A Hope-filled Plan: Dye Garden
For all the successes that I’ve had with welcoming volunteers into our yard, our raised bed gardens have failed miserably the last couple years. In all fairness, the weather in St. Louis is shit for most of the “growing season”. Last summer we had record droughts, a truly inhumane number of days over 100F, and record lows for the Mississippi river (which are still in effect). I planted radishes in the beginning of June that finally germinated a month later and didn’t grow an inch until mid-September. The harvest, if I’d picked it, would have come in October. I kid you not. Radishes typically go from seed to harvest in roughly a month. That should tell you how bad it was.
So this year, I’m doing something totally different. I’m planning a dye garden instead. Who needs food, anyway? It’s kind of surprising how few places have a fully stocked catalog of dye plants. I ended up ordering seeds from 2 different places—The Woolery and Horizon Herbs. After I’d already ordered from the other two, I found this shop. Harold has a great assortment of seeds! I look forward to ordering from this shop in the future.
Here’s what I got:
- Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)
- Madder (Rubia tinctorum)
- Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
- Our Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum)
- Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus)
- Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
- Dyer’s Woodruff (Asperula tinctoria)
- Woad (Isatis tinctoria)
- Weld (Reseda luteola)
I’m hoping to add black hollyhock, coreopsis, and blue false indigo to the list, as well. To my knowledge, none of the above plants are native to my region, although many have been naturalized. However, coreopsis (coreopsis tinctoria) and false indigo (baptisia australis) are. There is a variety of nettle native to North America, but I didn’t find it offered at either of the seed companies I used. My hope is to eventually have a dyer’s garden that is at least in part native varieties. I already have pokeweed, goldenrod, and elderberry growing in my yard, and I’m trying to figure out what else I can grow. The majority of native dye plants from this region (that I know of) are trees. Not the easiest thing to toss into an urban garden. But I think this will be a good start. I kind of missed the boat for planting native seeds this year—most need a good period of wet/cold to germinate, and the recommended time to plant is in December or the very beginning of January. I am hoping to add a number of native varieties this spring, though, by ordering actual plants The very excellent (and friendly) Missouri Wildflowers Nursery sells both seed and plants. My wish list is loooooooooong. Lol.
Now, where to put it all…
Do any of you have dyer’s gardens? What do you grow? Any growing tips? I’d love to hear!
Live happy, dye happy! And get dirty!