Stack functions in your garden for beautiful, natural dye plants that provide food for the bees!
Watching the transformation of our homestead over the past year really has been a treat. When we first installed the hugelkultur bed and started planting, we were mostly growing food for the kitchen and pantry and some bee forage. Nearly two years later, we’ve shifted to a bee-first attitude at least 50% of the property planted with bee forage and natural dye plants. Taking care of our pollinators and others’ is a central purpose for us these days.
The most recent experiment we’re trying out is to see how well we can farm 4500 indigo plants we’ve planted at 8th & Bee this Summer. Indigo has been prized for centuries for its scrumptious blue hue (along with its cousin on the color wheel, Woad), and is seeing a resurgent use among artisan dyers and textile fanatics.
Earlier this year, Tiffany completed a 100-day compost of dried indigo with a collective of folks working down in Marin county — to evaluate the economic viability of growing it and selling the composted, fermented dye. It’s part of the growing fibershed movement in the North Bay to produce sustainable, locally crafted textiles and garments (curious about the fibershed movement? Read more here).
The experience inspired us to test how well we could grow indigo in a small space, around our homestead. Enter the 12 flats of young indigo Tiffany bought from the collective. We’ll hopefully harvest and process enough for a 55 gallon dye vat, and we’re stacking functions because the bees love the indigo flowers.
In true permaculture function stacking spirit, we have planted a number of other natural dye plants that are beloved by our bees for food and will eventually provide us with a rainbow of dye sources. Here’s what we’re experimenting with at the homestead right now: