Are you inspired to make your own Indigo pigment either for vat dyeing or to dye yarn silk fibers with raw indigo? Or have a classroom teaming with curious minds who love practical learning? You're in the right place.
Indigo offers many variables for color and craft lovers alike.
First you will need: SEED!
Three varieties available here
Senbon, Kojyoko & Tadeai.
Seed your indigo indoors in trays or cells as you prefer / have available ( even plastic food trays). Use good fine seeding soil for best results, cover seed lightly with soil, water and place in a warm and sunny location. Seeds will germinate within 2 -3 weeks. Ensure your soil does not dry out,
maintain a damp level of moisture not soping.
Sow in February, with the intention of potting on 2 to 3 weeks later, will give the plants enough time to establish before planting out, and encourage growth before the last frost.
Potting on gives the indigo time to establish good root formation. Pot on no more than 2 plants per pot.
Pinch out the preliminary centre leaves to encourage plants to bush, three weeks after potting on or before planting in the ground, this encourages plants to bush and encourages further root formation.
Planting out in the UK will be circa End March beginning to mid April latest. The first harvest will be some 6 - 8 weeks after your planting out into the big wide world date.
Plant out after the threat of frost, in a sunny location.
Indigo prefers a warm environment and is a heavy drinker. Water well as plants mature.
Meantime, while seeds are sprouting, tending you soil is highly recommended. Indigo loves nitrogen rich soil, ph 7. Compost should be applied in the weeks, better months, prior to planting to encourage the good microbes, keeping them busy and multiplying, which in turn keeps your soil and plants thriving.
Good organic local compost if it can be found, gives you a rich slow release of nutrients as will
grass cuttings and horse manure. If the only option is store bought, chicken manure, or blood and bone are good alternatives.
In 2019 I applied combination of local mushroom compost, chicken compost, horse manure and general compost, with phenomenal results.
PLANTING & FEEDING
Indigo does best in full to partial sun,
sheltered from wind. Plant out in 30 cm intervals between each plant or set of plants ( remember no more than two in a pot rule)
Water at a consistent rate, daily if necessary,
I can not stress this enough, consistent watering benefits all plants.
Indigo will lay down branches down and foster roots from branch nodes when in contact with soil. Some growers plant indigo as potatoes, into mounds. Feel free to follow whatever practise suits you. I personally do not mound soil for planting of indigo.
Feed every 6 to 12 weeks. Definitely after the first harvest, preferably before. Either apply compost to the area around plants or water in compost tea.
The best homemade brew can consist of a combination of horse manure, basic compost, comfrey tea, nettle and seaweed or just one of the aforementioned. Indigo is a nitrogen lover therefore natural nitrogen plants like Nettles, as they are weeded out in the spring can be steeped and weeks later poured out over the soil around the indigo. Not the most, fabulously fragrant of aroma’s, but worth the time spent recycling.
Whether you are growing under the cover of glass or outside, ensure plants are weed free to maximise yield.
"Growing Your Own Indigo Pigment in Part 2" Will share the how test your indigo, how harvest and how to create your own pigment.
Notes for teachers:
If you are considering growing indigo as a classroom project and lucky enough to have a garden at your school please contact me directly.
One plant per child, depending on class size and allocated, growing space is a good place to start . One well tended plant will give 1lb of green material per plant per harvest, for the purpose of raw leaf dyeing will dye a three to four skeins of wool without chemical intervention a pretty shade of teal to turquoise blue. It’s a great way teach children; the wonders locked in nature,
responsibility for tending a life form and natural colour.