Grow flax from seed

Contents

What Is Flaxseed – Tips On Growing Your Own Flaxseed Plants

Flax (Linum usitatissimum), one of the first crops domesticated by man, was used primarily for fiber. It wasn’t until the invention of the cotton gin that flax production began to decline. In recent years, we have become more aware of the plant’s many benefits – primarily the nutritional content of the seeds.

What is Flaxseed?

Exactly what is flaxseed and why is it so important? Flaxseed, rich in fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids, is considered by many to be a wonder food that may reduce risk of serious health problems, including diabetes, liver disease, cancer, stroke, heart disease and depression.

Your next question may be, “Can I grow flaxseed in my garden?” Growing your own flaxseed isn’t difficult, and the beauty of the plant is an added bonus.

How to Grow Flaxseed Plants

Growing flaxseed on a commercial level can be a complicated process, but planting flax from seed in your garden is easier than you may think. In fact, you’ve likely grown its wildflower cousins, blue flax and scarlet flax before, or know someone who has.

Common flax, like its cousins, is a cool season plant, and seeds should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in spring. A late frost won’t usually harm the plants once they emerge, as seedlings with at least two leaves can tolerate temperatures as low as 28 F. (-2 C.).

Look for a sunny, sheltered planting site when planting flax from seed. Although flax will adapt to most well-drained soil types, rich soil is optimum. Dig in a generous amount of compost, manure or other organic matter, especially if your soil is poor.

Work the soil well and smooth it with a rake, then sprinkle the seeds evenly over the prepared soil at a rate of about 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds for every 10 square feet of planting space. Hint: Dusting the tiny seeds with flour before planting will make them easier to see.

Rake the soil lightly so the seeds are covered with no more than ½ inch of soil, and then water the area, using a fine spray to prevent washing the seeds from the soil. Watch for the seeds to germinate in about 10 days.

Water the seeds regularly to keep the soil even moist, but not drenched. Once the plants are established, supplemental irrigation is needed only during periods of warm, dry or windy weather. A thin layer of mulch will help control weeds while moderating soil moisture and temperature.

Usually, established flax plants will choke out weeds; however, regular weeding is critical when the plants are small. Work carefully, pulling by hand to avoid damaging the tiny flax roots.

Flax plants don’t necessarily require fertilizer, but if your soil is poor, the plants will benefit from a diluted solution of water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks until seeds heads appear. At this point, withhold water so the seeds heads ripen and turn golden yellow.

Harvest the seeds by pulling entire plants by their roots. Bundle the stems and hang them in a dry place for three to five weeks, or until the seed heads are completely dry.

Flax facts: A look at the crop that turns the prairies blue

By Gillian Slade on July 17, 2017.

Cory Nelson, farmer, stand is a field of flax in full bloom near Burdett. –NEWS PHOTO GILLIAN SLADE

[email protected] @MHNGillianSlade

You could easily mistake it for a shimmering blue lake of water that has sprung up from nowhere.

Fields of flax are in full bloom in this region at the moment and depending on the time of day you could be greeted by acres of blue flowers smiling in the sunshine.

“The flowers are a much more intense blue earlier in the day before it gets too hot,” said Cory Nelson, whose family has farmed near Burdett for more than 100 years.

The beautiful sight of blue flowers is fleeting. Flax plants are in bloom only half the time canola plants are. A canola flower also opens and stays open while flax blooms close at night, said Nelson. One flax plant may have 10 stems each with its own flower.

Flax was grow extensively in the Burdett area in the 1980s and then not so much until about three years ago when a new market for the product opened up in China, said Nelson. It is still not as financially viable as canola but it is a good rotation crop.

The best grade of flax seed “milling grade” is for the food industry, said Nelson. Grade 1 seed is crushed for oil with some used in paint and for linseed oil.

Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil or flax oil, is obtained from the dried, ripened seeds of the flax plant.

Some people consume flax oil because it is high in Omega 3, said Nelson. The eggs you see in the supermarket boasting Omega 3 on the box come from chickens that are fed a diet rich in flax.

Linen cloth used for high quality kitchen towels, clothing and home fashion fabrics is made from flax. The cellulose fibers that grow inside the stalks of the flax plant are used to spin and then weave the cloth.

Linen textiles are some of the oldest in the world, going back thousands of years and even used as currency in ancient Egypt.

Many of the flax crops growing in this region depend on irrigation. You can get 50 bushels with irrigation and 25 for a crop without irrigation, said Nelson.

“This year it’s probably going to be a fairly significant crop, about three times more on irrigation,” said Nelson. “Normal would probably be about double. This year on dry land is going to be about 15 bushels.”

Flax seeds are small and are planted shallow around May 1, which is the same time for planting spring wheat planting, said Nelson. The flax will not be ready for harvesting until the end of September, while the wheat will be ready three weeks earlier.

There is no need for any bees to do any pollinating.

“It is self-fertile,” said Nelson.

When the flax is ready to harvest the combine separates the seed from the chaff. The rest of the plant is often left on the field initially and then baled to be used for bedding for cattle, said Nelson. Some farmers chop the plant up but it is difficult to do this with flax.

The harvest is done by “straight cutting” and collecting. It used to be “swathed” first but that is no longer done.

“If we swathed, the wind would come and blow it all over the place,” said Nelson.

The seed is stored and sold as a commodity to a mill or elevator such as Cargill, P&H or Viterra who export it, said Nelson.

“A lot of ours goes to China, some goes to Europe and the U.S., but China is our main market,” said Nelson.

<< back to Alternative Crop Production

Overview

Flax was one of the most important crops to early American farmers and to the economy of our emerging nation. Grown in almost every state east of the Mississippi River, and some beyond, flax was literally the fiber and preservative that helped sustain our people. Before the spread of the mechanical cotton gin in the early 1800s, most Americans had a choice of two clothing fibers – wool or linen. Even after the advent of inexpensive cotton, linen fiber from the stems of flax would remain an important source of fiber for clothes and other products. In the early part of this century, flax was still being grown in most crop producing counties of Missouri.

In addition to being a fiber source, flax was also an important oilseed in America until the mid-1900s. Linseed oil, squeezed out of flax seed, can still be found in most hardware stores and is used as a preservative finish on wood. Despite the valuable characteristics of both linseed oil and linen fiber, flax began to fade from American farms after the development of the petroleum industry, especially following World War II. Many farms moved away from a rotation of flax and small grains (wheat, oats and sometimes barley or rye), to a rotation of corn followed by soybeans.

Fortunately, U.S. flax is not a lost crop, though the production area is much more limited. Flax is now grown almost exclusively in North Dakota and Minnesota, despite the fact that it is agronomically adapted to most Eastern and Midwestern states, as evidenced by its earlier production for many decades in these regions. Part of the reason flax has remained competitive in North Dakota and Minnesota, is that these states need fast maturing, cool season crops. Flax, like spring oats or spring wheat, is planted as soon as the soils begin to warm (typically April), and can be harvested in August, well before the early frosts that can hit the northern U.S. In Missouri, the crop is planted earlier and harvested earlier, and normally ready for combining in the third or fourth week of July.

The renewed interest in flax has been partially based on increased demand for linen clothing, but more so because of certain healthful properties of the seed oil. Flax oil is high in omega-3 fatty acid, which is believed to be helpful in lowering cholesterol when included in the diet. This same fatty acid is found in fish, one reason that seafood is advocated for those with cholesterol problems. The high omega content of flax is playing an increased role in foods. Flax seed is being fed to chickens, with the eggs from those chickens sometimes being marketed as high omega eggs.

Flax is currently grown on about 12 million acres worldwide, with the majority of the production in northern Europe and Russia. Flax was originally brought to America from Europe by early immigrants. Although there were close to two million acres of flax in the U.S. as recently as the early 1970s, U.S. acreage dropped substantially. However, acreage has been about one-half million acres, and is gradually increasing.

Production Guide

Plant Description

Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) is a broadleaf with very small, narrow leaves that are less than an inch long. Stems are branched near the base of the plant, with plants reaching 30 to 36 inches in height. The multiple stems or branches of a flax plant are slender and flexible, dividing at their tips into inflorescences bearing attractive blue flowers. Flowers are mostly self-pollinated, with some cross pollination by insects. New flowers will emerge for a few weeks, each developing into a round seed capsule or boll about one-third inch in diameter. Each capsule contains 4 to 10 seeds; North Dakota tests indicate 6 seeds per capsule is the average. Glossy in appearance, flax seeds have traditionally been brown in color; however, a new variety of flax, Omega, is golden-colored to make it more acceptable in the food market. If exposed to water, flax seeds will become sticky due to mucilage in the seed coat.

Utilization

Although the U.S. market for linen flax is on the upswing again, the better opportunity for flax in Missouri is as an oilseed crop, since the fiber flax market is well established in northern Europe. Fiber flax has reportedly been grown very little in the U.S. since the 1950s.

Flax is roughly 40% oil by weight, about 55% of which is alpha linolenic acid (also called omega-3 fatty acid). Linseed oil from flax dries rapidly, due to linolenic acid, which helps make the oil suitable for varnishes and paints that need to dry quickly. The use of linseed oil has diminished over the last 50 years, but it is still marketed widely, in places like the paints department of hardware stores.

