Are you interested in learning how to grow flax plant? If so, you’ve come to the right place. This guide covers everything from how to grow flax plants to choosing a suitable variety of flax and caring for your plants.
So, let’s dig in and learn all about growing flax plants!
What is Flax?
Flax (Linum usitatissimum) or linseed is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the Linaceae family. Flax is an annual plant that has a height of about 1.2m (4 feet). The leaves of the flax plant are green and lanceolate, and the flowers are blue or white.
Flax is a beautiful and useful plant that has been cultivated for centuries. The seeds of the flax plant are used to make linen and oil, while the fibers are used to make cloth and paper. Flax is also a popular choice for making natural dyes.
When to Plant Flax?
Flax is a cool-season crop that is best planted in the spring, after the last frost date. In warmer climates, flax can be cultivated in the fall. Flax can be direct-seeded or started indoors and then transplanted.
If you’re starting your flax plants indoors, sow the seeds in flats or pots filled with a potting mix about six weeks before the last frost date.
How to grow Flax plant
Now that you know when to plant flax let’s take a look at how to grow these versatile plants.
Choose the right variety of flax
Flax comes in wide varieties, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. If you want to grow flax for its seeds, look for shorter types that produce a high yield. For fiber production, choose varieties that produce long, strong fibers.
If you’re not sure which variety of flax to choose, ask your local nursery or seed supplier for advice.
Choose your location
Choose whether you want to grow your flax indoors or outdoors. If you’re growing flax for its seeds, you’ll need to grow it outdoors. Flax grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.
If you’re growing flax for its fibers, you can plant it indoors or outdoors. However, keep in mind that flax needs a lot of sunlight to produce good fibers, so you’ll need to provide plenty of light if you’re growing it indoors.
Prepare the soil
Flax prefers well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. You can go for loamy sand, sandy loam, or clay loam soil types. The soil’s pH should be acidic to neutral as it helps the plant uptake nutrients easily.
To prepare the soil, start by removing any weeds or large stones. Add some organic matter to the soil as compost or manure. You can also add a balanced fertilizer to it.
Plant the seeds
Once the soil is ready, it’s time to plant the seeds. Sow the seeds about 2.5cm (1 inch) deep and 6 inches apart. If you want to plant more than one row of flax, provide adequate space between the rows so that the plants have enough room to grow.
You can plant flax seeds in early spring or late summer, or before the last frost. It’s a hardy plant that can tolerate as low as -2 degrees Celsius. If you’re growing flax indoors, sow the seeds in seed-starting trays filled with potting mix.
Water the seedlings
Once the seeds are planted, water them gently. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Water the seedlings regularly, especially during dry spells. Thin out the seedlings if necessary so that only the strongest ones remain.
Mulching the soil around the seedlings to help retain moisture. With adequate care, the seedlings will soon grow into healthy plants.
Fertilize the plants
Flax is a heavy feeder and benefits from regular fertilization. Apply a balanced fertilizer to the plants every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Adding compost or manure to the soil around the plants can provide it with additional nutrients.
It is also a good idea to perform a soil test before planting to find out the nutrient content of the soil. This helps to determine how much fertilizer to use.
Weed the plants
Flax is a competitive plant that can crowd out weeds. However, you should still remove any weeds that appear in the area around the plants. This will help prevent the weeds from stealing nutrients and water from the flax plants.
It’s also a good idea to add a layer of mulch around the plants. This helps prevent weeds from germinating and will also help retain moisture in the soil.
How to harvest the flax seed
So, how do you harvest flax seeds? Follow these steps:
The best time to harvest flax is after 100 days of sowing. The plant is ready for harvest when 90% of the seeds have turned brown.
To harvest it, pull the plants up by the roots and gather them into bundles. Hang them upside down in a shady, well-ventilated area to dry for three to five weeks.
Once the plants are dehydrated, thresh the seeds by rubbing the plants between your hands. You can also use a flail or a combined harvester to thresh the seeds.
After threshing, winnow the seeds to remove the chaff. You can do this by pouring the seeds from one container to another in a Breeze. The lighter chaff will blow away, while the heavier seeds will fall into the container.
Store the seeds in an airtight, well-closed container, and they will last for several years.
