Organic Gardening
Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Root Tomato Cuttings for Fall Using Test Tubes

The cherry tomato plants were looking really sad, half-dead, leggy and non-productive. With a good two months until first frost, it’s time to start new plants. So, whack them off just right above where new shoots are starting, about 8 inches from the ground. These will now grow quickly and have new cherry tomatoes in probably about six weeks since they have huge root systems.

To replace the determinate variety that is long gone, snip some cuttings from the top growth to root. Because shoving them all into a single jar makes for tangled roots that rip when separated, try this little system: Put each cutting into a test tube filled with filtered water. If there’s more than one variety, you can easily label the tubes.

A very economical set of 25 tubes with a cardboard rack can be found on Amazon for just $6.99 with Prime shipping. Set this “rooting rack” in a window with good light and expect roots within a few days. Tomatoes love to make roots. The cuttings drink, so check the water level daily.

When the cuttings are well rooted, you can pot them up to set out when they show good growth or put them right into a garden area they you can tend and keep evenly watered at least until they put on strong growth.

This works equally well for cherries and full-sized tomato varieties. If there are still green tomatoes when frost hits, go ahead and pick them. Those with just a bit of color will slowly ripen on a windowsill and the ones still hard green make wonderful relishes and pickles. No work to speak of, a bonus tomato crop and it’s free.

The test tubes are an inexpensive investment. Scrub out them out and store them away for next year. Before re-using, give them a quick swish with white vinegar, just in case.

Before you store them for next year, consider rooting some herbs to grow out during the winter. Lemon verbena comes first to mind, then rosemary and lavender.

Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Flax to Linen: Hackling

0-hackles and hands2 - BLOG

Growing flax and turning it into linen for clothes requires growing a variety suitable for fiber to spin. You plant it in early spring and harvest it about 100 days later, Next it is retted, broken, and scutched. There is no hurry to go from harvest to retting and from retting to breaking, however, breaking, scutching, and hackling generally happen at the same time. Hackling is done with a tool (hackle) that is full of sharp tines. After it is broken and scutched, the flax is drawn through hackles to clean it, resulting in a long ponytail of flax fiber ready to spin.

Unless you are lucky enough to find one at an antique mall, you will most likely have to make your own hackles. I have purchased two antique flax hackles—one was $60 and the other was $40. Wigmaking requires the use of hackles and you might find a new one made for that purpose. Although not as much fun as using an antique flax hackle, you can make a new one out of a board and nails. You will find the specifications of my homemade flax hackles at Homeplace Earth.

Some hackles are on a long board with, what looks like, hand holds at each end. One of those holes is actually for your foot to go through, holding it to the ground. You use the hole at the other end to hold the hackle upright, parallel to your body. I prefer to have hackles that are clamped to a table. Since this is an outdoor activity, the picnic table is usually the recipient of the hackles. I use c-clamps to hold them in place.

Hackles are sharp, so take care when using them or else you will draw blood. It is wise to keep up-to-date on your tetanus shot. To protect yourself when they are not in use, you can make covers for your hackles. My husband made a wonderful wooden cover that fits over the first hackle I bought. For the two I made, I have fashioned a cover for each from cardboard boxes. I haven’t taken the time to make a cover yet for the second antique hackle that I acquired in May.

You will find flax hackles with varied spacing of the tines. One guideline to use for spacing the tines on a hackle is to put them 1” apart for a coarse hackle, ½” apart for a medium hackle, and ¼” apart for a fine hackle.  If you only have one hackle, make it a medium with half inch spacing. In her book, Home Life in Colonial Days, written in 1898, Alice Morse Earle says that the fineness of fiber after hackling depended on the number of hackles used, their fineness, and the person doing the hackling. She writes that after the first coarse hackle, six other hackles were used, in varying degrees of fineness. If you have three hackles, coarse, medium, and fine, you will be doing well.