As an oilseed, flax is somewhat unique in that the oil has almost never been used for cooking purposes or other food uses. The role of flax in the human diet has been as a whole seed, cracked seed or ground flour, used in a variety of baked products. Part of the attraction of flax is also its high fiber content and relatively high potassium content. Besides baked products, flax has been used in fruit juice drinks, and some people sprinkle the seed on breakfast cereals or salads. Due to the high level of mucilage in its seed coat, flax is sometimes consumed as a laxative. The relatively high content of lignans in flax seed has prompted studies by the National Cancer Institute on use of flax to help prevent cancer. Some studies with rats have shown that flax helps reduce the occurance of certain cancers. The potential of flax as an anti-cancer agent in the human diet is still being studied.

After the oil is extracted from the seed, the remaining material (meal) can be fed to a variety of livestock. In current U.S. areas of production, the meal primarily used in cattle feed. The use of whole seed or ground seed for chickens is increasing, due to the omega properties described earlier.

Markets and Economics

Current delivery points for flax are in North Dakota and Minnesota. To be processed for oil, flax grown in Missouri would likely have to be shipped out-of-state, adding significant transportation costs. Selling flax in-state to keep down transportation costs would probably be based on selling whole or cracked seed, or ground flax flour. Developing in-state markets would require some direct marketing efforts to find food brokers or bakers or pet food manufacturers interested in buying the flax. Another possibility is to sell the flax to poultry producers, which are concentrated in southern Missouri. Small quantities of flax could potentially be sold to health food stores or other retailers.

Market price for flax upon delivery in North Dakota has ranged from $0.09 to $0.14 per pound. Yields of better flax varieties have been 1200 to 1400 pounds per acre in replicated yield trials, so at $0.10 per pound, gross income per acre would be a modest $120 to $140. This would not be enough to cover the production costs of growing flax, which are similar to the cost of growing oats or soybeans. If the flax has to be shipped all the way to Minnesota, profit potential is further reduced. On the positive side, LDP payments for flax are available, boosting profit potential.

The way to make flax a profitable alternative in Missouri is to double crop it with buckwheat, planting the flax in early spring, harvesting in late July, then immediately planting the buckwheat. In extensive Missouri field trials, buckwheat performed best when planted in late July or early August, and still matures before frost in October. This system might not work in the northern tier of Missouri counties, but should work well in central and southern areas. Buckwheat will yield about 1000 to 1200 pounds per acre, with up to 1500 pounds under optimum conditions, and sells for about $0.10 per pound. Delivery points for buckwheat are currently in Minnesota and North Dakota, with the crop mostly exported to Japan (see University of Missouri extension guide 4306 for more information on buckwheat). The combined income of the two crops should be in the $200 to $250 range, not high, but competitive with soybeans on some soils, especially when soybean prices are low. The extra cost of growing the second crop, buckwheat, would be about $25 per acre for seed and fertilizer, plus equipment, fuel and labor expense to plant and harvest. The main challenges in this system would be getting the flax planted early enough in a wet spring, planting buckwheat into the tough flax crop residue, and arranging for buyers and delivery of the crops.

How to Grow Flax

Management practices for oilseed flax are similar to that of spring oats. It is adapted to soils that are good for wheat or oats, but is not suited to poorly drained soils. Flax should not be grown in the same field every year, but instead should be rotated with other crops to reduce disease potential and improve yields. As described in the economics section of this publication, the greatest opportunity for flax may be in growing it as a double crop with buckwheat, thereby getting two crop incomes in one growing season.

Variety and Seed Selection

There are several varieties of oilseed flax available, most of them having been developed by plant breeders in North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada. Varieties tested in University of Missouri field trials in the early 1990s were Rahab, Culbert, Neche, Dufferin, Verne, Omega and Linton. Omega, Linton, and Rahab had the best yields when averaged over two locations, with yields typically in the 1200 to 1400 pound per acre range. All of these varieties are brown-seeded, except for Omega, a golden-colored seed, which was the newest variety among the group tested. For the food market, Omega might carry a slight premium in sales prices, but for industrial uses, would be priced no differently. Omega variety seed can be obtained from Reimers Seed Farm, Carrington, North Dakota (701-652-3322).

Fiber flax varieties are taller than oilseed types and have much lower seed yields. There are also varieties which are considered “dual purpose” for both fiber and seed, being intermediate in production of both products. Commercial production of fiber flax is not recommended in Missouri at this time.

Planting

Flax should be planted in early April in northern Missouri, or late March in southern Missouri. Although late frosts may occur after flax emergence, they are unlikely to damage flax. North Dakota researchers report that flax seedlings can survive temperatures down to 28°F. upon emergence, and can tolerate the low 20s after they reach the two leaf stage. Seed should be planted 1/2 to 1 inch deep, or up to 1 1/2 inches on coarser soils (such as sandy loams). A standard grain drill can be used with flax, planting it in narrow rows (preferably 6 inches or less). Seed treatment with a fungicide is frequently recommended in North Dakota, especially for the golden-seeded type, but in rapidly warming soils such seed treatment is probably not necessary.

Recommended seeding rate is 50 pounds per acre. North Dakota extension staff recommends that an optimum plant population for flax is 70 plants per square foot, with a minimum stand of 40 plants per square foot. If flax stands are too thin, weeds will be more of a problem and light will get down into the canopy, stimulating an extended flowering period and slower plant dry down. At seeding rates that are too high, branching of the stem into multiple seed capsules is inhibited, leading to fewer capsules and lower yields. Fiber flax is seeded at double the rate of oilseed flax, to reduce branching and promote higher fiber yields.

Fertility

Flax has moderate fertility needs, similar to that for spring oats. For nitrogen, 50 to 80 pounds per acre should be applied, using the lower figure following soybeans or another legume. Nitrogen needs can be met by organic sources such as manure or leguminous cover crops. Phosphorous and potassium should be based on soil test levels – application rates can be the same as for oats or wheat.

Pest Management

Weeds
Since flax is planted early in the spring, it gets a head start on many summer annual weeds. However, flax is not very competitive with weeds, in part because the small leaves of flax keep it from shading the ground completely. Herbicides* available for flax include bromoxynil, Poast and sodium chlorate. Flax should not be planted in fields known to have a heavy population of cool season weeds, such as wild mustards.

Insects
In four years of field trials with flax in Missouri, insects and diseases were not a problem. In North Dakota, grasshopper, cutworms, armyworms, aphids, wireworms and leaf hoppers (introducing aster yellow disease) have sometimes caused damage. Labeled insecticides* are Malathion, Sevin, Telone and certain pyrethrin products.

Diseases

Flax has occasionally suffered from severe disease. Early in this century, a wilt disease was devastating to flax fields, and later rust became a problem. Fortunately, both of these problems have been overcome by development of wilt and rust resistant varieties. Aster yellows will sometimes affect a small percentage of flax plants, while cool soils may contribute to damping off of seedlings. In general, it is a good practice to rotate flax with other crops to avoid disease build-up. Labeled fungicides* are Busam, Captan, Mancozeb and Maxim.

*Pesticides mentioned as being labeled in this publication are based on reference lists published in the Thomson Publications “Quick Guide” on crop pesticides, 2002 edition. These lists are believed to be accurate, but given the changing nature of pesticide registrations, labels and relevant government pesticide regulations should be checked before applying any herbicide or other pesticide.

Harvest and Storage

Flax is not like a soybean plant that completely turns brown and drops its leaves before harvest. Instead, at the time when it is ready to be harvested, there will usually be a few flowers in bloom and a few green leaves on the plant. A rule of thumb is to harvest when 90% of the seed capsules are brown. In northern states, flax is normally direct combined, but sometimes is swathed and allowed to dry in the field before picking it up with a combine. In Missouri, the approach should usually be direct combining the crop. It is important to fine tune the combine settings to avoid damaging flax seed.

Recommended storage moisture is 11%. A note of caution on handling flax in a storage bin: extension literature on flax from North Dakota indicates that people trying to stand on flax in a bin have sometimes sunk in very rapidly, because the slippery flax flows rapidly. Some individuals have sunk in over their head in flax bins and have suffocated – obviously, precautions should be taken when entering stored flax.

A minor concern may be flax leaking out of holes in the bin, which will happen more readily than with traditional commodities. Monitoring for grain weevils is recommended if flax is stored for more than a year. Also, if green material is present in the harvested flax, cleaning the grain is recommended before storing it.

Herb to Know: Flax

The fibers in the stem of the flax plant form a thin layer between the woody core and the outer skin or epidermis that runs all the way from the roots to the tips. The fibers have already reached their full length when the flax begins to flower, about two months after planting, but they are still thin, delicate and weak. From flowering until the death of the plant, the fibers become increasingly thicker and stronger, but also more stiff and brittle. Unfortunately, fiber quality peaks before the seeds have fully ripened. If you harvest the plants early enough (usually about three months after planting) to get top-quality fiber, you sacrifice most of the seed crop. If you wait until the seeds are ripe (about four months after planting), the fiber has become coarse. This difference in the timing of harvest is a major reason why commercial flax farmers produce either fiber or seeds but not both. Again, a hobby grower can compromise. The fiber from mature plants is too coarse for weaving fine fabrics, but it’s acceptable for making baskets or other simple craft projects.

