I usually seed freely and thin out seedlings once I see how many germinated. This article appears in edition #273 of the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. The following morning, by inserting the white plastic spoon, I can check the colour of the solution which should have changed from dark green to clear yellow with a few blue streaks. Put the lid on, turn the heat low and simmer for 30 minutes. Planting woad seeds is the most common method of propagating this biennial. Generally, woad seeds are planted in early spring (March) directly in the garden in warmer climates or in seed trays in cooler climates. Woad has been part of traditional medicine for centuries. When to sow woad seeds will depend on your location. I may reheat the solution a couple of times. Put the leaves in a bucket of cool water to remove any dirt that might contaminate the dye extract. The flowers are powerfully, wonderfully fragrant and incredibly cheery. We gather, process, and package every seed variety we carry ourselves with love and care in small batches. This is one of the reasons I start my seeds indoors, even if I lose quite a few when transplanting. Growing from seed is a beautiful thing. Use secateurs to cut the woad leaves, avoiding old leaves with blue in the leaf stalk, and leaving as much leaf stalk behind as possible. apart, then just lightly and loosely covered with soil. Rotate the beds you use for woad from year to year. The leaves of woad vary in shape and color. Don’t harvest more than one third or at most half of the leaves on one plant. Royal Fern Plants – How to Grow Royal Ferns in The Garden. Keep the soil damp; I have found that the seeds generally germinate in about ten days. So, that is the type I grow. When to sow woad seeds will depend on your location. The Chinese woad was labeled Isatis indigotica. In addition to the usual nutrients (potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus) woad also benefits from calcium. Woad is a relatively easy plant to grow. You need to keep the soil wet during the first few weeks of the plant’s life until the taproots establish themselves. Although the seeds look similar to those of weeds, they have a distinct smell that is easily recognizable. Some people manage to get colour all the year round. In some regions, woad may be considered an invasive weed with restrictions. It’s the first-year during summertime its leaves that produce the blue dye. Each pod contains one seed. The plant produces more indigo when the weather is hot and sunny but once the plant has started to produce flower stems in early Spring the amount of indigo in the leaves rapidly diminishes, falling to zero when the plant is in full flower. Find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: Keep up to date with all that's happening in and around the garden. To dry woad seeds fully, cut the stalks when the seeds are mature, and hang them up to dry: Mature woad seeds on one of my first Chinese woad plants: If you do not wish to seed-save, you can dig up the plants in the winter before the ground freezes, or wait and dig them up in the spring before they bloom. Laws were eventually enacted to license and restrict its planting. A member of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae), woad (Isatis tinctoria) is a biennial plant with similar characteristics to Chinese Woad (Isatis indigotica). Woad will tolerate a certain degree of crowding but the leaves will be smaller on a plant with less space to grow. Luckily for those of us in USDA zones 5-6 here in New England, woad is a hardy biennial. To learn how to plant woad seeds in your own wildflower garden, keep reading. Woad (Isatis tinctoria) is a weed that produces a blue dye and was used extensively in Europe as a cheap means to dye clothing up until the 1500s before the discovery of indigo in America. Woad seeds are seeds planted in a flower patch, requiring a farming level of 25. Woad needs full sun as much as it needs water to produce a good indigo crop. The benefits of mulch are abundant from water retention to soil aeration, both of which are needed to grow woad. Too many weeds, especially grasses, make harvesting the woad leaves slow and difficult. It is best to collect the seed and then plant it the following spring. So there’s always room to improve on the woad species you plant and find a hybrid that gives you better results. High percentages (>85%) of Dyer's woad seed germinated under red, yellow, and white light within 4 days. If this has not occurred, I repeat the process as above (from heating to 50°C) and leave it for another couple of hours. Woad seeds have a germination inhibiting coating around them that needs water and constant moisture to dissolve. I find that the seeds germinate best if not planted too deeply, about 1/2 inch, though I’ve seen a planting depth of 2-3 inches recommended. The same cover might cut off the plant’s exposure to the sun and reduce the indigo crop. In general, you’ll need to watch for the specific species of woad you’re growing to determine the best time to harvest the leaves. 3: The woad plant grows more segments from its initial stalks. I enjoy growing woad in my garden and I have found that the following methods work well for me, as the magic of indigo is so captivating. Growing Woad (Isatis tinctoria) from seed. You can either collect the seeds yourself from previous plants or buy them from a nursery. The Journal is published on behalf of the Association of Guilds of Spinners Weavers and Dyers. Wool fibres will dye better if the solution is kept at a constant 50°C, but cotton can be dyed at a cooler temperature. Beware of the cover you provide your plants to protect against frost. In Tudor times woad, Isatis tinctoria, was grown in this country to the exclusion of food as the crop was so profitable. The plant takes up nitrogen from the soil and grows best in a well-drained loam or clay. Hence, let the three saved plants flower and cross pollinate each other. If you already have woad which has flowered it often self-seeds vigorously, but not necessarily where you want it. When you introduce mulch to the soil, this creates fertile grounds for earthworms and other grubs that enrich the soil with organic matter. If your woad is suffering from club root, the plants will be stunted, wilted, and obviously not thriving, despite sufficient nutrients and water: Mulching suppresses weeds and conserves water, but it also provides shelter for slugs. As biennials, woad plants do well when planted in annual succession with other woad plants or other biennials. You can also harvest your own dyer’s woad seeds by taking them from dead woad plants, so if woad grows wild in your area, don’t spend money on seeds that you can just as easily grab for free from neighborhood plants. Make sure the water does not boil as this will destroy the indigo. Both of these feed on the seedlings and damage the plants before they have a chance to grow. Some of the seed will last two years but you cannot guarantee germination on anything older than a year. But even if you have no interest in dyes, the yellow blooms of woad which blossom in the spring are enough to make you consider adding it to your garden. They are planted in a flower patch and need a farming level of 25 to be planted. Ironically, even frost damage doesn’t impact the indigo yield as much as sun deprivation. I tend to leave it overnight at the same time as I am wetting out the scoured fibre. and five miles from a market town, because of the pungent smell – so perhaps something to be mindful of when dyeing!
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