It’s been an educational summer learning about growing dye plants (for dyeing cotton for my art). After the great stone retaining walls created terraces in our new yard, the WWOOFers and I developed a long narrow plot on one of these terraces to grow dye plants.
Finding the seeds for dye plants is a little tricky, and I share my sources in this post.
My mid-season failures and fights with deer, dogs, and slugs are noted here.
Now, we are nearing the end of the season, and I can report on what worked and what needs to be re-worked for next year’s dye plot. (NOT die plot, as in cemetery!)
The dye plant seeds that didn’t even germinate/grow/survive the slugs:
- Tansy (although I dug some up from the roadside, transplanted it and it is showing new growth now.)
- Stinging nettle (I know, why would anyone want to grow this????)
- Our Lady’s Bedstraw
- Elecampane (turns out it’s a medicinal plant as well)
The deer regularly hopped into the dye garden past my flimsy barriers. Next year, gates and fences that they can’t see through. The only plant that seemed to be tasty to them is the Sumac.
When the weather turned record-breakingly warm and dry, those pesky slugs ceased to be a problem. I don’t think it had much to do with my many slug remedies, though!
And, partial successes:
- Woad – only two plants survived the poor germination record here, but they grew quite big and I may get one or two Woad Balls out of them:
- Pomegranate – I bought a plant from the nursery, which has grown quite a bit, but no sign of fruit
- Marigolds – in spite of their severe early scalping by the slugs, the hot weather proved to be a huge boon to them, and they produced like crazy
- Coreopsis – Huge bushy plants and so many flowers and seeds to plant next year, down in the lower yard though, because they almost took over the dye garden. Deer don’t like Coreopsis, so they’ll make great wildflowers:
- Madder – after a slow start, these vine plants got happy. They’re perennials, and need to grow for at least 3 years before their roots and stems can be harvested for the red-orange dyes they’re famous for. Neither slugs nor deer like them:
I’m looking forward to learning from my mistakes, once I make time to do more research.