Our crop this year is near Whangarei in rich volcanic soil. This is the third year we have trialled plantings of Linen Flax here in Northland.
As usual we prepared the soil by hand – removing weeds, roots and stones. This was done around Labour Weekend. Planting was done the following weekend, using some imported seed, some seed left from the first year, and some from last year. This was very interesting to us to compare, as we were concerned with the viability of the seed from the first year given it was fairly immature when we harvested. Plus we wanted to see whether the germination rates would different.
November and December were fairly dry, so we watered a couple of times a week. January has provided us with some nice showers so far to finish off our crop.
While the fresh seeds did germinate quicker, the seeds from prior years were only a little behind and in the end the yield has been very similar – which shows the viability of keeping seeds for replanting.
We also grew the plants in the open this year as an experiment. Matt loaned us his scare-hawk to keep the birds off for the first few weeks. That proved very effective as one of our main concerns was with birds wrecking havoc in the beds.
We didn’t count on an enterprising rabbit making a home in the middle of one bed. The combination of easy digging soil and nice cool tender flax proved to be too big a temptation – leaving quite a few broken precious stalks that we gathered up.
Nearing harvest now, the plants have flowered and the stalks are starting to brown at the bottom. The rain has been a welcome relief to finish the crop off nicely. A great result we think!
Where too from here?
We would love to see a network of small growers producing linen flax in Northland, perhaps through a co-op of some sort. The potential for local processing is huge, as is the potential for value added products.It would be great to sort up a small-scale shared processing centre somewhere.
We would also love to talk with anyone with experience with spinning linen flax or equipment for the processing. At some stage soon we are wanting to organise a gathering of people interested in taking this further. Please contact us if you would like to part of this kind of network in Northland.