Archive | Indigo Suffrucitosa RSS feed for this section

Footprint of Indigofera Suffruticosa in a home garden

25 Mar

One of my indigo friends asked me a very good question.  How much space does Indigo Suffruticosa take up?  So I went out and measured my bushes in my garden.  Understand that the info provided here is based on an experimental garden location in the Texas Hill country in an irrigated terrace area.  I could grow more but had to know if the plant would survive, provide indigo and seeds.  We are all learning.  I happen to be a couple of years ahead of you.  Keep in mind we are all in different growing regions.

In case you don’t have your seeds yet, they are available here. SOLD OUT FOR 2018!

Exposure I placed the plants in three different exposures, full west sun, morning sun with afternoon protection and limited sun with deer exposure.  All three exposures have worked.

Water My spacing is based on protected areas within reach of my irrigation line or spray locations.  Your garden may differ.  Bear in mind, your plant needs some water about 3 times a week, no matter how it is delivered to the plant.  I happen to use alkali well water for my irrigation.  Your plant will be grateful for any water delivered to it no matter what PH.

Spacing Individually, at full leaf bearing size an individual plant takes up a 2′ by 2′ space with heights ranging from 4′ to 8′.  I do trim my bushes to keep branches from breaking in our wind storms.  We are both happy at the enforced 5′ height.   I have let multiple bushes grow together at 2/3 per bunch.  One always becomes the dominant plant.  I let the others come along for the ride as long as they give me leaves, if they don’t play well with the main bush they are cut back.

img_1706-1

Bed Size  East Morning Sun Bed is 8′ (space limited) with 17 plants and West Sun bed is 9′ (limited due to west exposure/would they live – yes) with about 10 plants.  Both beds are 3 feet wide and the plants are staggered at 2 plants deep.  These photos are of the late winter beds so forgive the weeds and scraggly appearance.

Finally, I am on “bud watch” right now.  The plants are still dormant, the ground temps are not yet warm enough but we are very close to bud break on the plants that have survived.  In my area the bushes live about 3 years.  If we get a hard freeze I can loose all the plants.  We did have several days of 14-16 degree weather here so it is possible not all the bushes will come back.  I do start new plants, which do yield indigo in the first year and will plant them in once I see who has survived.  Typically I pull the dead plants, give everything a good feeding and put in the new plants for the season.

Closeup of the branches I am watching for the buds to break on new stems and leaves.

I understand fully why folks have cultural blessings for their plants for a good yield and growing season.  I have said a couple of those prayers or curses myself over the leaf cycle.  May your growing season be joyful and curses be few.

SOLD OUT FOR 208 Indigofera Suffruticosa Seeds for sale

2 Mar

Ok folks, here you go….Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds for sale in my Etsy Shop, ColorsOfMy Valley, which is located here.  SOLD OUT FOR 2018!

Offered just in time to start your seed trays.  THIS IS NOT JAPANESE INDIGO!

img_1609

 It is Indigofera Suffruticosa or Anil De Pasto from the warmer climates.  You can give a try growing it in colder climates.  With protection it might be a perennial but I think it will turn annual on you with hard freezes and snows.  Not a hardship, if you can get it to seed stage you can replant for the next season.

It starts out small in the seed trays, without trimming the shrub can get to 7+ feet.

I place about 4-8 seeds in each tray to start my seedlings.  Here in the Texas Hill Country my biggest enemy behind drought is the crickets.  I hold my seedlings in a protected area from frost and crickets and plant out when it is safe.  They are mulched well.   Tiny crickets can take your seedlings out early in the season, larger grasshoppers come for your leaves in the fall, be aware!  Also give the shrubs room to spread.  You can see from the photo above that untrimmed the suffruticosa will go for the sky.  The hummingbirds love to hang out in the branches and visit the flowers.

When they are happy, they grow, produce indigo leaves, flowers and finally seeds.  The curved pods resemble banana bunches.  My shrubs have usually lasted 3 years. Very hard freezes can take them out. The prior season shrubs put out new branches fairly early.  I pull the dead shrubs and put in the new seedlings in to fill the space.

