If you’re thinking of growing some flax in 2013 but are wondering how much work is involved and how difficult it will be, here’s what she had to say in reply to my many questions regarding soil preparation and planting:
You are way overintellectualizing this whole process. As is typical for folks in N. America who have never done this, the emphasis is on "just the perfect plot and fertilizer, etc".
You should start hanging loose now. When we send out flax seed, we include an instruction sheet written by Virginia Parslow who once worked at the museum in Cooperstown, NY. She states that nearly every third flax crop planted by colonists went bad. The success rate by professionals is also not 100%.
Since flax does not like excess nitrogen, and we modern folk tend to overdo on nutrients, your intended patch ** is surely going to work. It just might happen , though, that you do everything correctly and nature does not cooperate - and you just have to be ready to try again.
This is something like learning to bake where you need experience to have good success and to know what success is, you need to experience at least difficulty if not some failings.
In preparation, I'd advise looking and touching commercial linen thread and fabric, visiting museums with vintage linen pieces - to get an idea of what you'd like to achieve.
What you really need to pay attention to are following:
- Location and moisture - flax likes to be shrouded in moisture during the
growing season. Proximity to a body of water is helpful. The group in Green
Bay had a plot near Lake Michigan that worked better than our backyard that
is inland. A low spot collects the dew better than a spot that is elevated.
Artificial watering, etc. is not ideal - the plant likes to have the right
conditions supplied by nature.
- Location and wind - flax likes to lodge quickly. Better than trace
elements and other weird stuff - do as I read in a 19th century German
book - for small plots put a chickenwire fence around the plot - 80cm if no
deer, higher if deer are present. Using baling twine, crisscross the plot in
an x - binding the twine on the corner fence posts. This keeps wildlife out
and the flax upright. Naturally some sort of windbreak ahead of your plot -
in the prevailing wind direction will also be helpful.
- Weeding barefoot at 10cm plant height is IMPERATIVE!!! If you miss weeds
at this point, there is no going back to get them later.
- Seed density at sowing influences fiber fineness. If the plants are too
far apart, the fibers will grow stronger and somewhat coarses. Thickly sown,
the fiber is finer - to a point - where it becomes weak and unusable.
Usually with hand sowing you get mixed density - just sort the plants a bit
at harvest time to put similar stalks together.
Makes the process look way less daunting, and I'm now prepared for potential failure if the weather doesn't co operate this year.
** This is the plot that Caitlin ffrench http://wewilltellyouallofoursecrets.blogspot.ca/ is going to grow at Means of Production garden http://moparrc.com/