I have grown flax in an experimental flax patch since 2014. The aim has always been to learn, from sowing, growing and harvesting to processing. And I have learned a lot through the years. This week I finished the flax harvest 2022.
The flax patch is an ongoing classroom for me. I learn and relearn every year. Last year I had three flax patches – one in the flower bed outside the house (where I have had it since 2014), and two in the allotment. It became very clear to me that the patch in our flower bed wasn’t a good place for flax. The growth was very uneven and the plants very short, especially in comparison with the allotment plants.
So this year I gave up on the patch in the flower bed and prepared my patches in the allotment only. Let’s call them patch A and patch B. I used one seed in patch A and two different seeds in patch B.
In patch A the flax grew evenly in length and development. The plants were evenly distributed over the soil surface. I was very thorough when I prepared the bed – I had read somewhere that the soil surface had to be even and I think I did a good job.
As I harvested the flax in patch A the plants were high and evenly high. The outermost stems were coarser, as expected, and I harvested them separately. The others were even in thickness (since they were evenly distributed) and length (as a result of the even surface I believe). It was a lovely harvest.
I prepared the soil the same way in patch B as in patch A – I made sure the soil was even and spread the seeds (of two different kinds) evenly. Still, they grew quite differently than in patch A. The plants got unevenly distributed, they matured at different times and were uneven in length. The last two parameters may have had to do with the two different seed types. But why the plants matured in such different stages I don’t know. Perhaps the soil was drained from nutrition. I will make sure to fertilize it this fall.
Flax harvest 2022
Even though I had sown the patches on the same day they matured at different times. So I harvested patch A about a week before patch B. The patch A harvest was lovely, tall, strong and straight plants that behaved very well as I harvested. I could just grab a bunch, pull it out of the soil and shake a bit to remove the earth.
The plants were not branched, yet they had lots of seed capsules. The bundles looked very pretty and even. I made sure to even the roots in the bundles for easier processing. I secretly have high hopes for this harvest.
In patch B there was another story. As the plants were of very different height I needed to harvest in a different way, scanning the patch for the highest ones and bundle them together, then the next level and so on. Tedious, but it worked. The shortest plants were very fine but too short to do anything with, so I left them to use as mulching in the patch. Some of the plants were altogether brown and I left them out too.
The bundles from patch A were quite even in length, there was perhaps one bundle that was slightly shorter than the others, but nothing dramatic. The bundles from patch B, though were all shorter than the patch A bundles, and very different in length. However, the plants in patch B were finer than the ones in patch B. I may be able to spin quite different yarns with the flax from my different patches.
The harvest has been drying outdoors for a week or two now. This morning it started to rain, though, so I need to dry them a bit longer. When there is enough dew I will ret them on the lawn.
Since I have been working a lot with the Austrian flax from the Berta’s flax project, I am very keen to follow this harvest through retting and processing. What will the result be? What colour will it have? Will I manage to ret it enough this time? How will the flax from patch A and patch B be different from each other? How will the flax spin up in comparison with the Austrian flax?
As I underretted the 2021 flax I am a bit nervous about retting the 2022 flax. I have learned a lot from this year’s flax and I am sure it will keep teaching me through the coming stages. I have actually not spun any of my 2014–2021 harvests. Perhaps it is time to try next year?
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