After a cold April delayed things I finally got to sow seed at my allotment on May 4th. Just over a week later the seedlings are up!
It’s always a relief to see shoots poke their way through the soil. Although I find seed sowing a particularly satisfying gardening activity, raising plants from seed always feels slightly risky too. The possibility of failure is ever present at the back of your mind. Even if you follow instructions to the letter sometimes germination just doesn’t happen. It’s probably why rain dances were invented. Whenever I put seeds in there is an involuntary prayer to the plant gods to let it grow.
So what next?
Weeds are only an issue at the start when the plants are getting established. When the seedlings are few inches tall give it a thorough going over taking out all weeds. You should be able to spot them simply by the difference in visual appearance to the majority of seedlings present (which will be the flax, leave them alone!). Flax is pretty resilient so will only need watering during really hot and sunny spells. Apparently slugs don’t go for flax (I’m yet to be convinced as they seem keen on most things I grow) but flea beetle can be an issue. There’s a link here to an Alys Fowler colum in the Guardian about how to control them.
The flax plants will grow fast once established, growing strongly throughout June to reach a height of around 3 feet. About two months after sowing the flowers should start to appear which will last around a fortnight (though each individual flower blooms for just one day and is often referred to as the ‘fugitive flower’). The plants will be ready to harvest a few weeks after flowering ends when two thirds of the stems are yellow.
More on the harvesting process to come later. Plus details of the harvest event which will be held at Dawes Twineworks this August.