To reap both seeds and fiber, harvest the flax about four months after planting. The leaves on the lower half or two-thirds of the stem will be turning yellow and dropping off. Most of the seedpods will have turned gold or tan; if you shake them, the seeds will rattle inside. Grasp the stems, a handful at a time, right at ground level and pull them up, roots and all. Shake the soil off the roots, lay a few handfuls of stems together side by side, and use rubber bands or string to secure them into a bundle.

Thresh Flax Seeds

Hang the bundles in a warm place with good air circulation. After a few weeks, when the stalks are stiff and dry, you can thresh out the seeds. This takes some effort: you have to crush open the pods. One method is to slide a pillowcase over the top end of a bundle, tie the case securely around the stems, then put it down on a paved driveway, sidewalk or other hard, flat surface. Beat the pods through the cloth with a block of wood, roll them with a rolling pin (push hard!), jump on the bag or drive back and forth over it with a car.

After several minutes of such activity, open the bag to confirm that most of the pods have been crushed, shake the bundle vigorously to knock out all the seeds, then pour the seeds and chaff out of the pillowcase into a bowl and start again with the next bundle. After threshing all the bundles, sift the seeds through a colander or coarse strainer to remove bits of stems and broken pods. Step outdoors in the breeze and pour the seeds slowly from one container to another to winnow away any remaining chaff or dust.

Process Flax Fibers

Processing the bundles of stems to extract the fibers for spinning is a complex task that requires simple but special tools, a lot of hard physical work, and a sense of timing and judgment that comes only from long experience. The first step, called retting, involves soaking or wetting the stems for a period of days or weeks to promote bacterial action, which separates the different layers of stem tissues and loosens the fibers. After retting, the stems are dried again, then crushed between the wooden blades of a tool called a break or brake, which breaks the woody core into short bits that fall away from the mass of fibers. Finally, the bundles are combed through metal-tined combs called hackles. The result: a smooth bundle of long, straight fibers called line flax and a pile of fluffy, tangled, shorter fibers called tow. The line flax is used to make crisp, glossy fabrics, and the tow is used for everyday goods.

Rita Buchanan is a weaver, spinner, and gardener in Winsted, Connecticut. She is the author of A Dyer’s Garden, (Interweave Press, 1995).

North Dakota State University

Flax (Linum usitatissimum) production has a long history. Flax remnants were found in Stone Age dwellings in Switzerland, and ancient Egyptians made fine linens from flax fiber. Flax production moved west across the northern U.S. and Canada during the 1800s. As settlers moved west, flax was one of the crops produced. North Dakota farmers have grown flax since prairie sod was broken.

Producers grow two types of flax: seed flax for the oil in its seed and nutritional value, and fiber flax for the fiber in its stem.

Today producers in the upper Midwest and the Prairie Provinces of Canada grow seed flax. North Dakota is the leading producer of flax for oil and food use in the U.S.

Interest in healthful diets for humans and animals is increasing the demand for flax seed. Flax seed is crushed to produce linseed oil and linseed meal. Linseed oil has many industrial uses; linseed meal is used for livestock feed (see NDSU Extension publication AS1283, “Using Flax in Livestock Diets”).

Flax seed and meal also are fed to pets, swine, chickens and horses. In addition, the fiber in seed flax stems is used to make fine paper and as tow, or padding, in upholstered furniture. Cigarette paper is a major flax paper product.

Human consumption of flax seed is increasing rapidly for its high dietary fiber, omega-3 oils and anti-carcinogenic lignans. Some consumers use flax seed oil as a vegetable oil. Whole, (preferably) ground flax seed is consumed mostly in bakery products. Hens fed flax seed produce “omega eggs,” which are sold in the U.S. and Canada for their high omega-3 oil content. Research is being conducted to determine the health benefits of human consumption of flax seed products.

Fiber flax is grown in Europe and Asia. Its fiber is used to make fine linen cloth. Fiber flax varieties are very tall, with few branches and low seed production. Seed flax is short, multiple branched and selected for high seed production.

Growth and Development

Flax is an annual plant that has one main stem. At low plant populations, branching is seen at the base similar to tillers in a cereal grain. The stems terminate in a multibranched inflorescence that bears blue to white flowers. Flax grows to a height of 24 to 36 inches.

The plant has a tap root that may penetrate to 40 inches if growing conditions are favorable. It requires a 50-day vegetative period, 25-day flowering period and about 35 days to mature. In years when moisture is available, the maturation period may extend until a hard frost kills the crop. In a wet fall, new flowers often are observed until frost.

Flax is a self-pollinating crop. Seed is produced in a boll or capsule. A complete boll can have 10 seeds, but most bolls will have fewer, averaging around six seeds. Seeds can be brown, golden or yellow.

The seed is covered with a mucilaginous coating. This coating becomes sticky when wet. During a wet harvest, this coating may discolor, giving the seed a weathered appearance and a reduced test weight.

Growing Flax

Flax usually is sown on the same type of soil that grows wheat and barley. Poorly drained soils, soils subject to drought and erosion, and soils high in soluble salts should be avoided. Flax fits in a rotation with many small-grain crops. For optimum yields and disease control, do not plant flax more often than one in three years in any rotation. Also, try to avoid planting flax after potatoes, canola and sugarbeets.

Select a variety adapted to your area. Variety descriptions and recent yield performance can be obtained in NDSU Extension publication A1105, “North Dakota Alternative Crop Variety Trial Results and Selection Guide,” available at your county Extension office or on the NDSU Extension website.

Consider planting certified seed. It is tested to ensure minimal weed content, high genetic purity and good seed viability. Certified seed consistently yields more than bin-run seed. All recent varieties have an adequate oil yield and oil quality (iodine number) to meet industry specifications.

Treating flax seed with a recommended fungicide is necessary. Seed treatment reduces seed decay and seedling blights and can increase stand significantly. A thicker and more uniform stand produces higher yields.

Yellow-seeded varieties are more susceptible to seed decay than brown varieties. Treated seed stored for long periods needs to be retested for germination before use.

Fertilizing Flax

Flax can be grown under fertility levels similar to small grains. Use soil testing as a guide for applying fertilizer whenever possible. Recommendations for fertilizer use in flax are presented in NDSU Extension publication SF717, “Fertilizing Flax.”

Zinc deficiency has been reported on flax in North Dakota, so information on zinc levels should be requested when soil testing. If soil zinc levels (DTPA extract) are less than 1 part per million (ppm), application of zinc is recommended.

The phosphorus application recommendation for flax production was removed recently. Research data suggested flax had no yield response to added phosphorous fertilizer. Phosphorus can be applied, but no yield increase should be expected regardless of the soil test level.

Seeding Flax

Flax should be sown into firm, moist soil. A well-prepared, firm seedbed will ensure sowing at the proper depth. This, in turn, will result in uniform germination and rapid, even emergence. We recommend a planting depth of 0.75 to 1.5 inches.

Press drill packer wheels do a satisfactory job of firming the soil after planting. If other types of planters are used, producers need to use special efforts, such as a soil packer behind the drill or harrowing, prior to planting to firm the seedbed. Avoid deep seeding because delayed emergence weakens seedlings, and weak seedlings are more likely to die.

When using preplant-incorporated herbicides, shallow planting is a must to reduce stress on emerging flax seedlings. Flax seedlings are less able to force their way through a soil crust than wheat seedlings.

A stand of 70 plants per square foot is desired. However, if uniform, stands of 30 to 40 plants per square foot may provide a satisfactory yield. As stands drop below 30 plants per square foot, weed infestation and delayed maturity are added problems.

Seeding rates of 25 to 45 pounds per acre are common. In general, use lower rates (25 to 35 pounds) in western North Dakota and higher rates (35 to 45 pounds) in the east. Seed size varies among varieties, which also should be considered. Yellow-seeded varieties may require higher seeding rates because of lower seedling vigor. If untreated seed is used, then higher seeding rates are necessary.

Table 1. Flax nutrient recommendations based on soil tests (N and K).

Early seeded flax generally produces the highest yields. Early seeding normally occurs in late April for all of the state except the northeast, where early May seeding is possible. Frost seldom kills flax seedlings. Seedling plants just emerging (breaking ground) are the most susceptible to injury but can withstand temperatures down to 28 F for a few hours. After the seedlings have a second leaf, they can withstand temperatures into the low 20 F range.

Delayed sowing may aid in weed control and reduce labor or equipment use, but it almost always results in lower yields. A lack of uniform maturity and ripening is a problem in late-seeded fields, so additional management at harvest often is needed. Flax varieties vary in response to the date of planting. Full-season varieties should be planted early.

Pest Control

Weed control

Flax is less competitive with weeds than small grains and should be grown on relatively weed-free fields. Control weeds following the harvest of the preceding crop. Postharvest tillage of small-grain stubble will prevent weed seed production, suppress perennial weeds and encourage annual weed seed germination prior to freeze-up.

Flax should be seeded directly or with shallow spring tillage in fields. Deep tillage on such fields could bring dormant seeds to the surface and increase weed problems.

For weedy fields, deep till the soil to bury the weed seeds, reducing the weed infestation the following crop season. Deep tillage can reduce infestations of small-seeded weeds, such as foxtails and kochia, which have short seed survival. Delayed seeding of flax with tillage prior to seeding will control wild oats and reduce infestations of other early germinating weeds. However, delayed seeding generally reduces flax yields. Early maturing flax varieties should be used with late seeding.