You will end up with more tow than line fiber when you hackle flax. You can still use it by hackling it again. The shorter tow fibers may have to be carded with wool cards kept just for that purpose. When processing the flax of my own harvest from an 80 sq. ft. bed, I started with 5.6 pounds of retted flax, which yielded 6 ounces of line fiber ready to spin and 19 ounces of tow. Of that amount of tow, 12 ounces was pulled out with the coarse hackle, 4 ounces with the medium, and 3 ounces was left behind in the fine hackle. That harvest also included 6 ounces of seeds.

Once you know how to do it and have acquired the tools, growing your own linen clothes isn’t so hard. The next step is spinning, which I have talked about here, then weaving and sewing. So far I have used the linen I have spun with handspun cotton on the loom—cotton warp and linen weft. I have also designed the patterns for the clothes I have made from my handspun fiber. If you do not already have skills in any of these areas, thinking of growing your own clothes can be daunting, but don’t let that stop you. Concentrate on learning one thing at a time and remember that life is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the journey!

Photo by Stephanie Conner.

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Why Your Raised Garden Should Always Be 8 Inches or Taller


The Best Raised Garden Depth

Raised garden beds are popular for reasons ranging from aesthetics to usability. For example, they are usually built with beautiful cuts of wood that add richness to both porches and yards, and their design provides natural drainage. Furthermore, raised beds can placed on concrete or the ground depending on your preference, and they maintain soil moisture and temperature better than traditional gardens. They are perfect for seasoned gardeners and “green-thumbs” alike as long as they follow some basic raised bed guidelines. One in particular that can make or break a vegetable garden, is soil depth.

Soil depth is an important discussion, especially with regard to raised beds. Soil depth requirements depend on what you are growing – flowers may only need a few inches for their roots to spread, but vegetables will need more room to thrive. Before diving in and planting whatever vegetable comes to mind, a seasoned gardener assesses how much depth they will be able to work with. Depth is measured from the top of the soil down, which means gardeners can artificially create soil depth by increasing the garden bed’s height.

The following are some tips for providing the necessary soil depth for your plants and some vegetables that can be planted based on available soil depth.

Raised Beds Should Be 8 Inches or Taller

There isn’t a maximum soil depth limit for a garden, but there is a minimum depth requirement – at least for vegetable gardens. A good tip is to always err on the side of more soil, not less. For a vegetable garden to succeed, your raised bed should have at least 8 inches of soil depth, which means the bed itself needs to be 8 inches or taller. It is the minimum for nearly every vegetable and growing in less will produce stunted results. 

The majority of a vegetable’s roots, often called a root ball, settle within the top 6-8 inches of a garden’s soil. Plants need available nutrient-rich soil surrounding them to sustain growth. If a plant’s roots meet resistance or blocks, growth will be stunted. That’s why it’s important to measure the amount of soil you have poured into your garden bed.

When you initially fill your raised garden with soil it may look like you have filled it to the brim, but new soil will compress. Well-designed raised beds are intentionally built 8 inches in height or taller for this root depth reason. To ensure maximum utilization, overfill your garden bed by about inch or two. Moisten the soil to allow it to settle and add more if the level falls below the top of the garden bed.

Want More Depth? Double-Dig or Stack

If your raised bed is seated on the earth, and not concrete, then you can gain soil depth through double-digging. Basically, it’s the preparation of soil underneath the raised bed so vegetables can continue growing past the raised bed limitations if necessary. Soil depth deeper than 8 inches is necessary for some larger, taproot type vegetables such as carrot, sugar beet, turnip, and radish varietals.  

To double-dig, dig up to 2 shovel-blades deep into the ground where you plan to place your bed. Remove rocks and debris, and check for any roots that already occupy that space. Once it is cleared, pour the freshly aerated and sifted dirt back in, and set up your raised bed. Now your vegetables won’t meet any resistance as they grow from the raised bed soil into the ground.

If you don’t want something as labor intensive as double digging then you can try stacking. Raised garden bed engineers created stackable raised garden beds so you can have a deeper planting environment without double-digging.