How to harvest flax fiber
If you’re harvesting flax for its fiber, you can follow one of the two methods:
The dew retting method is the most common way of harvesting flax for fiber. It’s a slow process that takes around two to three weeks.
Here’s how it works:
- First, cut the flax plants close to the ground using a sickle or scythe.
- Next, lay the plants in a single layer in a shady, well-ventilated area.
- Allow the plants to dew ret for 10 to 14 days, turning them over every few days.
- If natural moisture is insufficient, you can water the plants lightly.
- Dew retting is complete when the fibers can be easily separated from the plant’s woody core.
Water retting is a quicker method of harvesting flax for fiber, but it’s also more damaging to the plants. Here’s how it works:
- To water ret flax, cut the plants close to the ground and tie them into bundles. Soak the bundles in a pond or tank of water for around two weeks, turning them over every few days.
- Water with a temperature around 95 degrees Fahrenheit can speed up the process. However, this can damage the fibers.
- Once the fibers are soft, remove the plants from the water and allow them to dry. After they’re dry, you can begin separating the fibers from the plant.
- The fibers can be spun into thread or used to make fabric.
How to care for flax plants
Flax is a tough plant that doesn’t require much care. However, you can do a few things to ensure that your plants stay healthy and productive.
Don’t let the plant dry out
Flax needs consistent moisture to grow well, so make sure to water the plants regularly. One inch of water per week is required for proper growth.
Make sure to water the plants at the base to avoid wetting the leaves and flowers, which can encourage fungal growth.
Space the plants properly
When planting flax, make sure to space the seeds six inches apart. This will give the plants enough room to grow and prevent them from crowding out.
You can thin out the plants when they’re a few inches tall, if necessary, to ensure they have enough space.
Maintain temperature and humidity
Flax plants prefer cool temperatures and moderate humidity. Too much temperature can cause the plant to bolt or seed prematurely.
To maintain humidity, you can mist the plants with water or place a humidifier near them.
Once the flax plants are ready for harvest, remove them promptly. Leaving the plants in the ground for too long can reduce the quality of the fibers.
The ideal time to harvest flax is 90 to 120 days after planting, so keep an eye on the plants and be ready to harvest them when they’re mature.
Store the flax properly
After harvest, the flax plants need to be dried before they can be stored. Keep them in a dry place to prevent the plants from rotting.
You can also store the flax in a freezer if you need to keep it for an extended period of time.
What are the uses of flax?
Are you wondering how to use flax? Flax can be used both for its fiber and seeds. Here are some of the most common uses for flax:
To make fabric
Flax fibers can be spun into thread or woven into fabric. The resulting fabric is known as linen. Linen is a strong, durable, and absorbent material that’s often used to make clothing, towels, and bedding.
As a food source
Flax seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They can be eaten whole or ground into a powder. Ground flaxseed is often used as a vegan egg substitute in baking. The seeds can also be pressed to extract flaxseed oil.
To make oil
The seeds of the flax plant can be cold-pressed to extract oil. This oil is often used in cooking or as a dietary supplement. Flaxseed oil can also be used to make paints, varnishes, and soaps.
Flaxseed oil has a nutty flavor and can be used in salad dressings, sauces, and marinades. It has a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids, making it a healthy addition to your diet.
You can use a flaxseed meal as a breading for chicken or fish. You can also add it to baked goods or smoothies.
As an animal feed
Flaxseeds can be used as an animal feed. It’s an excellent source of fiber and protein; you can feed them to chickens, pigs, cattle, and fish.
To make paper
The fibers of the flax plant can be used to make paper. This type of paper is known as linen paper. It’s a strong, durable paper often used for printing and writing.
As a dietary supplement
Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to have many health benefits. They’re also a good source of fiber. For this reason, flaxseeds are often used as a dietary supplement.
As an industrial fiber
The fibers of the flax plant can be used to make rope, twine, and sacks. They can also be used as an absorbent material for oil spills.
How to store flax seeds
Wondering how to keep the freshness of your flax seeds intact? After opening a package of flax seeds, there is a chance that they will go bad quickly if not stored properly.
