grow your natural dye skills and a garden full of vegetables, herbs and dye plants!
What do I plant and when?
SORT YOUR SEEDS
What do I plant? When do I plant it? These can feel like overwhelming questions, but for beginning gardeners can be answered in three simple steps.
1. Look at your plant hardiness zone and last frost date.
2. Plant what you want.
3. Plant when + how the seed packet recommends. This post will walk you through these steps.
STEP 1: DETERMINE PLANT HARDINESS ZONE AND LAST FROST DATE
The first thing you'll want to do is look up your plant hardiness zone at https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov . Most of the US is in zones 3 - 9. Your location's plant hardiness zone is based on average temperatures, and most seed packets will list which zones are best for growth. In general, most seeds sold in the US will grow at some point in the year in all the zones. And, many other things affect plant growth - soil type, soil pH, sunlight, altitude, water, the list goes on. But it's still good to know your zone.
The second and more important thing you'll want to look up is your area's last frost date. This is generally given as the the percent likelihood of the last frost date. For example, the Farmer's Almanac lists Nashville's last spring frost date is April 12, with a 30% probability. I've seen it earlier, and I've seen it two weeks later than this.
STEP 2: PLANT WHAT YOU WANT
As you browse online, a local plant nursery, or Home Depot for seeds and transplants, choose things that excite you. I can't encourage this enough. It's important be excited about what you're planting, and not just grow it because that's what's in all the guides or that's what you saw someone else grow. Some plants will succeed, some will not, and you can experiment to see what you like best!
Many seed packs recommend starting indoors and transplant them into your garden 4-8 weeks later. While not absolutely necessary, there are a few reasons you will want to follow this recommendation.
1. EXTEND THE GROWING SEASON
Starting seed indoors give you a jump start on the growing seasons, allowing you to start growing the plant weeks before it's warm enough outside to plant. Many regions have shorter growing seasons, where the last spring frost is later and the first fall frost comes sooner.
2. IMPROVE SEEDLING SURVIVAL
For more delicate seedlings, starting seeds indoors ensures they grow strong roots and leaves before being exposed to the outdoor elements. These elements include cold, pests (you may have garden slugs and not know it, like me!), a heavy rain, dry conditions, etc. If started outdoors, you may get lower survival and success rate for some plants.
3. SAVE MONEY AND INCREASE PLANT SELECTION
Starting plants from seeds is much less expensive than purchasing transplants from a nursery. There is usually a wider variety of seeds to explore than there are available transplants. This is especially true for dye plants.
All this being said, there are certain plants that do not transplant well. When their root systems are disturbed, they may not survive. Make sure to read the seed packet, and avoid starting indoors any seeds that do not transplant well.
Ok, now that you have your seeds selected to start indoors, let's walk through planting them!
A step-by-step guide to making an indigo fructose vat
INDIGO DYEING FOR BEGINNERS
Indigo is one of the most interesting of natural dyes.
There are many ways to make an indigo vat for dyeing. In this post, I'll give you all the steps you need to make a fructose indigo vat, including exact measurements to get you started.
The fructose vat method yields the most immediate success, making it a good starting point for beginning indigo dyers. I thrive on knowing the 'why' or science behind each step, and will share that here too.
Join DIRT + DYE to learn how to make your own indigo fructose vat!