Shallow Rooted Vegetables

It’s important to note that shallow rooted vegetables can still grow deeper – they just don’t need to. If you have a raised garden bed between 8 and 11 inches in height, you’ll be able to grow the majority of garden variety vegetables such as: spinach, broccoli, tomato, onion, cauliflower, pumpkin, and potatoes.

If you’re unsure of a plant's root depth needs, check what type of varietal the plant is and see what the characteristics are. For instance, Autumn King Carrots can grow up to 12 inches in length, while Chantenay carrots rarely exceed 6 inches. A quick search online of the varietal you’re considering should yield an easy answer.

In Summary

Roots will spread where available, which is why some vegetable roots will spread outward in shallow environments. However, this comes at the cost of planting space because, at the end of the day, plants are fighting for nutrition. If you want to attempt something such as eggplants or peppers in shallower depths, be aware that they will spread their roots wider and compete with their neighbors. 

Your best bet is to start off on the right foot. Ensure your chosen garden bed is 8 inches or taller (avoid anything that’s 6 inches or less), and fill it all the way to the top so your plants have plenty of room to grow.  --

Authors: Wiley Geren III and Bryan Traficante. Bryan co-founded in 2013, a family-owned company passionate about crafting better ways to start a garden with their tool-free, cedar raised garden bed kits and the Garden Grid™ - the only planting guide and garden watering system, in one. Along with unique gardening solutions, Bryan shares time saving gardening insights on their blog, Facebook, and Instagram. You can read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Organic Gardening the Easy Way, Part 3: Perennials and Volunteers

In Parts I and II of my easy organic gardening series, I wrote about growing vertically and gardening with raised beds. Both of these techniques, while easy once they’re in place, can be time-consuming and even costly in the beginning. Today’s tip, though, is as easy as easy can be from start to finish. 

Grow Perennials

Fill your beds with perennial vegetables. In the yard, perennials are my favorite flowers. Plant ’em once and forget ’em—well, at least for a few years until it’s time to dig and divide. Why, I wondered, aren’t vegetables that easy to grow? It turns out, some of them are.

The two plants most often thought of when the word perennial is mentioned in connection with food are asparagus and rhubarb. And they’re ready to eat just in the nick of time, when winter has dragged on and on and you think you can’t go another minute without the bright taste of fresh, homegrown foods. Give them a good start and they’ll produce for a decade or more.


Our rhubarb patch in early spring

But there are other edible perennials out there, too. Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes), once thought of as a roadside weed, can now be found in the produce section of high-end grocery stores. Funny how things change. Raw, sunchokes make a nice salad addition. In texture and taste, they remind me of water chestnuts. Cooked, they’re often used as a potato substitute, with a soft texture and nutty flavor.

Horseradish is a frequently forgotten garden perennial. While it will never take center stage on your menu, it’s a strong supporting cast member, adding zing to many foods that do play a starring role.

I think Egyptian walking onions look like other worldly creatures from a Doctor Who episode.


In our climate, we eat them as scallions, but I’ve heard the bulbs grow larger in warmer climates. They’re ready for the table from early spring until late fall—anytime the ground isn’t frozen solid. Can’t beat that. Their topsets can be harvested for eating or replanting, or you can simply leave them and watch as new green shoots sprout from the bulblets and grow even more little bulbs. Eventually, the top heavy stems will fall over and the topsets will take root, thus the “walking” moniker. I have a garden bench that sits just above my walking onions. It’s one of my favorite resting places in the garden. Every time I look at this cool, weird plant, I can’t resist the urge to chuckle. Reason enough to grow them in my opinion.

If you enjoyed sucking on sourgrass as a kid, you might just find sorrel addictive. Even my youngest grandchildren love it. With its lemony tang, it adds zest to salads. It can also be sautéed and eaten like spinach, made into soup, or added to other leafy greens for an extra flavor boost. 