These shrubs fill in nicely, can take east and west exposures with irrigation.  I am testing them this year to see if the deer will much on them.   My crops are grown in a protected area the deer cannot access.   The flowers are lovely and the birds love the branches thru the winter to perch on.  The hummingbirds use them for launching sites in the early spring.  They are pleasant plants to have in the garden, they add height and take trimming in stride.  But of course, it is all about the leaves!  I trim my shrubs to shape and strip the leaves off of the smaller stems.  I weigh my stripped leaves at this point to keep track of the color intensity yielded.

If you use fresh leaf extraction you are limited by the leaves you’ve harvested.  I tend to do several harvests a year and dye skeins over the year.  Building the layers as the leaves grow.  Be patient.  Of course you can also extract the pigment and save it for one annual dye bath.  I simply prefer to continue to experiment with what each harvest gives me.

   This shirt and silk skeins are from one dip in the fresh leaf fructose vat.  One of the skeins has been dipped twice.

IMG_7553

I am also experimenting with drying this indigo species leaves to see how it work for indigo leaf storage and fructose pot production.  That will show up on my blog also when I have a few more results to add.

img_1233

Freeze dried Indigo Suffruticosa leaves waiting for experimentation. 

Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds for sale in my Etsy Shop, ColorsOfMy Valley, which is located here.  SOLD OUT FOR 2018! One packet should be plenty to get you started with questions and leaves for you to experiment with!

Sharing a Texas Winter Dye Garden

25 Feb

Today I hosted 3 UT Art Graduate students and showed them the winter dye garden. Even though all outside was frozen or dormant there was plenty of color in the studio to show them. It was a fun 3 hours of give and take and seeing the art world thru their eyes.

The indigo suffruticosa is cut back and dormant but the seed pods were beautiful.

The madder root bed was frozen back but we weeded and looked at the roots gleaming with color.

The Japanese Indigo beds lay fallow waiting for their early spring turning of the soil. Some frozen indigo leaves showed their true colors.

Final Harvest

11 Jan

Finally! All indigofera suffruticosa seed polls cracked, hulled & winnowed except for a couple of renegade pods. The winds were useful today. Next up winnowing Japanese Indigo seeds.

Indigofera Suffruticosa Seed harvest

13 Dec

As the growing season winds down and winds and freezes become more frequent one begins to harvest the remaining leaves from the freezes and check the seed harvest status.  Like little bunches of bananas the indigo seed pods darken from green to brown to black and start to reveal glimpses of tiny black seed pods.

img_1270

I usually cut back my indigo after the first freezes so that the branches don’t break in the winter winds.  I leave some up for the migrating hummingbirds to use in the late winter for observation perches.  The stems that hold the seed pods are tough.  It is easier to pull them off the same time you harvest the remaining indigo leaves before the “winter” trim.  One runs the odds of leaving leaves on the branches against the odds of a wet week that will soak seed pods and frozen leaves.  The weather forecast becomes a thing of great interest!  But the longer one leaves the seed pods on, the better they ripen and are easier to harvest.

img_1272

You can see in the photo below the “not quite ripe” against the “bursting and fling the seed out” pods.  Greenish versus brown/black finishes give you the signal.  Hence the wait for ripening against the rain gamble.

img_1254

Usually I process in stages, cut some branches, strip out the seed pods and the frozen leaves, set the pods aside, finish up the leaf processing and let the pods continue to dry out.  They are easier to process when dry.  A bit of my leaf harvest is written about in this blog entry.

Below you see my processing station of the dried seeds in my red garden holding bucket.   My winnowing silver bowl, my two kitchen strainers with appropriate hole size, a trash bucket for hulls and my faithful molcajete for breaking the pods for seed extraction.  img_1261

When the pods are dry they crack much easier when pressure is lightly applied by the molcajete grinding stone to break the bond.

img_1267

The lightly crushed pods are put thru the two sieve process and manually stirred to release the seeds.  Husks go into the black bucket for one last look for more seeds.

img_1266

The seed harvest is set aside to winnow in the winds to cull out the smaller husks and chaff.  If you pick over your starting seed pods and cull the green immature pods your final effort will result in a good seed harvest for next year’s use.  This is not a high tech process, just time and patience that gets you in position for next year’s planting.

img_1269

Frozen indigo suffruticosa & test bed sites

9 Dec

After the great Texas blizzard of 2017 the remaining frozen indigo needs some attention. You can see how much indigo remains in the Indigo Suffrucitosa. I will pick and strip them before the winds take them down for me.

My day will be spent slowly trimming more branches in anticipation of the winter winds.

Slow is the operative word as I am still recovering from an October back TLIF surgery. I’ve graduated from my cane, I can start driving in a limited basis and start physical therapy next week to restore my core strength. I had a major victory this morning when I could lace my boots myself. My husband is glad to see me further along the recovery road also. I had a set back earlier this week when I tried to do too much too soon. My body set me straight yesterday. Patience is not one of my virtues. Gardening and the dye pot help some.

Besides harvesting the frozen leaves indigo the seeds have matured and need to be gathered, dried and winnowed.

I am amazed to report that this year’s volunteer crop outside the fence line did not get a nibble this season from the ever insatiable deer herd. Next year I will get more ambitious and purposely plant seed along the irrigation line.

The test bed on the west side did well above my expectations. It was exposed to the hot August and September sun and held up. More will be planted there next year. I think regular irrigation will make that a viable bed for future use.

The Japanese Indigo has gone for the season. The seeds are drying and the bed needs to be cleared.

The critter that cannot be caught waited politely thru the growing season before making an incursion under my Fort Indigo fence. We will continue our quest to capture & relocate the grub digger.

Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday and a New Year as the year draws to an end. If I decide to sell seeds for next spring I will post here. Enjoy your garden dreams for 2018.

End of Season Indigo Chores

25 Oct

We have frost in our Hill Country weather forecast this weekend. With my recent back surgery I can’t go into physical overdrive but with my husband’s help I can pull in both indigo species seeds for drying and trim some Indigo Suffruticosa leaves to dry.

The Japanese Indigo seeds below are set out to dry before separating from blooms. There is another leaf bed to harvest but I am saving those for a John Marshall study group project. Hopefully, the freeze is just a forecast not a reality.

Above are the banana shaped Indigo Suffrucitosa seed pods. See the black seeds peeking at you?

And finally the leaf stripping station. Truly high tech, I strip the leaves off the stems. Easier now rather than later. The fresh leaves will be weighed and after drying I’ll weigh the yield. Like that back brace? It will be my friend for the next 90 days while my bone grafts heal. Oh goodie.

This batch will go into my leaf drying mesh bag and left out for a couple of days. By then the bugs will decamp and I can transfer the batches to rubber tubs for long term drying indoors.

These tubs show dried batches from earlier this year. All are Indigo Suffrucitosa except the lower right hand which is Japanese Indigo.

In the end the process is easy to fit into my lifestream and I can focus on growing the indigos, dry them and run dye pots later. Its all about focus at the proper time. I’ve been collecting quantity stats to see what amount of color I can expect each season. The indigo left on my plants today will probably be my freeze dry stash for the year. We trimmed the plants for the winds so here’s hoping for a dry hard freeze when old man winter does hit.

Here is a photo from last year’s freeze dry experiment. It worked! 100 grams yielded this color on 340 grams of silk. Granted it is not a dark blue but I am testing the process for my Indigo Suffruticosa that works for dried Japanese Indigo. It worked well enough that next time I am cranking up the dry leaf quantity to see how blue I can go with dried indigo, more words on that in another blog entry. And of course, these skeins will go in to get darker.

In the larger scheme of dye life it is about what colors you can grow, the easiest process to use what one harvests and how to get darker colors and fitting it into your daily rhythm. We do it because we can. Enjoy your harvest.

Volunteer Indigo

25 Aug

Out inspecting the indigo status in my gardens. Marveling at the huge volunteer Indigo Suffrucitosa outside my dye patio that has defied the deer. I think I better trim it before Harvey's wind & rains arrive.

Fort Indigo, Armadillos & Failure

16 Aug

Sometimes life or armadillos get in the way of gardening.  Throw in seed misfires and you have to work on acceptance and rework with reality.

I am participating in an indigo study project (link) and was ready to start my spring garden.  http://johnmarshall.to/TSG/TadeaiStudyGroup.htm

So when I asked John Marshall, my group coordinator, for the test seeds I was very early as he was still suffering thru late frosts and had not thought about seedlings yet.  So my seeds would be in the mail soon but not yet.  No worries, I had my own seeds to prep.

