Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My second year of growing flax for linen; what does the future hold?

This is my second year of growing flax for linen. Last year I planted roughly half of a 10 ft. x 20 ft. plot with flax. The other half of the plot consisted of Japanese indigo and a couple of marigold plants. In my previous posts about last year's garden, I gave the dimensions as 10x10, but it was actually 10x20, half of which I planted in flax.
This year I planted the full 10x20 plot in flax with a space running down the middle to make weeding easier. This equates to roughly 8 ft. x 20 ft. of flax.
It's been growing well, despite having been swamped by weeds when I was away for two weeks, and then spent a third week recovering from some nasty bug. Nevertheless, it's been weed free now for a couple of weeks and doing well.
Here is a picture of my plot of flax, next to which is my dye garden with marigolds, Japanese indigo, Hopi black sunflowers, and some nasturtiums, which are hidden (click on the pictures to see them larger):  

The thing of it is, I've recently found out that the seeds I've been using for my flax gardens are pre-treated with a chemical which is supposed to inhibit some of the common diseases that can affect flax plants. The chemical is nasty.
I don't really like the idea of using treated seed, and in fact it's against the rules of the community gardens where I have my plots because only organic methods are supposed to be used here.
What's doubly bad is that the type of seed I use is almost the only seed that's available anywhere in the US for fiber flax. It's a cultivar called Marilyn and comes from the Netherlands already pre-treated. I have found one, or possibly two, other types, but it looks like they may also be pre-treated.
So where does this leave me and the possibility of future flax gardens? I'm not sure. I can save my seed from this year and use it for next year's plot. The problem there is that I will not produce enough seed to plant the equivalent square footage. Last year's seed harvest was approximately 1/2 cup of seeds. I did use it to fill in some bare patches in this year's plot, and even though last year had some stressful conditions which I'm sure affected seed production, I'm pretty sure I won't get enough seed this year to plant next year's full plot.
So is this my last plot of fiber flax?:

I'll keep looking around for a seed source. My flax-to-linen experiment is ongoing. It takes more than one or two seasons to learn the exact right time to pull your flax, and exactly how long to rett it, and deciding which method to use, etc.
It's been an enjoyable experiment thus far, and I hope I can find a source of untreated fiber flax seeds so that I can continue the experiment into the future. 

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