Garlic can be grown as either a perennial or annual, but even as an annual it’s a super easy plant to grow. When it’s harvested in summer, all you need to do is save out some of the largest cloves and plant them in late fall. When you spot those green shoots in early spring, it will feel like this little gardening reward was a perennial, after all.


To plant garlic as a perennial, just leave some stalks when you harvest. You should have even bigger bulbs the  next year.

I’ll admit I haven’t yet tried black salsify (scorzonera), but I will. It’s a root veggie like carrots, is related to dandelions and lettuce, is said to taste a bit like oysters (thus its nickname, oyster plant), and in spite of its black skin, has snowy white flesh like parsnips. Too strange not to grow.

This list is just a start. And which vegetables will grow as perennials often depends on where you live. Do some research to see what might grow year in and year out for you.

A word of caution. Many of these plants are not just easy to grow, they can be downright invasive. Plant them on the outside edges of your garden—or perhaps in some other place altogether. You don’t want to find yourself fighting them. That wouldn’t be easy at all.

Include versatile herbs in your garden. Their aroma alone makes them worth growing. Many have a long history of medicinal and wellness uses, as well as for flavoring your food. Best of all, a number of herbs are perennials, like sage, thyme, oregano, chives, and lavender. Lovage is even substituted for celery in soups and salads. Mint and lemon balm have many uses, but to keep them from becoming invasive pests, you should plant them in containers or well away from other garden or landscaping plants.

Remember the sweet treats. It took a long time for my husband and me to realize we ought to add fruits to our garden. I’m sure glad we did! Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all perennials, as are grapes, figs, honeyberries, hardy kiwi, and currants.


If you have room, why not add them all? Fruit trees are another important addition to your perennial garden. If peach trees won’t survive your winters, try persimmons—and vice-versa. What about pawpaws? Apples, pears, and plums are all favorites around here. So what if it takes a few years to get a harvest? If you wait, it will take even longer.

Go nuts. Like fruit trees, nut trees require time and specific conditions to grow. Macadamia and almond trees won’t tolerate frost, but black walnuts thrive in cold regions. Around here, hickory trees grow like weeds, though we’ve never beaten the squirrels to their harvest. Again, a little research will tell you what will grow where you live.

Give Volunteers a Chance

Think about leaving a few plants in your garden through the winter. Greens like kale and chard may keep growing. Some, like parsnips and cilantro, will reseed and up your production the next year. Beans we missed last summer overwintered and began producing well before our newly planted seeds.

We were graced with an overabundance of Long Pie pumpkins one year. Excess seeds made their way into the compost pile. We didn’t plant pumpkins the following year, but our garden produced more than ever.


Volunteer Long Pie pumpkins surround other winter squash.

The same went for tomatillos and those cute—and prolific—little cucamelons (aka mousemelon or Mexican sour gherkin). Two years later, we’re still finding new plants.This spring, I was pleasantly surprised to find claytonia in the garden to add to our salads. I had last planted it five years ago. What could be easier?

There are a couple of caveats to consider when it comes to volunteers. Every year, no matter how carefully and thoroughly we harvested the year before, we have potato volunteers. Fortunately, we’ve never had a problem with blight (the disease that caused the Irish potato famine), but if we had, we’d have needed to pull up and destroy the new plants to keep the disease from spreading far and wide. The same goes for tomatoes.

Another consideration: re-seeding works best with open-pollinated varieties of veggies. With hybrids, new plants won’t grow true, and the results are iffy.


Admittedly, if you grew only the foods listed in this article, your diet would be pretty sparse--you’d certainly be in no danger of obesity. But as a supplement to other crops, why not add a few extra easy ones. Every little bit helps. As busy gardeners, we’re thankful for every trick that makes gardening easier.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts by following this link.You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal, where she blogs about her take on life, including modern homesteading, gardening lore and how-to, food preparation and preservation, as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Harvesting Garlic

Garlic is a plant that never stops growing. We plant it in the fall and, in the north, it grows quietly under the snow during the winter. Once the snow melts, we see it poking up out of the ground ready to make its summertime push.


