved the pots into the screen porch where the sun exposure is better. Woad is now sown in the allotment plot and Madder transplanted into the ground. Calendula and j. Indigo are next to go outside.


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CottonBlossomThere are a few seeds that I like to order and start early as they require a long growing season. The first of these is cotton. It is hit or miss trying to get mature bolls in my climate zone (3), but I try anyway as it’s a nice plant with a beautiful, if short-lived, flower. This year I’ve ordered Erlene’s Green Cotton, Mississippi Brown Cotton and Sea Island White Cotton from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I still have plenty of Uplands Cotton seeds from my 2011 crop, so I’ll likely plant some of those too.

Last year’s cotton plants were rather sickly, so I only got a few stunted bolls, and I’ll discard any seeds that formed as I’d rather start with healthy seeds.

My second order was for Japanese Indigo (Dyer’s Knotweed) seeds. I’ve planted some of these directly in the garden, but they had only started to bloom when the season ended. I brought a few indoors and they have continued to produce blooms, but it doesn’t look like there’s much viable seed there and now they are dying back. I’m ordering these again from Companion Plants – one of the few seed houses I’ve found that carries them.

Third order is more Madder seed. My 2 year-old plants looked good last summer, but so far none have produced any blooms or seeds. I’d like to get some more plants going, and I’ll also try to start some from cuttings. Madder seeds germinate reliably and it’s nice to have a sure-bet in the flats. These I get from Horizon Herbs, and they are also hard to find.

I think I now have a life-time supply of woad seeds after letting a few plants over-winter and bloom. Just have to remember to scatter them once the ground is bare. Another plant that’s easy to grow.

The rest of the cold months should be dedicated to spinning and mordanting a supply of yarn so that I’ll be ready to go when the dye plants are ready to harvest next summer.

Next on the order list is fibre flax seed – still need to calculate how much I can reasonably sow in a limited space before I place my order.

It’s never too early to start planning next summer’s garden – hope you enjoy the process as much as I do.

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First Wax Beans - 2012

First Wax Beans – 2012

This is the first picking of beans for this year. There are now plenty of yellow (wax) and green beans that are almost ready to eat, so it’s time to find some good recipes so we don’t get tired of beans every day…

It’s been very hot and dry until last night when it finally rained and cooled off some. Even though it’s been hot, I think the garden is off to a slower start than last year.

Here are some late-July shots to show how everything looks today:


Tomatoes are forming, but are still green so far:

Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes









New leaves on Cotton

The cotton didn’t go outside as early as last year, and hasn’t even formed squares yet. There is some new growth, so I’m still hopeful that some bolls will have time to develop.



Madder – second year










The second year Madder withstood the dry conditions extremely well and is very glossy and prickly.








And the new Black Walnut seedling has been planted at a good distance from the garden. It’s looking very well!

Black Walnut seedling

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Today the flax fibres can be separated easily from the smooth central core and reasonably well from the outer bark layer, so it looks like retting is complete. It’s been rinsed and is lying out in the sun and I will try breaking it in a few days once it’s dry. Most of this flax straw is about 30 inches long. This year’s crop is still a little shorter, and is blooming beautifully.

The dye plants are coming along (shown are Bedstraw, Weld and Japanese Indigo in front of the flax patch), although I’d like to see a greater quantity of leaves to harvest for dyeing. The best performer in the dye garden is the Japanese Indigo. The Madder plant that I pulled up by mistake had lovely orangey roots.

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Yellow Bedstraw

We’re expecting rain this afternoon and it’s been overcast, so I planted some of the dye plants that were started indoors and spread the flax seed in the garden.

The easiest dye plant to grow was the madder, but all the others did well too. Now out in the garden are madder, woad, weld, golden marguerite, dyer’s knotweed (aka Japanese Indigo) and yellow bedstraw.

I’ve kept back half of the dye plant seedlings just in case we have a late frost or a cutworm infestation.

The space allotted to the dye-plants is about 2 square meters, with another 2 meters or so for the flax. In order to increase the number of dye plants, I may tuck some into the flower borders.


Meanwhile, the lawn is sporting a nice crop of violets  and dandelions and the crab apples are just starting to bloom.

Crabapple Blossoms

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Madder is a dye plant used to produce red (turkey red). It was the hardest dye plant seed to find, with only two sources that I could discover: Horizon Herbs in Oregon, and Wild Colours in the UK. This one will also be a challenge as the roots are used for dyeing, and the plants need to grow for three years before harvesting. Indoor cultivation won’t be the answer, it’ll just have to survive outdoors.

I ordered my seed from Horizon Herbs, and it arrived almost by return mail!

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