Backyard flax experiment 2019 #6 results

This is it! The yield of the 10 flax patches in 2019. Through looking at these numbers and the observations through the process, I got some more clarity about the different aspects when farming flax in your backyard. In the following you will find some thoughts regarding that topic.

Field 1+2: No weeding
I was worried that especially the field bindweed was going to affect the growth of the flax. The bindweed can proliferate all over the crop and therefore pushing it down, leading to no harvest at all. Even though there was bindweed in the patches, they mainly grew alongside one single flax stem, therefore not ruining the whole patch. The yarrow that grew in the patches wasn’t a problem, as we could easily take it out during the harvest. It seemed to have grown in a similar speed that the flax, therefore not causing the flax any troubles during the growth. I would say the “no weeding” was more succesfull than I thought it would be, because the yield was still quite high and of course you still have some weed seeds in your flax seed. But all in all – if you don’t have much time to spend on your flax field – you can leave the weeding if you can accept the risk that weeds might take over.

Field 3+4: The normal way
These patches were treated in the way that you would usually do with flax. They were weeded and harvested when the bottom of the stems turned yellow and the seed pods were ripe. The downside of these patches in my experiment was that the storm had entirely pushed them down. You can clearly see that that is halving the seed yield and significantly lowering the amount of the long fibres. I also have to add that it was more difficult to break the stems as they were sometimes really crooked and needed to be arranged nicely before breaking.

Field 5+6: The early harvest
As you can see above, these fields don’t have a seed yield, as the flax was harvested before the seeds were ripe. As expected the straw and fibre yield is lower (a book predicted that) compared to the regular growing method. I also noticed that many shives were still stuck on the fibres and it was very difficult to get them off through scutching. Usually that is a sign of unterressting, but since we didn’t have that problem so much on the other fields, I don’t know for sure if underretting is the problem here. I think the fibres seem to be indeed a bit finer, however I wouldn’t prefer this method as I don’t find them so significantly more fine and it’s just beautiful to the the seeds pods develop and grow as well.

Field 7+8: Testing for storm proof
Well, as you can see in the colum above, the brushwood on patch 7 hasn’t been very effective against the storm. Surprisingly it has helped against weeds though, there were hardly any in the field (it would also not have been very possible to get them out). I can imagine though that a different kind of brushwood, some that is more like branches, would have helped better, since it would have supported the flax in a later stage too. Now it was just supported until a height of 5cm. I would say patch number 8 was one of the most successful. Due to the support structure if didn’t get pushed down in the storm. As a result it had the highest yield of seeds and fibres in general. It is an effort though to make the structure and later dismantle it again. If you have a lot of time to grow flax, have rich soil (so the flax grows tall) and generally little wind, I would recommend you this method. It seems to be the safest one in those growing conditions.

Field 9+10
These fields seemed to have been lucky during the storm, as they didn’t tip over. I don’t know why. Maybe the wind circulation just didn’t hit them so hard in the spots they were? Maybe also the wind could escape better as they were standing on the edge. I secured these fields with support structures after the big storm, so they surely wouldn’t fall down. Patch 8 which was a comparison field with more shade (due to a tree) seemed to have developed just as well as the rest after a slower beginning phase. The plastic foil on patch 9 also helped well to keep weeds in the starting phase. It can be a nice method if you don’t want to weed your field every few days but also don’t want to let the weeds go all wild.

visible difference in straighness of stems

If I would give some little recommendations about growing flax in your backyard it would be these:

  • if you’re growing flax in a place with little wind, ideally have poor soil so the flax won’t grow so tall
  • if you’re growing flax in a place with little wind and rich soil: either build a support structure around the field or choose a variety that doesn’t grow so high (easier said that found)
  • if you don’t want to weed, you don’t need to weed. But there’s always a risk that the weeds will grow over your flax and therfore you have little to no yield
  • don’t underestimate the time you will need to invest for the harvest and processing. The 10 squaremetres took us several hours with 2 people to harvest (that was also due to the fact that they were often entangles with the support structure). And the processing was an additional 4 hours each day for 5 days with the two of us.

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