It sends up a stalk and leaves and begins to flower; that’s the scapes that we cut off and stir-fry in late June. This encourages the plants to send all of their remaining energy down to the bulbs, our crop. When there are four green leaves left, it’s time to harvest the garlic.

garlic beetles cover wasps 030

At this point, pull out the garlic and tie them in bundles of eight. Be careful to stagger the bulbs so that they will all be exposed to the air. Hang them in a covered, breezy spot. A porch or outside shed is ideal.

Long Garlic Drying Upright

They will cure for the next two to four weeks—the stems will dry out and turn brown and the dirt on the bulbs will mostly fall off.

garlic powder 016

Take them down and cut the stems to an inch or two. Brush off any extra dirt that is still on the bulbs and snip the roots to about half an inch. Put the biggest and nicest ones aside to replant in the fall. The remainder can go into a basket in the pantry for future use. They don’t need any special handling (darkness or cold), they prefer to be kept in a moderately warm spot.


When using the garlic, remember that it has two separate components in its cells. This alliin and alliinaise are in different parts of the cells and it is only when they are put together that the medicinal magic of garlic becomes available. For this reason, it is important to set the chopped or squeezed garlic aside for about ten minutes before adding it to any recipes. One of my favorite ways to use garlic is in salad dressing.

Salad Dressing Recipe


¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup organic olive oil
½ teaspoon powdered mustard
2 chopped or squeezed garlic cloves (after setting aside for ten minutes)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
generous dash of Himilayan pink salt

Mix them all together and add to salads.

Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page

Grow Medicinal and Fragrant May Apple


This is a story about apples, but not the kind that keep the doctor away — that is unless you have a liver ailment. The cleverest amongst y’all may have already concluded, and correctly so, that this is a story about Podophyllum peltatum, the “May Apple."

Here’s an extremely easy-to-grow, native perennial plant that is as much at home in average soils as it is in moist to wet soils. Podophyllum peltatum, believe it or not, is a member of the Berberidaceae (Barberry) family and native to more than half of the U.S. and Canada.

I sometimes find it difficult to imagine that this attractive native is related to the weedy, thorny, invasive “Japanese Barberry Bush”, Berberis thunbergii. But then agai, so are two of my other faves, Jeffersonia diphylla (“Twinleaf”) and Caulophyllum thalictroides, (“Blue Cohosh”). The way things are going with botanical nomenclature these days, it probably won’t be long until they create a new plant family, “Podophylliaceae.

If you’re curious about the origin of this plant’s name, in Latin, podo means foot and phyllum of course means leaf. Peltatum translates to shield. So, while using your imagination, you have a plant with a leaf that resembles a foot and a shield.

Medicinal Benefits of May Apple

Regarding my comment above about a liver ailment, I was alluding to the fact that this plant has been used medicinally for centuries. Remember “Carters Little Liver Pills”?  Well, a resin from the roots of the may apple was one of the ingredients.

The list of symptoms from genital warts to liver cleansing, that the resin from the roots of Podophyllum peltatum was used for, seems endless, but I’ll issue my standard “don’t try this at home kids” disclaimer here — it can also be quite toxic. Current research has shown that two of the derivatives of the plant exhibit promising anti-tumor properties.

Uses for May Apple

Now where does the common name derive? Well, that’s pretty logical, let’s start with the flower. You have to do a little rummaging around to find the flower as it’s hidden below the huge leaf or leaves, as a mature plant will have two. For a real treat, get down on your hands and knees and insert your proboscis into the center of the rather large, 2-inch to 3-inch, cream-colored flower. Prepare to be surprised as the fragrance is intoxicating.

After the flower is pollinated, a fruit is formed that somewhat resembles an apple. All this takes place in May, so there you have it. The fruit is frequently used to make jams and jellies, as it’s the only part of the plant that isn’t poisonous.

Growing May Apple in the Garden

So, what about cultivating this stunning plant in your own garden? That’s a task on the easy side. Although in nature Podophyllum peltatum seems to favor moist soils, it also does well in average garden soils. The moister the soil, the more extended the growing period. In average to dry soil, they can fade out in the heat of summer, but give them some extra moisture and a good mulch and I’ve had them persist into the fall.

An average, plant reaches the height of 12 to 18 inches and will form a nice colony in just a few years.

The Turtle Connection

OH! And this just in: My esteemed editor, Ms. Kathy Jentz, implored me to make you aware of a fascinating connection between May Apples and turtles. It seems that that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles get their super powers from partaking the fruit of this plant. Just kidding… but there really is a Turtlean connection as the “American Box Turtle”, Terrapene carolina carolina, — and the species is carolina carolina is not a typo — finds the fruits absolutely delectable and studies have found that seeds passed through the turtles digestive system have a much higher germination rate than those dropping to the ground and left to their own devices.

This is no surprise to me, as I’ve used the acid scarification technique with hydrochloric acid on seeds that are difficult to germinate, including Cornus canadensis.

If you don’t have the time to follow turtles around, waiting for them to have bowel movements, I recommend propagation by rhizome division. This is pretty easy as the plant produces a robust bud every year and if you cut the rhizome in half — voila! — you have two plants.

May Apples are very varmint-proof and make good companions for its relatives mentioned above and also Hosta, Cimicifuga (Now Actaea), and, well, just use your imagination and experiment.

Barry Glick founded Sunshine Farm and Gardens in 1972 on 60 acres in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. His plant collection now numbers more than 10,000 taxa, many unknown to cultivation. Several of these plants have been introduced to gardening in recent years. Barry exchanges seeds and plants with people at arboretums, botanic gardens, nurseries and private gardens in virtually every country in the world. Peruse Barry’s speakers series here and read the rave reviews hereIf you have any questions, would like to chat about any plants that Barry offers, send an email to his personal email addressRead all of Barry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Flax to Linen: Breaking and Scutching


I first saw flax being processed for spinning about 25 years ago at the Museum of Frontier Culture near Staunton, Virginia. I really didn’t understand what I was seeing and thought it was an insane way of getting fiber for making clothes and other textiles. Now that I know what it is all about and I’ve actually done it at home, I think it is wonderful! I can plant flax in the early spring, harvest here in Virginia in June, rett it by laying it in the grass for a few weeks, then process it into fiber to spin. That processing, however, can be a bit tricky if you don’t have tools to do it.

Most importantly, you need to have a flax brake. Traditionally, it is a free-standing trestle style tool made out of wood. You can see mine in the photo. To operate, lift the handle and lay the flax straw across the surface. The handle has beveled wooden knives that, when dropped onto the surface, go between the fixed wooden knives in the body of the brake. The flax is caught between the two and, in the process, the outer and inner parts of the flax stalks are broken up, leaving the long fiber. In the photo you can see flax that has just been broken hanging on one side and the part that hasn’t been worked on yet, sticking out the back.

It doesn’t happen all at one time. You have to hit it many times to do the breaking. I begin at the middle of the stalks, then gradually pull it back as I work until I reach the end. Then I turn it around and hold what I just worked on while I break the other half of the stalks. Once done, the fiber will be covered with broken-up pieces of the stalks, which is called boon. Removing the boon is called scutching.

Traditionally scutching boards and wooden scutching knives were used to remove the boon by scraping the fiber. In the photo you can see my scutching board and knife. What is hanging on the scutching board is flax ready to be cleaned. I’ll scrape it with the scutching knife, then turn it around and scrape the other end. You could substitute any board and a piece of wood trim for your scutching tools.

You will find more information about flax brakes and scutching boards, including many photos, at Homeplace Earth. After scutching, the flax needs to be hackled to produce fiber ready to spin. I’ll write about that another day.

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.