Weed control is needed by flax emergence to reduce yield losses because flax is a poor competitor with weeds. Soil-applied herbicides reduce weed emergence and minimize early weed competition to maximize flax yields. POST herbicides applied to small weeds and flax soon after weed emergence usually give better control and allow more time for the flax to recover from possible herbicide injury than they do if the weeds and flax are larger.

Post-applied Grass Herbicides

Assure II, Targa, Poast, Clethodim and Select Max or 2EC are all grass-controlling herbicides that are labeled for controlling grasses in flax. See individual labels for mixing guidelines when using broadleaf herbicides, such as bromoxynil and MCPA ester formulations.

For more information on all herbicides labeled for weed control use in flax, refer to the “North Dakota Weed Control Guide,” NDSU publication W253 (current year). Always read and follow the label in the use of all pesticides.

Insects

Insect problems and yield loss may occur any year. Follow a program of timely field monitoring. Know the economic threshold levels for the various insects and apply control measures promptly. The following insects can be problematic in flax:

  • Grasshoppers – They are a problem, especially near or at harvest. Flying adults invade from neighboring fields. Damage is caused by grasshoppers chewing through the succulent portion of the small stems below the bolls, with bolls dropping to the ground. Seedling feeding may be a problem in late-seeded fields.
  • Cutworms and armyworms – Larvae of one or more cutworm species are known to cut and consume seedlings at the soil level. Damage often is severe by the time the infestation is identified. Armyworm larvae feed on foliage in midseason.
  • Aster leafhopper – Leafhoppers feed on the plant juices. This insect infects the plant with the aster yellow mycoplasma when feeding. The aster yellow disease also is observed on canola, sunflower and several broadleaf weeds.
  • Aphids – Aphid populations can increase rapidly and have been observed on flax. Their numbers most years are not high enough to cause economic loss.
  • Wireworm – This insect, while mostly a pest of cereal grains, occasionally can cause reduced stands in flax.

For information on insect control, contact your local county Extension office for information on approved control practices, available labeled insecticides and economic thresholds for the major insects, or consult NDSU publication E1143, “Field Crop Insect Management Guide.”

Diseases

Losses from diseases largely are responsible for the perception that flax is a risky crop and is “hard on the land.” In recent years, due to the widespread use of disease-resistant varieties, disease losses have been smaller in flax than in most other annual crops. To guard against flax diseases, grow resistant varieties, use seed treatments, plant early, use sound disease-free seed and avoid planting flax after flax in the rotation.

Contact your county Extension office for recommended disease-control measures or consult NDSU Extension publication PP622, “North Dakota Field Crop Plant Disease Management Guide.”

The diseases most often associated with flax production are:

Heat canker is a physiological reaction of the young seedling to high temperature at the soil surface. Thin stands on dark soils are most susceptible. If plants are injured when small, the plants fall over and die. When plants are larger, the outer stem tissue responds by producing additional cork tissue at the damage site. This wound tissue often is brittle and plants may break over at the soil line from strong wind. Early planting and surface residues help reduce heat canker incidence most years.

Harvesting and Storage

Flax maturity can be judged by the color of the bolls. Flax should be harvested when 90 percent of the bolls turn brown. The stems may remain green after the bolls are ready to harvest.

Flax with green stems is the most difficult of all grains to cut. Sharp, well-adjusted cutter bars are essential. Flax can be straight-combined if maturity is uniform and green weeds are not a problem. If flax is swathed and pickup combined later, a tall stubble is desired. Using swath rollers can help settle the swaths into the stubble to reduce wind damage and aid pickup combining.

Follow manufacturers’ recommendations to reduce seed damage during combining. Some combines have special rollers ahead of the cylinder to fracture the flax boll. The flax seed coat is damaged or broken easily, so proper adjustments are necessary. Yellow-seeded varieties are more susceptible to seed damage because of their thinner seed coat.

Flax seed is safe to store at 10 percent moisture short term and at 8 percent long term. Higher moisture will result in heating and mold formation. Flax seed often comes from the combine with large amounts of green weed seed dockage. A good management practice is to remove green weed seed before storage.

We recommend systematic monitoring because flax is more difficult to manage in storage than cereal grains. Flax seed has a low angle of repose. Producers also must have tight storage bins. Even small holes and cracks will result in bin leakage.

Enter flax bins with caution. Flax seed in storage flows easily and supports limited weight. Lives have been lost by people falling into seed flax bins and becoming engulfed and dying from suffocation.

Stored grain insects are not a general problem in short-time storage. If flax seed is stored for a year or more, then we advise monitoring for the hard-bodied grain weevils.

Seed Flax Straw

Combines should be equipped with straw choppers and spreaders to redistribute the straw evenly. Burning flax residue once was a common practice. This no longer is recommended. If industrial markets develop for seed flax straw, other methods of collecting straw and transporting it from the field will need to be identified.

Green flax straw may pose a prussic acid problem if used as livestock feed. Use caution in feeding flax straw or grazing, especially immediately after a frost.

Table 2. Flax Variety Descriptions.

Flax Plant Stock Photos and Images

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  • Closeup of mature flax plant ready to be harvested, Saskatchewan Canada
  • Österreichischer Lein oder Linum austriacum – Linum austriacum flowers in spring garden
  • flax
  • Flax, Linum Usitatissimum
  • Heliophila longifolia False Blue Flax annual plant bloom blossom blue flowers with white centers
  • dry and fresh flax on white background
  • Wild Flax, Linseed Dodder (Camelina sativa), seeds
  • Common Flax
  • The incoming tide pounding on the rocky shoreline at Punakaiki, in the Paparoa National Park on the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand. Nativ
  • Native New Zealand Flax Plant (Formium), Sandy Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, Marahau, Tasman Bay, Tasman District, New Zealand
  • Flax plant in forest with sunlight nature background
  • Flax seed round heap on white
  • New Zealand, View of New Zealand flax plant at beach
  • Linseed in wooden bowl isolated on white background
  • County Down, Ireland, Flax field
  • Frosted Yellow (Isturgia limbaria), at flax flower, Germany
  • A young New Zealand flax, Phormium ‘Maori Queen’, plant with fresh snow covering, Berkshire, February
  • Flax plant dry close up photo background
  • Top view of flax seeds isolated on white
  • Seeds of flax isolated on white background
  • Flax seed
  • Seeds And Pods Of Flax Plant
  • Isolated botanical Illustration of flax plant and seeds
  • Boxes of ripe flax seed isolated on white background .
  • Tui bird on a flax plant against blue sea.
  • Portrait view of a New Zealand Flax plant (Phormium tenax) and seed pods
  • Organic Raw Flax Seeds in a Bowl
  • Flax plant flowering ‘Linum grandiflorum’
  • Native New Zealand Flax Plant (Formium), Sandy Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, Marahau, Tasman Bay, Tasman District, New Zealand
  • Flax plant in forest with sunlight nature background
  • Flax seed round heap on white
  • New Zealand, View of New Zealand Flax plant at beach
  • Healthy brown linseed in bowl.
  • Close up of flax seeds, food background.
  • Flax seeds in wooden spoon
  • dry and fresh flax on white background
  • Flax plant dry close up photo background. Vintage and retro styled photo of flax.
  • The famous lighthouse at Cape Reinga on a beautiful summer day. In the foreground is New Zealand native flax.
  • flax plant silhouette against red sunset
  • Flax plant in front of Mount Ngaruhoe, Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand
  • flax seeds background
  • group of brown organic flax seeds background
  • Tui on flax plant, Zealandia or Karori Sanctuary, Wellington
  • Flax plant flowering during spring season against blue sky.
  • Victorian engraving of a flax plant. Digitally restored image from a mid-19th century Encyclopaedia.
  • Organic Raw Flax Seeds in a Bowl
  • New Zealand flax plant
  • Wildflowers including Mule Ears Sunflower family and Blue Flax near Mount Crested Butte Colorado USA
  • Flax Seeds
  • Flax seed round heap on white
  • A glass bowl of flax seeds with olive scoop surrounded by artificial flowers on a grey abstract background. Healthy eating concept.
  • Flax Plant
  • Closeup of NZ flax plant,.
  • Abstract light background with dry branches of flax plant and blue flowers
  • dry and fresh flax on white background
  • Seed pods of the New Zealand Flax plant or Flax lily.
  • Bellbird (Anthornis melanura) in flax plant, South Island, New Zealand
  • A Starling on New Zealand Flax plant in New Zealand.
  • Flax plant and mist near Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand
  • Variegated Phormium Jester Flax plant leaves in snowy winter conditions, England, UK
  • Brown terra cotta pot with fresh Santolina rosmarinifolia isolated on white background
  • 1950s, historical, male farmer with cap gathering up by hand, the wild flax plant from a field. The textile produced from it is linen, a product that Northern Ireland is internationally famous for.
  • Linum usitatissimum. Linseed crop flowering in a field in the English countryside
  • A fence decoration, painted gold, depicting the symbols, or emblems, of Cogolin, Var, France; a cockerel and the flax plant
  • Organic Raw Flax Seeds in a Bowl
  • New Zealand flax plant
  • Linum usitatissimum. Linseed crop flowering in a field in the English countryside
  • Flaxseed oil in bowl and whole flax seeds. Isolated on white.
  • A farmer holding a sample of this years flax harvest, focus on seeds.
  • Linum usitatissimum. Linseed crop flowering in a field in the English countryside
  • Linseed isolated in jar
  • Beautiful green Flax plant shines bright in the sun, New Zealand.
  • Linum usitatissimum. Linseed crop flowering in a field in the English countryside
  • Beautiful flax field – linseed plant -,several white round fruits, a carpet of green and white colors
  • Seed pods of the New Zealand Flax plant or Flax lily.
  • Finch sat on dried seed pods of a flax plant, against a clear blue sky
  • A Starling on New Zealand Flax plant in New Zealand.
  • Flax plant and mist near Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand
  • Variegated Phormium Jester Flax plant leaves in snowy winter conditions, England, UK
  • Phormium Tenax making graphic shapes
  • Österreichischer Lein oder Linum austriacum – Linum austriacum flowers in spring garden
  • flax
  • Flowers of a Phormium plant known as New Zealand Flax
  • Linum trigynum (French flax) is found in Southern Europe in xeric Mediterranean Phrygana and grasslands.
  • New Zealand flax plant
  • Phormium tenax flax at Cape Reinga at the north of New Zealand.
  • Lines of a Flax plant in New Zealand
  • Variegated flax plant with pink new growth leaves in a garden
  • A Flax plant silhouetted against a sunset in Fife Scotland.
  • Linseed isolated in jar
  • Seeds from a NZ flax plant in fron tof green hill and lake Tarawera.
  • poppy, flax, Gas plant, sage
  • Beautiful flax field ,two small blue flowers and several white round fruits, a carpet of green ,blue and white colors
  • Seed pods of the New Zealand Flax plant or Flax lily.
  • New Zealand flax Phormium Sundowner with flowering Anemone x hybrida Honorine Jobert
  • Detail of New Zealand flax
  • Flax ready for preparation for being turned into material.
  • Variegated Phormium Jester Flax plant in snowy winter conditions, with Euonymus Fortunei and Miscanthus Sinensis Little Zebra in the background.
  • New Zealand Flax against blue coastal sky
  • Low angle view of common flax field, selective focus

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LINUM

Enjoying that breezy new linen shirt you picked up on sale last weekend? Linen, a textile crafted from a member of the Linum genus, is renowned for its use in summer wear.

The particular weave used to craft linen fabric, combined with the fiber’s inherent qualities including high absorption rate and heat conduction, render the textile well-suited for use in summer clothing.

But the specific plant whose stalks are used to create linen — L. usitatissimum aka common flax, or linseed — is just one of about 200 plants in the Linum genus, which is part of the flowering plant family Linaceae.

Other species in the family are at home in the backyard garden, ornamentals that display lovely flowers for us to admire.

Want to grow your own? Let’s take a look at specific varieties, where to find them, tips for helping your plants to reach maturity and harvest, and things to look out for.

Eat, Wear, or Massage into Wood: Grow Annual L. Usitatissimum

At one time, common flax was a major crop in the United States, grown in almost every state east of the Mississippi, according to the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach department.

The plant was grown not only for its fibers for fabric, but also for linseed oil, which is used to preserve wood — as in tabletops or cutting boards.

Though its importance as a commercial crop has been reduced in the United States, it is still grown here for its fibers, its oil, and its seeds, which are often consumed for their potential health benefits.

The brown or yellow/golden seeds contain a large quantity of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, thiamine, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Ground, it serves as an excellent substitute for eggs in vegan baking. (If you’re interested, you can .)

Planting Tips for Growing Edible Seed and Where to Buy

This annual plant — which has a tall, thin-stemmed growth habit similar to that of wheat — can also be grown in the home garden.

Similar to the way it is grown commercially, many backyard gardeners grow L. usitatissimum very densely, about 40 plants per square foot.

If you’re looking for seeds for this type, consider these from Plants With A Purpose, available via Amazon.

50 L. Usitatissimum Seeds

You’ll get 50 GMO-free, organic seeds.

Flax likes full sun and cool weather, and you’ll sow your seeds outdoors as soon as the fertile soil is workable, and when you know temperatures will remain above freezing. The seedlings can be sensitive to spring frost.

To make them easier to spread, mix the seeds with flour. Then sow one tablespoon of seeds per 10 square feet, scattering them evenly across the soil. Rake the seeds down into the soil, to 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep.

Harvest Time!

When the plant gets to its mature height of 2.5 to 3 feet, it continuously produces short-lived light blue flowers.

Each flower then develops into a pea-sized seed capsule. Each capsule contains four to 10 seeds. A boost in nitrogen amendments to the soil can help to increase seed yields.

You’ll know they are ready for harvest when the seed pods rattle when the plant is shaken. You can lightly crush the pods to release the seeds, or you can vigorously shake the cut stems onto a cloth to shake out the seeds.

If you are growing flax for its fibers, you’ll need to harvest about a month after the plant begins flowering, before the seed pods form – which means you have to decide whether you’re growing for fiber or for seeds.

This isn’t an easy process, and it’s rather rare among home gardeners. A wet fall climate is also a requirement for processing, or retting, the fibers, so growing for linen production can only be done in certain regions.

In fact, flax does best in somewhat moist – but not wet – climates, and it will require supplemental watering if you live somewhere with dry summers.

Pests and Diseases

There are several insects and diseases that you should keep an eye out for, and we’ll summarize several of the more common ones below.

Though there are many problems that may plague this crop, you should not be too discouraged if you live in an area with the right conditions to help them to thrive. Whereas disease spreads rapidly among commercial monocrops, there’s less risk involved with starting a few homegrown plants.

When grown commercially, flax is usually rotated with cereal crops like wheat to prevent disease. Even if you’re growing it on a smaller scale at home, be sure to avoid planting flax in the same area for more than three years in a row.

Many of the following may affect ornamental varieties as well.

Flax Bollworm

The flax bollworm (Heliothis ononis) is a moth with larvae that feed specifically on flax flowers and seeds, leaving you with nothing to harvest. It is found throughout parts of western Canada and the northwestern US.

The larvae look like green inchworms with white stripes along their backs and sides. If you see these on your plants, remove and dispose of them. Trichomalopsis sarcophagae, a biological control agent, is also approved for use in Canada, at least by commercial growers.

Cutworms, Aphids, and Leafhoppers

Several different species of all of these types of insects might like to munch on your plants, and as you will see below, leafhoppers in particular are often responsible for the spread of various diseases. Aphids love to suck tasty sap and cutworms eat leaves, causing damage to the health of your plants.

Spraying plants with a strong stream of water all over is recommended to dislodge pests, especially aphids. Some growers also recommend sticky traps to attract insects away from your crops, but when used outdoors, these can serve to sometimes trap beneficial insects as well. Insecticidal soap may also be used.

Speaking of beneficial insects, predatory bugs like ladybugs and lacewings love to eat garden pests, and their presence in the garden is more than welcome. They can even be purchased for release into the garden, but they may not choose to stick around, since they’re free to roam at will. Wasps and spiders also love to eat garden pests.

To prevent and get rid of cutworms, you can try making plant collars to prevent them from accessing your flax, pick them off and dispose of them, or sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of plants.

Rust

After a rust epidemic affecting Canadian flax crops in the 1970s, rust-resistant varieties have been developed, and the spread of this disease has mostly been resolved. Caused by Melampsora lini fungus, it can survive the winter on dead flax plant matter in the ground, and survive through several generations of plants. It can cause plants to lose their leaves, with reduced seed production and lower quality fibers.

L. grandiflorum

You’ll notice a bright orange, powdery residue that eventually turns black on leaves, stems, and seed bolls. If you spot rust, plants should be destroyed, as well as any plant debris in the ground, and crops should be rotated in coming seasons.

Fusarium Wilt

Caused by Fusarium oxysporum, a type of fungus, fusarium wilt may kill off young seedlings, or cause wilting and yellowing of leaves in mature plants.

Since it enters a plant through the roots and affects their uptake of water, you’re more likely to notice symptoms during periods of warm weather.

This type of fungus remains in the soil for several years, and spores can be spread via flax seed. Infected plants and seeds should be destroyed (not thrown onto the compost pile), and you should not grow flax or other plants that may be affected in the same soil for at least three years.

Resistant varieties commonly used in commercial production today have greatly reduced the spread of this disease.

Rhizoctonia

Another fungal disease, this one is caused by Rhizoctonia solani. It’s often found in the soil where potatoes or legumes have been grown, so you should avoid planting flax in these areas.

Powdery Mildew

Caused by a fungus called Oidium lini, plants with powdery mildew will lose their leaves and produce fewer seeds. You may have seen this disease before on other plants, like rosemary.

L. flavum

It’s exactly as it sounds – a light-colored powdery mildew will form on the leaves in just a few spots at first, but this will rapidly spread to cover the entire plant, and the leaves will wither and die. Some varieties are resistant.

It’s difficult to keep a plant from succumbing to this disease once it has been infected, but you can prevent it by avoiding planting in areas that are too wet, with well-draining soil.

Pasmo

Pasmo disease is caused by Septoria linicola, a fungus that loves high humidity and warm temperatures. It can cause plants to lose their leaves, ripen early, and produce lower quality seeds.

You’ll notice round, brown spots on leaves and brown or black bands on the stems of plants. The fungus can survive the winter in soil, and since no resistant seeds are available, most commercial growers rely on fungicides to treat it.

Early planting and crop rotation can help to prevent the spread of this disease.

Root Rot

Root rot may be caused by the spread of various types of fungus, but boggy soil is the main culprit. Flax plants do not like to have wet feet, and sitting in water will cause them to suffer, resulting in wilting, browning of leaves, and low yields.

L. maritimum

The roots of a plant are responsible for the uptake of nutrients, so their health is important. Be sure to plant in well-draining soil.

Aster Yellows

Caused by a bacterial parasite and transmitted by six-spotted leafhoppers, this disease causes stunted growth and abnormal flower development.

You’ll notice yellowing that starts at the top of plants, and they will develop sterile flowers that grow small leaves in place of petals, and fail to produce seed. Leafhoppers love warm weather, and this disease is a common problem.

Crinkle

A viral disease caused by the oat blue dwarf virus (OBVD), it is carried by the six-spotted leafhopper, Macrosteles fascifrons. Branches of the flax plant are known as “tillers,” and this disease can cause reduced tillering, meaning less branches will grow from the central stem, as well as overall stunted growth and puckered leaves. You’ll also notice reduced seed production.

Anywhere that leafhoppers are common, this disease can be a problem.

Curly Top

Caused by the beet curly top virus (BCTV), it is transmitted by the beet leafhopper, Eutettix tenellus Baker.

Curly top is marked by yellowing of leaves, and leaves that develop irregularly with curling leaves that often die.

Backyard Beauties: L. Perenne and Other Ornamental Perennials

If you’re looking for an ornamental type of flax that you won’t eat or wear, but that will offer lovely flowers, consider any of the herbaceous perennial types, many of which have similar characteristics.

Planting Tips for Ornamental Varieties and Where to Buy

In general, the backyard types are drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, and appreciate full sun and well-drained soil.

They’re fairly easy to care for. In terms of maintenance, you’ll want to trim ornamental types back after they flower, to encourage new growth and additional flowering.

Unless they’re looking particularly poorly, fertilizer isn’t generally needed. Just be sure to pull out any weeds that pop up around these plants.

In general, the ornamental types are more shrubby than L. usitatissimum.

For example, L. perenne, commonly called perennial flax, grows to a height of 1 to 2 feet, with a spread of 1 to 1½ feet.

It’s hardy in zones 5 to 9. Like common flax, it also produces attractive blue flowers, though cultivar ‘Alba’ has white flowers.

You can find seeds for blue-flowered perennial flax from Seed Needs, available via Amazon.

300 Blue L. Perenne Seeds

You’ll get 300 non-GMO seeds.

Golden flax, L. flavum, is native to central and southern Europe. This plant grows to about 18 inches tall and is hardy to zone 5.

It sprouts large clusters of pretty yellow flowers.

Find seeds for this variety at Seedville, available via Amazon.

500 Golden L. Flavum Flower Seeds

You’ll get 500 seeds that come in a resealable plastic zip-top bag with planting instructions.

L. lewisii — or blue flax — is a perennial wildflower native to North America, along the west coast and across the south to the Mississippi River.

It grows to about 2 feet tall and a foot in diameter, sprouting five-petaled, light blue flowers with attractive darker blue veins.

Find seeds for this American beauty from Mountain Valley Seed Co., available via True Leaf Market.

L. Lewisii Seeds

You can order seeds in quantities of 1 ounce, 4 ounces, or 1 pound.

A Multipurpose Marvel

Whether you want to weave your own cloth, produce nutritious seeds, or simply enjoy pretty flowers, flax is a good choice for many gardeners in zones 5-9.

The annual version is quite useful, while the perennial type offers beautiful interest to the summer landscape.

Do you have flax growing in your garden? Tell us about it in the comments section below. And if you’re looking for another plant with blue flowers, consider the Swan River daisy, or check out our article on native blue wildflowers.

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Product photos via Plants with a Purpose, Seed Needs, Seedville, and Mountain Valley Seed Co. Uncredited photos: . With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

Homeplace Earth

Homegrown flax straw, line flax, and linen thread spun from the line flax.

Growing flax in your garden and making it into linen is a great experience. Linen is the name for flax fiber once it is made into thread. It is hard to believe that what you harvest in the summer, something that looks less vibrant than the straw that results from growing wheat and rye, can produce fiber that can be made into fabric. Knowledge and the right tools is all it takes, in addition to planting the flax seeds at the correct time.

The variety of flax you will be planting for linen (Linum usitatissimum) is different than flax for culinary use (Linum perenne). Also, the planting is different. For linen you will need to plant the seeds closer together to get a very thick stand. The goal is to have straight stalks with no branching. A variety of fiber flax that I have found readily available is Marilyn. The Heirloom Seed Project at the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum in Lancaster, Pennsylvania sells Marilyn flax seed, as does the Hermitage in Pitman, Pennsylvania. Richters in Canada is also a source of flax seed. One pound of flax seed will plant about 300-400 square feet. You might find it for sale in some places by the packet for smaller areas.

Don’t delay in ordering your seeds because the time to plant is in early spring. Last year I planted on March 8 here in Virginia in Zone 7. Using the information in Linda Heinrich’s book, Linen: From Flax Seed to Woven Cloth, as my guide, I waited until the soil had warmed to at least 43-46° F. (6-8° C.). Soil that is too cold will slow germination. Since I was planting in beds in my vegetable garden, I had the required open and sunny space. One guideline as a time to plant is to count back 100 days from when hot weather (80° F., 27° C.) sets in. Here in Virginia it can get hot early, so I went with the soil temperature guideline.

flax flowers

Harvest time is 90-100 days from planting, or 30 days after the crop is in full flower. I watched for that and marked my calendar for harvest in 30 days. There will be some earlier blooms and some later ones, but watch for the major flush of blooms. I harvested most of my flax on June 22. I let one bed go about two weeks later to let the seeds mature, harvesting that bed on July 8. I thought I would be sacrificing the quality of the fiber if I waited for the seeds to mature, but so far, it looks good. I have processed it into line flax for spinning, but haven’t spun it yet. Time will tell.

I prepare in the fall for my early spring flax planting. The area needs to be moderately fertile. In the fall, instead of planting a cover crop, I cover the intended flax beds with leaves from the oak and maple trees in our yard, since I can never be too sure what the weather will be in early spring and I want the beds ready early. If I could depend on having the cover crop winterkill, I would plant for that. However, sometimes our winters are too mild for a sure winterkill, which has happened this year. I pull off the leaves a week or two before planting to let the soil warm and, when the time is right, put in the seeds.

Flax growing in rows in a 4′ wide garden bed.

Everything I have read about flax cautions about keeping up with the weeding, but I found that was not a problem. The flax was well established by the time weeds appeared. The leaf mulch over the winter might have helped with that. Planting can be done in rows spaced close together (3-4 in., 7.5-10.5 cm.) or broadcast. Planting in rows will help you identify what is flax and what is weeds, making weeding easier. When it is time to harvest, you will be pulling it up, roots and all, rather than cutting it. The fiber extends all the way into the roots and you want every bit.

Flax brake, scutching board and scutching knife, and three hackles. The middle hackle is an antique. We made the other two.

Growing flax is the easy part. Once it is harvested, it will need to be retted, which can be accomplished by soaking it in water or laying it out in the grass to let the dew take care of it for a couple weeks. After that, you will need equipment, which may not be readily available, to process it into line flax to spin. Of course, then you need to spin it, then weave or knit it. Don’t worry, I will be telling you about retting and processing in future posts. We have made a flax brake, scutching board and knife, and hackles to do the processing. The spinning can be done on a handspindle or a spinning wheel.

If you would like to work with flax and you do not intend to grow your own, you can purchase unretted flax from the Heirloom Seed Project at the Landis Valley Museum. That’s how I got started. Places that sell spinning and weaving equipment may have line flax for spinning. The class I took at the John C. Campbell Folk School in 2015 helped jumpstart my flax education.

Get your seeds in the ground this spring and watch for them to flower in 60-70 days, then mark your calendar for harvest 30 days after that. I’ll be posting again before harvest time to guide you along. This will be fun!

Grow and Harvest Flax by hira

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Pitch

Noble material, linen is an all natural fibre that requires no chemicals for growth or for its transformation.

Description

Summary

Flax is the oldest fiber plant amongst all the fiber. It is an annual plant and the fiber is collected from the stew of the plant. Flax seeds are cultivated in a fertile, well-defined, and well prepared soil with a cool and humid condition.

The process of collecting fiber from the plant is near similar to jute fiber. In present the demand of linen fiber is increased incredively for this reason the production rate of flax fiber increasing rapidly. Russia is the major flax cultivating country in the world but best quality flax is cultivated in Belgium. Major portion of linen fiber is supplied from the entire Europe.Noble material, linen is an all natural fibre that requires no chemicals for growth or for its transformation. The fabric keeps us cool in summer and warm in the winter because it keeps the air in its fibres in fact a natural insulator. The linen cloth has a beneficial effect on sensitive skin. This is the most resistant fabric. It is not plush and not deformed. It softens with washing.

What actions do you propose?

Grow and Harvest Flax

Growing

Flax, Linum usitatissimum, is an annual herb grown for two distinct purposes: producing linen fibers and harvesting the seeds.

Flax cultivated for its seeds requires a rich soil, similar to soil prepared for growing wheat. The plant is rather particular about its soil. Its preferences are deep, moist loam, rich in vegetable matter, not too loose, not too hard like clay, and neither sandy nor rocky. If manure is added to the soil, it must be well aged.

Enjoying a warm moist climate, flax will grow in all temperate and tropical regions. All of man’s efforts to cultivate flax has not prevented it from escaping into a semi-wild state in all the regions where it is grown.

Flaxseeds are planted at the end of March. By the end of May, attractive blossoms appear, making a flax field a breathtaking sight, but only for a few hours. The flowers are mostly blue, with some plants producing white, pink, or violet blossoms. The blooms are extremely delicate and perish quickly. Pollination by bees is a necessity for flax to set seed capsules.

The long, hollow and woody stems vary from 2 to 4 feet (60 to 120 cm). Round seedpods form at the top of the stem and contain about 10 seeds each that measure about 1/8-inch (.5 cm) in length. The tough, shiny seeds are brown, flat, and pointed at one end and contain about 35% to 45% of the valuable flax oil known for its health benefits. Rate of sowing seed varies from 3 kg/ha for seed production to 160 kg/ha for fiber production.

Thresh Flax Seeds

Hang the bundles in a warm place with good air circulation. After a few weeks, when the stalks are stiff and dry, you can thresh out the seeds. This takes some effort: you have to crush open the pods. One method is to slide a pillowcase over the top end of a bundle, tie the case securely around the stems, then put it down on a paved driveway, sidewalk or other hard, flat surface.

Beat the pods through the cloth with a block of wood, roll them with a rolling pin (push hard!), jump on the bag or drive back and forth over it with a car.

After several minutes of such activity, open the bag to confirm that most of the pods have been crushed, shake the bundle vigorously to knock out all the seeds, then pour the seeds and chaff out of the pillowcase into a bowl and start again with the next bundle. After threshing all the bundles, sift the seeds through a colander or coarse strainer to remove bits of stems and broken pods. Step outdoors in the breeze and pour the seeds slowly from one container to another to winnow away any remaining chaff or dust.

Linen fibre production

In the traditional process, the flax stems are tied into bundles and hung out to dry. When the stems are dry, they are combed with a rippling rake to remove the seed pods. The stems are then retted (that is, rotted) either by laying them in a damp field for a couple of weeks, where they ret in the dew, or by leaving them in standing water for a few days.

The retted stems are rinsed and dried before breaking them with a flax-brake and cleaning them by scutching. The fibres are then combed on hackles to produce long line fibres that can be spun, called line flax. The short fibres that are combed out are the hackle tow or flax tow and are carded and spun into coarse yarns and thread. A 1.5m by 5 m patch of flax produces about 350 grams of flax fibre. Fiber yields run 200–1200 kg/ha.

Who will take these actions?

Government, Industries and individual

Where will these actions be taken?

Top Flax Growing Countries of the World: Linen fiber is used to produce linen fabric which is comfortable to wear. Flax is cultivated in different parts of the world. Followings are the most flax growing countries. They are-

  1. Canada
  2. Russia
  3. Ukraine
  4. France
  5. Argentina
  6. Italy
  7. Germany
  8. UK (Ireland, Scotland, England)
  9. Holland
  10. Belgium

Above are the major flax growing countries but some flax are grown in India, Pakistan, China and Africa.

What are other key benefits?

  • Flax fibers are amongst the oldest fiber crops in the world. fiber is soft, lustrous and flexible.
  • It is stronger than cotton fiber but less elastic.
  • The best grades are used for linen fabrics such as damasks, lace and sheeting.
  • Coarser grades are used for the manufacturing of twine and rope.
  • Flax fiber is also a raw material for the high- quality paper industry for the use of printed banknotes and rolling paper for cigarettes.
  • a local resource
  • renewable
  • no irrigation
  • zero waste
  • 100% recyclabe
  • no skin irritation

What are the proposal’s costs?

1 hactare flax cultivation to harvest cost US$700.00/- in contest of Nepal.

Time line

within 6 month

Related proposals

Harvesting Flax for Fibre

a) When do I harvest flax?
b) How do I harvest flax?
c) How much fibre will I get?
d) How do I prepare the fibre
e) Rippling flax (opens a new page)
5) When do I harvest flax?
Your flax will grow to about a metre high and it is ready to harvest at about 30 to 35 days after flowering, when the stalks are turning yellow but there is still some green in them. From sowing the seed to harvest takes approximately 100 days. The longer you leave the flax plants, the coarser the fibre. Conversely, if you harvest a few days after flowering you will get very fine flax fibre.
If you want to save your own seed, leave a small patch of flax in the ground until the seed pods are brown and dry.
6) How do I harvest flax?
This is fun bit. When your flax is ready, just pull the plants, keeping all the seed pods in one direction and the roots in another. Tie the flax in bundles, called stooks, and leave then upright to dry. You might need to tie them around a pyramid of 3 bamboo canes to keep them upright.
7) How much flax fibre will I get?
A 1.5m by 5 m patch of flax produces about 350 grams of flax fibre.
8) How do I prepare flax fibre?
This process traditionally uses a flax ripple but you could also use a cheap plastic comb and comb the seeds away from the plant. Or you can make your own flax ripple (see Rippling Flax page)!
You might like to save the seed, as it might well be ripe enough to sow the following year.
You then need to ret the fibre, and this is something you learn by experience. So don’t ret all your fibre at once, do a bundle at a time until you are more experienced. You can store unretted flax through the winter, just make sure it is in a place safe from mice.
Read about Rippling Flax and then Retting Flax Fibre (each opens a new page)
Back to Growing Flax and Sowing Flax

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Richters InfoSheet D2701

Fibre Flax Planting and Processing Instructions

The outer fibres of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, are used to make linen. Flax is a cool season, early maturing plant. It does best in temperatures of 10-27� C (50-80� F) until the blooming stage and then hot, dry weather is best for threshing and drying the straw.
Site Selection and Preparation
Flax requires an open site with wind and sun exposure. Avoid planting under trees or near tall crops, fences or hedges that may shade the plants. Flax will grow in a variety of soils, but sandy clay loams of pH 5-7 work best.
If possible prepare the beds for seeding the previous autumn, removing weeds, rocks and debris. You may not need to fertilize if the bed is new. If you do decide to fertilize, use a well-composted manure applied lightly. Too much nitrogen (N) reduces fibre quality and increases the risk of lodging or falling over in heavy rains. On the other hand, phosphorus (P) improves root development and potash (K) is required for good fibre development. Typically farmers apply nutrients at the following rates per hectare 0-40 kg nitrogen, 70-110 kg phosphate, and 70-100 kg potash. (N.B. 1 kg per hectare = 1 lb per acre.)
Seed Selection
Do not plant oilseed flax varieties; these produce poor quality fibres. It is important to get a variety that is bred specifically for fibre production. The variety ‘Regina’ is a standard fibre variety from Northern Europe with white flowers. It grows to 60 cm (24 in.) in height.
Sowing
Flax matures in 90-100 days. Flax seed is sown when the danger of severe frost is over. In northern United States and southern Canada, sowing in late April or early May is optimal. The seeds germinate in about two weeks.
Do not sow too thinly otherwise plants will produce too many branches and a coarse and inferior fibre will result. The ideal plant density is 2,000 plants per square meter (190 per sq. ft.). At this density the stems should be straight, 1-2 mm (1/16″) in diameter, with only 5-6 flowers at the top. To get this plant density, sow 12-16 grams per square meter (1.1-1.5 grams per sq. ft.) or 50-65 kg per acre.
Seeds may be broadcast or sown in rows. Broadcasting helps to keep branching to a minimum, and is practical for home gardeners, but for farmers row seeding gives better control over plant spacing and allows for mechanization.
Weed Control
Flax competes poorly against weeds. Weeds depress fibre yields and make it difficult to harvest the straw. Early seedbed preparation gives weeds time to germinate so that a light tillage prior to sowing helps to reduce weeds. A thorough weeding when flax plants are 15-20 cm (6-8 in.) high helps, but avoid weeding when plants are taller or they may not recover from the damage of walking through the patch.
Pests and Diseases
Flax is bothered by few diseases and pests. Human and animal traffic can damage plants and should be minimized.
Irrigation
Irrigation by sprinkler may be necessary during droughts, but otherwise watering is not necessary once the plants are established. Do not irrigate once flowering begins in order to prevent the chance of lodging.
Harvesting
The flowers appear 60 days after planting, followed by the “boll” or seed capsule. About 80-100 days after planting, when the seeds are quite ripe, the plants are ready for pulling. If they are pulled too soon there will be too much waste in the scutching and hackling processing steps. If they are pulled too late, the fibre will be too coarse. The best time is when the seeds are beginning to change from pale green to a pale brown colour and the stalks will be yellow two-thirds up. Once the plants are ready, they must be pulled immediately, delaying not even a day.
The plants are pulled, roots and all, to give the maximum length of fibre. Plants of similar length can be bundled together, keeping the sheaves even at the root end as much as possible. Sheaves of plants 40-50 cm (18-20 in.) in circumference are tied with twine and stood against each other in groups of 10-12 sheaves to dry. It takes about a week in good weather to dry the plants. The sheaves can tolerate some rain, but if rain is heavy or if you must harvest in rain, you must bring the crop indoors to dry.
Typical dry straw yields are 1600-2800 kg per acre. About 15-20% of that, or 240-560 kg/acre, is extractable fibre.
Rippling
Once the sheaves are dry the seeds must be removed by a ‘rippler’. This is a board studded with sharp spikes about 30-45 cm (12-18 in.) long arranged like the teeth of a comb 5 mm (1/4 in.) apart. The sheaves are drawn through the rippler to separate the seed heads from the stems.
Retting
In order to release the soft outer fibres from the stems for spinning, the inner wooden core must be ‘retted’, or rotted, in one of several ways.
Dew retting. The sheaves are untied and the flax is spread out in even rows on grass for 15-20 days. The grass should be mowed to 4-5 cm (1.5-2 in.) high. The flax should be turned once daily to ensure the even exposure of the fibres to the effect of the sun, rain and dew. In dry weather when the flax shows signs of drying out and becoming brittle the flax is watered lightly with soft water in the early morning or late evening.
Water retting. The flax is retted in streams, open tanks or ponds. The best control over the retting process occurs in open tanks such as an old bath tub. The flax straw bundles are weighted down to keep them submerged. At 27� C (80� F) water will ret the flax in 5-7 days, while below 20�C (70� F) retting can take up to 2-3 weeks. The longer time is not harmful.
With each method the flax should be tested daily to determine when the retting process is complete. Too little retting will make the flax difficult to break. Too much retting and the fibres will be weak. The root end of the flax should split and begin to show the inner fibres. The most reliable test is to break and scutch a small dried sample.
After retting is complete, lay a thin layer of flax straw on grass to cure and bleach it. Turn the fibres once a day for even exposure. Retted flax will dry in 2-3 days in sun a breeze.
Breaking
The next three steps complete the separation of the fibres from the stalks. ‘Breaking’ is a process that completely smashes the woody core of the stems into tiny fragments. A wooden device called a ‘break’ is used for this purpose. It is a fixed frame to which is attached a chopping frame attached at one end to the fixed frame. By the handle at the other end, the chopping frame is brought down sharply on a handful of retted flax. This is repeated over the entire length of the flax stems until most of the brittle pith and cuticle gives away leaving the long band of fibre intact. A fluted mallet can be used to break the flax also, but a break makes the job much easier.
If the flax straw does not break completely, the batch will have to be retted further.
Scutching
‘Scutching’ completes the removal of the broken stalk from the fibre. A scutching board is a smooth wooden plank held upright on a base; it is about 35 cm (14 in) wide and 1.2 m (4ft) high. A scutching knife resembles a large butter knife or paddle. It is made of smooth wood free of knots. With the left hand a handful of broken flax is laid over the top of the scutching board so that the stalks lie against the side of the board and the right hand the scutching knife is used to repeatedly scrape and beat the stalks until all of the woody portions (the ‘boon’) separate and fall away from the fibres.
If retting is incomplete the heavy scutching needed to remove the boon will damage the fibres and much will be lost. It may not be possible to remove all of the boon. If the retting is overdone, the fibres will break into small useless pieces.
Hackling
‘Hackling’ is the process of separating fibres that are still clinging together. This is done with at least three different flax-combs or ‘hackles’ consisting of a board with steel spikes or needles. A coarse hackle of spikes spaced about 2-3 spikes per square inch. A medium hackle with spikes spaced 16-20 per square inch. And a fine hackle of fine needles in close rows about 80-100 per square inch.
The flax is repeatedly drawn lightly across the top of the hackle starting with the coarse one and finishing with the fine one. The hackles will separate and split the fibres in the fibre glands into finer and finer filaments. Left behind in the hackle will be shorter, coarser bits called the ‘tow’ that is saved to be spun into tow yarn. Fine yarn is spun from the ‘line’ or the fine hackled flax that results from the hackling process. A good hackler will get 55% fine hackled flax, 40% ‘tow’, and 5% loss.
Spinning and Dyeing
The fine line flax is now ready for spinning. It should be twisted, folded in half and allowed to bend around itself like a skein of wool, and it can be stored this way indefinitely. Mark the root and blossom ends because this is important when spinning.
Flax is one of the roughest of the vegetable fibres and success in dyeing it depends on how it is prepared. It is best spun and hanked before mordanting and dyeing. It is then treated like wool, but with higher temperatures and longer simmering in the dyebath.
More Information
Atton, Mavis (1988). Flax Culture: From Flower to Fabric. The Ginger Press, Owen Sound, Ontario, pp. 96.
Heinrich, Linda (2010). Linen: From Flax Seed to Woven Cloth. Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, PA, pp. 256.

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D2701 ©2004-2011 Otto Richter and Sons Limited

Grow Flax For Linen In Your Garden

Growing flax to process into linen was a common activity on homesteads before the Industrial Revolution. In fact, a quarter acre per person might have been planted to take care of clothing and other textile needs for the year. When choosing a variety of flax to plant for linen, make sure the botanical name is Linum usitatissimum. The variety I’ve found to be available is Marilyn.

If you are just starting out and don’t know if you really want to get into this yet, you can get enough material to work with from just a small space in your garden. In that case, you may want to buy seed by the packet, if it is available. If you want to have enough to really play with, plant a pound of seeds. I bought seed through The Heirloom Seed Project at the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Their one pound package of seeds indicates it is enough to plant 400 square feet. My main source of information about growing flax to linen has been the book Linen: From Flax Seed to Woven Cloth by Linda Heinrich. That book suggests that one pound of seed is enough to plant 300 square feet.

The time to plant is in the early spring, about the time you plant peas. Flax wants to get its start in the cool weather and will be ready to harvest in about 90-100 days. You will need to plant it in a sunny spot and provide an even distribution of moisture throughout its growing season if you do not have regular rainfall. Whether you plant the seeds in rows or broadcast them, the seeds need to be close together so the stalks will grow straight with no branching. You will get more and better fiber from thin stalks than from fat ones. Attention needs to be given to keep flax weeded, especially when it is young. Find more details about planting flax at Homeplace Earth.

When it gets closer to harvest time I will be posting again with what to do next. Although there are many steps in the journey to linen, other than harvesting at the right time, those steps can be done at your leisure. The flax straw will have to be retted, which is soaking it in water or, my favorite, laying it in the grass and letting the dew take care of it. The fiber will be separated from the straw when you break it, then it is further cleaned by scutching and hackling. It sounds daunting, but once you understand it and have worked a bit with it, it is not so intimidating.

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Many museums and festivals have flax tools on display and may do demonstrations. The Landis Valley Farm Museum has a wonderful display in their textile barn. One place to see flax to linen in action is at the Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania. That festival will be held September 16-17 this year, the same time as the Mother Earth News Fair in nearby Seven Springs. I am thrilled that we can see the flax to linen process at historical demonstrations, but we need to take it out of the museums and make it part of our lives. We can make the necessary tools ourselves and, once again, wear clothes that have come from our own land and our own hands.

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Harvesting Linen Flax

Linen, a specially selected variety of the flax plant, grown for its long, unbranched stocks, is harvested 100 days after planting, before the seeds are fully ripe. The plants, which are grown for their long, luxurious bast fiber, are pulled up by the roots in order to maximize the length of the fiber.

It’s very important when harvesting flax for linen fiber to harvest at the right time. You don’t want to leave it in the field too long. You don’t want to wait until the seeds are completely ripe. This toughens the linen fiber in the stems and you will not get soft, fine linen fibers that are also strong. If the plants dry out in the field and turn brown, the fiber becomes brittle and there is a greater percentage of waste when the plants are processed for fiber.

How to know if your linen is ready to harvest

When linen flax is ready for harvesting, flowering has stopped. One or two flowers may be visible in the field but predominantly each stalk has only seed bolls visible. The plants are 2/3rds yellow and 1/3rd still green. The seed has formed in the seed bolls but it is still white or pale brown and immature, inside the boll. This is the optimal time for harvest. If the field was planted in a single day, the window of optimal harvest may be only a day or two. So be prepared to put aside other activities to get the harvest in efficiently.

How to harvest linen

Harvest on a dry day. If it’s raining, wait until the plants are dry before harvesting. Never harvest in the rain. You don’t want to walk on the wet soil, and compact the earth. The wet plants will heat up and the core of your bundles will rot and mold instead of continuing to mature in the shook as they should.

Harvest by pulling up handfuls of linen stalks by the roots. They come up easily if the ground is not compacted. Once the plants are pulled up, they are bundled into shooks that are the breadth of a hand and tied securely. The stalks themselves can be used to tie the bundle. I put two of the moister, yellow stalks together and use them to tie the stocks in bundles or shooks. The shooks are then stood upright in the field or under shelter if rain is expected. This allows the seed bolls to continue to mature while the plants turn yellow, and finish drying out. By standing them up, instead of piling them on top of each other, they will dry evenly, without molding.

The seed will mature while the plants dry out. Once the seed is mature it can be rippled from the plants to feed to livestock or to save for planting in the following year. Plan to ripple the plants before storing them for the winter. Keep varmints out of your seeds as you may want to save your seed to plant for the following year – saving you money and ensuring the you have an eternal supply of linen flax.

More about rippling linen flax in September, once the seeds of this year’s harvest are mature. Would you like a video of the rippling process and the equipment and set up that I use?

More resources:

This is my very favorite book about growing, harvesting, and processing linen. It has lots of history, culture, and hands on, practical advice to help you master this lost art.

Linen from flax seed to woven cloth

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