Lucille’s Garden Update: Joining the PA Flax Project

June ended on a very warm note here in Lucille’s Garden. I think I spent half my time in the last few weeks dragging the hose around, trying to keep everything watered. The extra work has paid off, however, with the summer crops like zucchini and tomato thriving despite the warm temperatures.

So far this year, we have donated nearly 500 lbs. of fresh produce to the Media Food Bank. We’ve also hosted hundreds of children who stopped by the garden on field trips with their school. Creating a garden that helps to educate a new generation of gardeners and feeds the community is a joyful task – and one that requires many hands. As always, I’m grateful to the incredible volunteers who come out to support this space.

I’m also grateful to the plants that grow here. When I look around the garden, especially in the summer months when the beds are lush and full, I am always impressed by the hard work these plants do every day. They bring beauty and bounty to the space, and I try to remember that when I work alongside them. Watering is a great reminder. As you lay out the hose in the morning for the millionth time, it is impossible to forget that our time with these plants is spent in partnership. We care for them, and in turn, they care for us.

If you’ve visited the garden this year, you know I love to talk about plants. So, I want to highlight this especially cool one. Common flax! Everyone has probably heard of flax, at least in some capacity. There’s flaxseed, which is a popular addition to baked goods and smoothies. There’s garden flax, which is grown as an ornamental addition to a flower bed. There’s also flax linen, a textile that is said to be both durable and highly breathable in those warm summer months.

But did you know that all three of those things come from the same plant? They all come from common flax (Linum usitatissimum). This plant is native to the eastern Mediterranean and India, and people have been using this beautiful flowering plant as a textile for thousands of years. In fact, the first evidence of cultivated flax comes from 5,000 BCE!

This summer in Lucille’s, we dedicated a 3-foot-by-3-foot space in the garden to showcase the work of the PA Flax Project. This project highlights the incredible versatility of this plant. Flax is beautiful, climate-positive, easy to grow, requires very little input from the farmer, and may even help remove toxins from the soil. The most valuable market use for flax is linen. However, we lack the infrastructure here in Pennsylvania to process, or ‘rete,’ the flax to bring it to market. This year, Tyler signed up with the PA Flax Project to participate in the Square Yard Project, a community art program where we work together to grow square yard plots of flax to showcase the ease and beauty of this plant. Throughout the season, we will enjoy the lovely blue flowers, and at the end of the season, we will harvest our flax and work with the PA Flax Project to rete it and turn it into fiber! Participants can also take before and after soil samples to see how their flax helped clean the soil.

The goal of the PA Flax Project is to bring farmers across Pennsylvania together to create the infrastructure needed to get this lucrative plant to market and make American linen possible. We’re thrilled to support other farmers in our area here in Lucille’s and excited to learn more about how to harvest and process this beautiful plant. Projects like this one help build a community around working farms and support farmers in finding new ways to grow.

Stop by Lucille’s Garden to visit our square yard of flax – we’re excited to show it off!

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