Here in my part of the Hill Country starting a garden involves indigo seed pack trays in late March.  One cannot plant direct into the garden as we have crickets that are born hungry once they hatch when the earth gets warm.  So you hold your plants in a protected area until after the cricket hatchlings have grown up and moved on. No problem, I started my own seeds for both Japanese Indigo and Indigo Suffruticosa.  These grew happily in their bug safe area and I rotated them in the sun to harden them and strengthen the seeds.

IMG_8460

I plant both Japanese Indigo and Indigo Suffruticosa, just for info here is a comparison of those seedlings and why I label my trays.  Not much visual difference in the seedlings at the beginning.

My problems started when I prepped my indigo beds.  I broke the earth and worked in more soil.  By the end of the growing season the irrigation lines do a little dance and get out of line when they run so I always reset them in the soil and anchor them so they don’t dance early in the season.  As I let them run to check for leaks I mark where the drip hole is so that I can drop in my seedlings where they get the best water.  It’s not tough but is time consuming to turn the earth, place the markers and clean out the clay balls that turn up when you till.  Here you can also see my madder root at the top of the photo.  This has to be trimmed back and roots pulled to keep the madder root in its place.  Or attempt to keep the madder root in its place.

IMG_8496So you can imagine my muttering when I came out the next day ready to drop the plants in the prepared bed and either an armadillo, skunk or raccoon had come out to help me in my garden.  All the lines were pulled up and holes dug randomly thru the bed.  After serious grumbling I put out the live trap for a week and kept rotating my indigo seedlings in their safe room.  Note my white markers that I carefully put by my drip hose have been tossed around.  Plus holes dug everywhere, if I could only harness that energy.

IMG_8921

Well, the damn varmint just came coming back and digging and succeeding in tipping out the food without tripping the trap.  Yes, I know if we had dogs we would not have these critter issues.  I am just not a dog person.  I was running out of time due to some travel plans so I constructed Fort Indigo.  A combination of old lattice frames, gates and garden wire.   I reset the garden prep and watched it for another week to see if that would stop the digging.  Whoever did try to get in and wandered thru the outside madder root but my small fort seemed to hold them at bay.

So I dropped my seeds into place by the drip irrigation water outlets and moved forward.  Half of the Japanese Indigo bed was my indigo seed I receive about 5 years ago from Donna Hardy, Sea Island Indigo, in the southern part of the US that I have faithfully renewed my seeds each season.  Half of the bed was reserved for my project seeds that I received and started later in the month.  In keeping with the “it’s a bad year for gardening”, only 5 seeds germinated out of two 24 seed tray, so much for my project participation with this round of indigo seedlings.

IMG_9640

I have no explanation as to why these seeds did not germinate.  It is the same seed starter soil, the same environment and watering sequence.  Zip, nada but a few seedlings in the starter trays.  In addition, I direct sowed extra seeds to see if I could jumpstart the project.  Not one sprouted, either in the direct prepped bed or the starter trays.

The other item we considered is that I received older seeds from a prior year stock.  It happens to the best gardeners.  Japanese Indigo seeds are only viable for one year so it is entirely possible I got a batch from a prior year harvest since I started earlier than John  expected.  So….I am going to try again with what we know is this year’s seeds and do a late season harvest if I can get them up and going before an October freeze.  At a minimum I do have my own Japanese Indigo growing so I will have some to dry for use later in the season.

IMG_9656

One must have hope as a gardener.  And practice acceptance.  Blue will come again.

Proof of prior success, but failure in the garden happens.  If all else fails, there is always weeds to pull!

 

Dye Garden Storm casualties

24 Jul

Some walking wounded plants in the dye garden. We had a severe thunderstorm roll thru this afternoon. Fortunately no hail but wicked NW winds at about 40-50 mph. Hopefully the madder and Japanese indigo will raise their heads with the sun tomorrow. The indigo suffrucitosa did ok as it is sheltered from the winds. I Imagine I will be drying some Japanese indigo earlier than planned if the stems broke.

Madder root blow over, not bad grown for roots so just need to keep alive.

Sad Japanese Indigo, I hope it pulls thru as I don't have much.

Indigo Suffrucitosa still standing!

%d bloggers like this: