All that hard work in the spring is beginning to pay off, and now almost every day there’s something to harvest in my kitchen garden. Today I thought I’ll give you a tour of how my dye plants are doing.
All my raised beds had to be carefully netted as there is a gang of bunny rabbits who like hanging around there. The netting certainly works against the rabbits, however I’ve now discovered some very beautiful bambi-style deer like hanging around there too. They’ve nibbled my newly planted apple trees and some of my raspberries too, which I am very upset about. Luckily so far they’ve left my dyeing plants alone.
My woad patch is doing well and needs to be thinned. I’ve already picked some of the smaller plants out, and they are sitting in a bucket with some water at the moment until I decide what to do with them. Apparently even the small plants already contain some blue colour so it may be worth making an indigo vat with them. But as I haven’t got that many leaves just yet, I might freeze the leaves until I have more of them. I’ve also planted a few of the thinnings in plastic pots, as an experiment, to see if they survive. They looked very unhappy for a day or two but I think they are picking up now. So I think I will plant the rest of the thinnings in pots, I just don’t want to lose any of my precious plants!
As there are some many natural plants in my garden – many of them weeds – that give you yellows it is almost not worth growing any just for that purpose. Weld (Reseda luteola) is of course the classic plant for yellow but mine just didn’t germinate, I don’t know what I did wrong.
Another dye plant for yellow is dyer’s chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria). It is such a cheerful looking plant that it definitely earns its space in the raised beds. Hoverflies and butterflies love it too.
I used to think tickseed was a pretty garish looking plant – until I saw Coreopsis tinctoria. It is a lovely airy sort of plant, and all the flowers seem to vary from plant to plant. Some have thin petals, others more substantial ones. If you like naturalistic sort of planting style, I definitely recommend it, it would look wonderful with different types of grasses. I grow mine in the kitchen garden because if they were in the flower beds, I wouldn’t want to pick the flowers. Now I love my daily round of harvesting them.
I pick the flowers every day or two, depending on the weather. As each little harvest does not yield an awful lot of flowers, I dry them and hopefully by the end of the summer I have a sufficient quantity for dyeing.