Here’s how to store flax seeds to keep them fresh:
In the pantry
The best way to store unopened flax seeds is in a cool, dry place like the pantry. Make sure to keep them in an airtight container. They will stay fresh for their expiration date if stored properly.
If the pack was previously stored in the fridge, then there is a chance that the temperature fluctuation will cause the seeds to go bad quicker.
In the fridge
The best way to store opened flax seeds is in the fridge. The cool temperature will help to keep the seeds fresh for longer.
You can store both opened and unopened packages of flax seeds in the fridge. This is the best way to store them if you want them to last for an extended period of time.
In the freezer
You can also store flax seeds in the freezer. This is a good option if you want them to last up to a year. To freeze flax seeds, simply place them in an airtight container and store them in the freezer.
Don’t thaw the seeds before using them. You can add them frozen to smoothies or baking recipes.
Health benefits of flaxseed
Flaxseed contains fiber and omega-3 fatty acids that offer a variety of health benefits. It’s also high in lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that provides many health benefits.
Some of the most well-known health benefits of flaxseed are:
Flax seeds can help to lower cholesterol levels. This is due to the high levels of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients help to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the gut.
Aids in weight loss
Flaxseed can also help with weight loss by making you feel fuller for longer. This is due to the high fiber content. Fiber slows down the digestion process, which can lead to increased satiety.
The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. This is beneficial for conditions like arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
Lowers blood pressure
Flaxseed can also help lower blood pressure by reducing inflammation and relaxing the blood vessels. The nutrients in it help reduce the stiffness of arteries and veins, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
May improve heart health
The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed can also help to improve heart health. They help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving blood vessel function, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack.
May reduce the risk of cancer
The lignans in flaxseed may also help reduce the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer. The phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors, which can help to block the effects of excess estrogen. This can help to reduce the growth of cancer cells.
Lower blood sugar levels
Flaxseed can also help to lower blood sugar levels. The fiber in it helps to slow down the absorption of sugar, which can help to regulate blood sugar levels and prevent spikes.
Is there any downside to eating flaxseed?
Flaxseed is generally safe to eat. However, knowing about its potential side effects is important. Some of these include:
Some people may be allergic to flaxseed. If you experience any symptoms of an allergy, such as hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing, stop consuming flaxseed and see a doctor.
Flaxseed is high in fiber, and people not used to eating a lot of fiber may experience digestive problems such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. To avoid these issues, start with a small amount of flaxseed and increase gradually.
Interactions with medications
Flaxseed can interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners and insulin. If you take any medication, speak to a doctor before adding flaxseed to your diet.
As flaxseed contains phytoestrogens, it’s best to avoid consuming it in large amounts if you are pregnant. If you want to consume flaxseed, speak to a doctor first.
Can you eat flaxseed raw?
Yes, you can eat raw flaxseed. However, it’s best to grind it first to make it easier to digest. You can add ground flaxseed to smoothies, yogurt, or cereal.
How many flaxseeds should you eat per day?
There is no definitive answer as to how much flaxseed you should eat per day. However, most experts recommend consuming 1-2 tablespoons.
Does flax go bad?
Yes, flaxseeds can go bad. If they’re stored properly in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place, they will last more than a year. However, if stored in a humid environment, they will start to go bad within a few months.
Are flax leaves poisonous?
Flax leaves contain low levels of cyanogenic glycosides. These compounds can release cyanide when broken down by enzymes in the body. However, the amount of cyanide released is insufficient to cause any harm. Large doses can cause cyanide poisoning, but this is very rare.
Which parts of the flax plant can you eat?
You can eat the flax plant’s seeds, leaves, and flowers. The seeds are the most commonly consumed part, but you can also eat the leaves and flowers.
What does flaxseed taste like?
Flaxseed has a nutty taste that you can also find in sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. But, it also has a slightly grassy taste, and you can use it in both sweet and savory dishes.
Now you know all about growing and harvesting flax plants. Whether you want to use it for its nutritional benefits or as a natural fiber for textile, this plant has a lot to offer. Just be sure to start with a small amount if you’re new to consuming it, and always consult a doctor before incorporating any new supplement into your diet.
So, what are you waiting for? Get growing!