Tag Archives: Indigo

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Prepping  indigo seeds while madder silk soaks

8 Apr

While the silk sun soaks in the 6 year madder root I am prepping my indigo seedings.  

One fends off crickets and raccoons early on in the season with seedlings so I am trying a safe start on Harley’s sun porch. We’ll see how that works out. 

I am prepping indigofera suffruticosa seeds, second generation from Donna Hardy’s South Carolina seeds. 

http://www.seaislandindigo.net/about/

Some of the plants left out in the terrace garden to overwinter are even putting out new growth. I have hopes that if they are protected from the north winter winds I can get them do their perennial thing.

http://www.cabi.org/isc/mobile/datasheet/28611

  

In addition, I am prepping Japanese Indigo or polygonum tinctorium seeds. These come from John Marshall and I am grateful to have them. I had total crop failure last year due to an irrigation dripline failing me mid-season in May. Due to family illness & death I could not save the plants so I’ll start a new seedbank this year. Not to mention a blue color source. John had written a nice indigo overview about the different indigo sprcies here:

http://johnmarshall.to/blog/2015/01/23/just-what-is-indigo/

And for guilds, he has written a nice guild to dyeing with Japanese Indigo, info here….

http://johnmarshall.to/blog/2015/02/05/dyeing-with-fresh-leaf-indigo-limited-edition-2/

I’ll finish with a intriguing yucca madder test piece. As I “walk” my cat here in the Texas Hill Country I’ve been scraping yucca to see if it can be separated for thread.  I had a piece handy and tossed it into a madder exhaust bath and it picked up the color beautifully….

 

Not sure what direction this will go but it is percolating…. 

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Taos Earth Palette

9 Dec

Indigo dye pots from top to bottom:
1. Chemical pot with hide glue
2. Fructose with a 24 hour rest
3. Aloe pot
4. Fructose with no rest.

Thanks so much to Diane DeSouza for teaching the class and Taos Wool Festival for sponsoring the Earth Palette Dye conference.

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